The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance states that the insurance industry’s core business is to understand, manage and carry risk. Through risk prevention and risk reduction and by sharing risks over many shoulders, the insurance industry helps protect society, fosters innovation and underpins economic development. These are key contributions to a well-functioning and sustainable society. Sustainable insurance aims to reduce risk, develop innovative solutions, improve business performance, and contribute to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Santam is a founding signatory of the UN Environment Programme’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance and we share the view that sustainable insurance is a strategic approach where all activities in the insurance value chain, including interactions with stakeholders, are done in a responsible and forward-looking way by identifying, assessing, managing and monitoring risks and opportunities associated with environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

We also align our strategic thinking with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the ClimateWise principles and the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) Code of Conduct. These all recognise the interdependence between finance and environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges, and the role financial institutions play for a more sustainable economy and world.


Climate change

We recognise that climate change poses serious risks to the stability and quality of human society and the global economy. As Africa’s leading general insurer, we have the ability to influence the management of systemic risk associated with climate change. We are committed to building partnerships that reduce risk at source, strengthening capacity, and enhancing social and ecological resilience, as well as managing risk through decision-making along the value chain.

We actively participate in national and international climate risk initiatives, such as ClimateWise. We are a founding signatory of the UNEP FI Principles for Sustainable Insurance and support the Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa.

We were the first African insurer to mobilise the short-term insurance industry in response to increasing climate and weather risk. As part of the global insurance industry, we are formalising our response to increasing climate risk and aligning our initiatives accordingly. We have signed memoranda of understanding with several municipalities and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and we collaborate with universities and public research institutions. Through research studies, we have links with the National Disaster Management Centre and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading scientific body on the subject, predicts that local and regional weather patterns are likely to shift, changing the frequency and intensity of precipitation, and contributing to extreme weather events. This will affect ecosystem health, water resources, agricultural productivity and infrastructure, with negative consequences for human safety, nutrition and health. Several scientifically identified planetary boundaries have already been crossed, increasing the likelihood of complex non-linear interactions.

From the perspective of our business, there are two broad categories of climate risk:

  • Long-term changes, such as rising sea levels, desertification and melting glaciers
  • Short-term changes, such as an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events (droughts, floods, wildfires, cyclones), which pose immediate risks to our business

These risks are compounded by a lack of institutional and individual adaptive capacity in our African and Southeast Asian markets. When combined, these factors are likely to expand claims for property damage, business interruption and crop failure.

Santam operates in the context of earnings volatility and an unpredictable climate, and the business is increasingly required to address complex social challenges. In 2009, we became the first African member of ClimateWise – the global insurance industry’s leadership group driving action on climate change risk. We are a signatory to its principles, which form the basis of our policy statement. The ClimateWise principles and our aligned actions are outlined below:

Climatewise principles

1. Take the lead in risk analysis

We support and facilitate research on climate risks to inform our business strategies, and to protect customer and stakeholder interests.

2. Inform public policymaking

We participate in national and international forums that influence policymaking, and we actively build capacity within local governments.

3. Support climate awareness among clients

We create innovative products (green buildings insurance) and services (weather blogs, weather-alert SMSs, online risk calculators) to generate awareness. We work with our supply chain to build customer awareness of risk and influence consumer behaviour (solar geyser replacement initiative).

4. Incorporate climate change into investment strategies

The SRI Fund targets investments that reduce long-term systemic risks for our company, policyholders, fund members and broader society.

5. Reduce the environmental impact of the business

We monitor our carbon footprint and set targets to reduce our environmental impact primarily through reducing our electricity and water usage. We also run employee awareness initiatives.

6. Report and be accountable

We report to national and international bodies on initiatives to mitigate climate and weather risk. Internally, we report on these issues through our integrated annual report and environmental policy.

Click here to read our latest ClimateWise report.

Reducing environmental impact

In comparison with extractive industries, Santam has a relatively low environmental impact. However, we take our carbon footprint seriously, and continue to measure, monitor and take action to minimise our impact.

The Sanlam Group (including the Santam group) revised the environmental policy and set new reduction targets from 2016 to 2020. The Group has set reduction targets since 2008 and revises it every five years. The carbon footprint is measured, monitored and reported against the set targets on an annual basis. 

Click here to see the group environmental policy