Exciting road to net zero and beyond

22 Nov 2023, 12:00 am
Gabrielle Durisch


Gabrielle Durisch, Global Head of Sustainability Solutions at Allianz Commercial, on the exciting road to net zero and beyond.

Gabrielle Durisch

Tell us about your role and why now is such an exciting time to be supporting clients in their sustainability ambitions and transition strategies?

With attention from consumers and investors on sustainable practices increasing, regulations around sustainability evolving, and the threat of a climate emergency confronting our industry, these are exciting but challenging times for anyone working in sustainability.

My role was created to support customers in addressing these and other challenges, looking at how to adapt existing products or innovate new services to offer risk transfer and other solutions addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and other areas of sustainability.

As a business topic, sustainability is developing as we speak, so we are laying the foundations for the way we will do business and develop insurance solutions in the future, not only to protect against risk, but as a tool to drive the net-zero transition forward.

What are the ESG risks that should be on companies’ radars?

The term ESG encompasses a wide range of factors – environmental, social, and governance risks that cut across industries and business segments with varying levels of impact.

We see a greater focus on environmental risk, as it represents the biggest stake in terms of financial, operational and market liabilities. The climate emergency has been increasingly damaging in terms of physical risk, resulting in losses in every region across many industries.

Fortunately, environmental impacts, especially weather events, are relatively easily measured, so we can collect and utilise data to predict impacts and improve resilience.

Risks will increase with the energy transition as companies align with global standards and set out emission reduction roadmaps. The transition is inevitable, but some technologies are not as advanced as they need to be to support this in all sectors. This will carry considerable risk for industries attempting to move towards a low-carbon economy. The energy industry is particularly impacted, which will impact other large industries, from transportation and mobility to marine and shipping. We will collaborate closely with these sectors to support them on their transition journey.

Beyond climate, there are biodiversity risks arising from how business activities impact an ecosystem, which will increase as more biodiversity-focused regulations are introduced. The social aspect of ESG is also the focus of increasing regulation, such as the German Supply Chain Act, which takes a closer look at the human rights side of supply chains.

Overall, I expect risks and opportunities going forward to arise from a mix of evolving market needs, regulatory changes, and necessary modifications to the way we do business.

Large corporates would benefit from establishing dedicated teams to assess and reduce external threats, or tap into external sources that provide this. Smaller companies with limited resources could collaborate with their insurer to gain a better understanding of risk.

How is Allianz Commercial driving change in this area and what solutions is it developing to support businesses?

Allianz recently announced its first net-zero transition plan with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions in our proprietary investment and Property & Casualty (P&C) underwriting portfolios by 2050. We are also committed to achieving 150% profitable growth in revenues from renewables and low-carbon technology solutions in the commercial insurance segment by 2030 and are investing an additional €20bn in climate and clean-tech solutions. Within our own operations, we aim to be carbon-free by 2030.

As a global insurer and investor, our role allows us to provide financial and risk transfer or mitigation solutions that facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. We are committed to helping businesses and communities understand the importance of financial protection, and offer tailored solutions to reduce risks, as well as leveraging our cross-industry and regional experience to understand and recommend best practice.

My team covers three key areas: emerging technology to support transition; emerging risks from climate change, biodiversity, and governance issues; and innovation to ensure we create efficient, affordable solutions.

Our aim is to develop solutions that cater to a changing market and support new business players emerging from these changes. We will support the transition by actively engaging with the market – our customers, but also external organisations – to build and share the knowledge that will drive the transition forward.

Have any trends taken you by surprise in the last five to 10 years and where do you see the role of sustainability in five years’ time?

I moved from a pure finance role into insurance around 10 years ago and since then the world has experienced the impacts of a pandemic, increased threats from cyber-attacks, and a political and socioeconomic crisis that is driving increased migration and levels of poverty globally. Poverty among children particularly shocks me, which is why closing the income protection gap, improving financial literacy, and increasing focus on societal impacts is so important.

In five years, I’m confident sustainability will not exist as it does today, because it will be integrated into our daily business. It will become the way we subconsciously operate. To drive this, there needs to be increased collaboration across business functions and industries, and that’s exactly what we as Allianz Commercial are ready to do.

Gabrielle Durisch is Global Head of Sustainability Solutions at Allianz Commercial. In a corporate career spanning over 20 years, she held finance positions in industry and consulting before moving into insurance in various finance, claims, and underwriting roles and later sustainability in commercial insurance. Durisch joined Allianz Commercial in 2023.


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