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Swiss Re: Climate Change

Case Overview

Swiss Re engaged FSG to assess the opportunity to bring the topic of climate change into U.S. public schools as an education module to build youth’s understanding of the issue.

The Challenge

At the time of this engagement, the controversy around climate change had recently tilted, with a majority of Americans convinced that global warming was taking place and that action was required. Swiss Re was already publicly associated with the issue of climate change, and wanted FSG to explore opportunities for corporate sponsorship of educational programs about climate change in the US. Swiss Re was particularly interested in an assessment of the impact of this potential investment on their brand and reputation, and in understanding the success factors of such an endeavor from both a program and corporate perspective.

Approach & Solutions

FSG began by identifying similar awareness building programs in high schools and colleges to develop an understanding of how to build a successful program – and the risks involved. Relevant case studies were researched, initiative leaders were interviewed, and insights were drawn concerning investments, activities, and results – especially as related to reputation and other benefits to the sponsoring corporation.

FSG next sought to assess what Swiss Re could achieve in the US with an awareness building program on climate change. Interviews with experts on the issue – public affairs officers in relevant corporations, public school experts, and non-profits involved with corporate programs – revealed key points for Swiss Re to consider:

  • While the topic of climate change was no longer controversial, especially after Hurricane Katrina, there were many teaching aids available on environmental issues and increasingly on climate change
  • Many of these tools were provided online or otherwise without much involvement in the actual delivery
  • As a result, few programs got to scale in the US, a problem compounded by the decentralized nature of the educational system
  • The programs structured to delivery nationally required a scale of investment and commitment horizon that was beyond what was being considered by Swiss Re
These findings led FSG to recommend Swiss Re not pursue a strategy of engaging in high school curriculum aids, as it could not deliver an impact on the climate issue or build Swiss Re’s reputation. Instead, FSG recommended several options for Swiss Re’s consideration: Expand on its current educational campaign to reach specific target audiences through interest group organizations; and/or invest in building ‘Climate Change’ professional capacity through specific curriculum development and fellowships; and/or support economic studies and actively publicize results. All of these investments had the potential for high impact within Swiss Re’s budget – and would positively affect Swiss Re’s brand and reputation.

About Swiss Re

As a leading global reinsurer, Swiss Re recognizes that rising pressure on natural resources and social cohesion pose serious long-term threats to society and business. The firm seeks to address both sustainability-related risks and opportunities through its business operations and corporate citizenship activities.

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