Posted on Jan 10, 2023, 7am
The beginning of the year begins not only with the ritual of (often pious) vows, but also with announcements. Some of them call themselves “historic”. A bit like the moment we are going through in the face of the climate crisis, which some still wonder if we could have foreseen.
So, of course, we can only rejoice in the face of leaders who set an example based on these announcements. But some are not the object of any debate, controversy or even questioning.
In my mailbox: “an historic decision”
This is the case of Pascal Demurger, managing director of the insurance company MAIF, of which I am a client-partner. This status allowed me to receive a wonderful email with the subject “A historic decision”. The latter informing me “with emotion and pride” that 10% of my insurance company’s profits would be redirected to the planet. It’s 10 million euros a year. An “ecological dividend” very similar to the “social dividend” announced the same day by the mutual bank Crédit Mutuel, which plans to allocate 15% of its net profit to environmental and social initiatives (two billion euros over the next five years).
I listened with great attention to Pascal Demurger’s explanation at the microphone of Léa Salamé on Thursday, January 5th. This 10% will be distributed as follows:
– Solidarity action in favor of vulnerable adherent customers, that is, exposed to climatic risks and in more difficult economic situations, namely with risk prevention diagnoses at home and support for obtaining aid.
– Financing actions to regenerate biodiversity, in order to strengthen the resilience of territories in the face of climate consequences.
So is it really 10 million in the service of the planet?
Yes and no.
Yes when it comes to accelerating the regeneration of biodiversity. It should be noted, however, that in this way it is also a question of limiting the risks of subscribing customers and, therefore, of limiting the value of the premiums distributed by the MAIF in the event of natural catastrophes.
And not when it comes to the insurer’s responsibility vis-à-vis these adherent customers: that is, predicting and limiting their risk in their homes. Diagnostic actions should not be included in that 10%, as they should be part of an insurer’s mission.
Insurers at risk and we should all be concerned
2022 was the most expensive year in history for insurers, i.e. eight billion euros in premiums awarded in France with the number one risk: the climatic consequences (drought, forest fires, storms, hail, floods, lightning, etc.) . The cost of natural risks will continue to grow at a rate doubling every 30 years, France Assureurs had already warned in a study at the end of 2021. The threat is real to the economic sustainability of insurers.
And we collectively need to be concerned about this. Like so many others, the insurance business changes with the weather. And so ideas could also be discussed and defended, especially more frankly.
What if we asked our member customers for their opinion?
MAIF’s mutualist model, without shareholders to be paid in the traditional form of dividends, streamlines the distribution of the structure’s profit, which belongs to its associated clients. Profits generated mainly after investments made in real estate, start-ups and thanks to good asset management. However, not having shareholders does not mean not being accountable to those who trust the partner they choose to manage their individual interests, that is, the associated clients themselves. And accountants, this requires sincerity in the implemented actions.
Also, as an “activist insurer”, why not ask member customers themselves how they want to award that 10% of profits?
Perhaps there would be actions that depended more on associative social innovators, who no longer have shareholders and are also accountable to their many beneficiaries.
So yes, my insurance company’s ad is good and should inspire other companies. But that shouldn’t stop us from qualifying and discussing it.
*Ashoka France is an NGO specializing in social innovation and systems approach to change.