Liberty Mutual Insurance will drastically limit future underwriting for and investment in coal risks, an apparent response to environmentalists pushing for greener investment strategies among corporations.

To support this change, the insurer has also appointed its first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer – veteran Liberty Mutual executive Francis Hyatt. Hyatt stressed Liberty Mutual’s green credentials and said the company would continue to evolve and grow a more environmentally sensitive investment/underwriting strategy.

“We are committed to being a responsible global corporate citizen with a focus on environmental sustainability, supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and investing in companies that show proven progress in this evolution,” Hyatt said in prepared remarks. “We understand the shift from coal to clean energy is a journey and we recognize the role the insurance industry plays in supporting that evolution for our customers.”

Liberty Mutual pledges to no longer underwrite companies where more than 25 percent of their exposure comes from extraction and/or production of energy from thermal coal. In addition, the insurer said it won’t invest in debt or equity securities of companies that produce more than 25 percent of revenues from thermal coal mining, or utility companies that generate more than 25 percent of their electricity production from thermal coal.

As well, Liberty Mutual plans to phase out coverage and investments for existing risks that exceed its new, tighter thresholds by 2023.

Liberty Mutual’s decision follows the actions of companies including AXA, Chubb and AXIS Capital Holdings to phase out coal investments and insurance policies.

Hyatt, who has held a variety of leadership roles during his 28-year career at Liberty Mutual, will head the company’s ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives across Liberty’s operations. Most recently, Hyatt served as Executive Vice President of Enterprise Talent Practices, where he was responsible for the selection, development, training and retention of talent across the company. He has helped shape a wide range of leadership and workforce strategies for the company and has spearheaded key milestones, including the establishment of the company’s first Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Liberty Mutual said.

Insure Our Future is a collection of climate and consumer groups pushing for U.S. insurers to end their coverage for and investments in coal and sand/tar projects and companies. The organization noted Liberty Mutual’s policy change on coal investments and said it was long overdue, but some members asserted that the change doesn’t go far enough.

“In response to a groundswell of public pressure, Liberty Mutual has taken a first step toward reducing its role in fueling the climate crisis,” Elana Sulakshana, an Insure Our Future member and Rainforest Action Network Energy Finance Campaigner, said in prepared remarks. “But the company still lags far behind what the science says is necessary, and does not match best practice among U.S. and global peers.”

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, another Insure Our Future member, and secretary treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, also said the action could have gone further.

“Liberty Mutual’s restrictions on coal are a first step, but the company is supporting Indigenous rights abuses by refusing to rule out the tar sands sector,” said Wilson, who is also chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band.

Sources: Liberty Mutual, Insure Our Future.