Zurich Insurance Chief Executive Mario Greco wants governments to levy a carbon tax and remove the incentive for socially irresponsible companies to maximize profits by polluting the environment, he told Reuters.
Europe’s fifth-largest insurer has already taken steps to clean up its own house and canceled coverage for around 100 corporate clients that had no intention of improving their sustainability, Greco said in an interview.
“There is a price imbalance which is not for us to fix. I think we have to make pollution or social lack of responsibility on sustainability expensive,” he said as Zurich reported a strong rebound in first-half earnings.
“This is why I’m advocating for an intervention which eventually has to be a tax on pollution and on the creation of carbon. Carbon needs to be priced in whatever we do.”
Zurich has announced plans for a 25% cut in carbon intensity for listed equity and corporate bond investments by 2025 and a 30% cut for direct real estate investments, as the world grapples with climate change sparking extreme weather events.
Greco also said he was keeping a tight grip on coverage of cyberattack risks, which he called huge and hard to assess.
“We will limit our exposures by event and by causes significantly,” he said, calling for governments to step in too.
“Cyber – as some other risks like pandemic, like nuclear – requires a public-private approach. It can easily lead to a scenario where the consequences of a cyberattack can really be relevant for countries, for society as whole, and not just for private companies.
“I would be in favor of a public-private scheme addressing at least the biggest events.”
Greco said Zurich had no global policy on having staff return to the office as the coronavirus pandemic ebbs. It was not forcing anyone to return even as it vaccinates its own staff in many countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
“It is wise, it is fair that people can work from home, but not always. We still need interaction with other humans,” which boosts energy and fosters training and decision-making, he said.
The planned sale of its closed-book portfolio of life insurance in Italy and Germany was progressing.
“We think that if everything goes well Italy will be concluded in the second half of the year,” he said.
“For sure Germany is about next year, not about this year. But there is no guarantee we will conclude the processes. We don’t have to sell.”