Major global insurers and insurance associations have signed up to the Principles for Sustainable Insurance, a UN-backed initiative, in a landmark move to support and promote sustainable practices in the global insurance industry.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) launched the Principles for Sustainable Insurance in June 2012 following six years of research and worldwide consultations with over 500 senior representatives from the insurance industry, government and regulators, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, business and industry associations and academia.


The aim of the Principles is to promote the practice of sustainable insurance, an approach that calls for all activities in the insurance value chain to be done in a responsible and forward-looking way by identifying, assessing, managing and monitoring risks and opportunities associated with environmental, social and governance issues.

The aim of sustainable insurance is to reduce risk, develop innovative solutions, improve business performance and contribute to environmental, social and economic sustainability. To realise this aim, signatories to the Principles have expressed a commitment to using their intellectual, operational and capital capacities to implement the Principles across their spheres of influence, subject to applicable laws, rules and regulations and duties owed to shareholders and policyholders.

The Principles consist of four aspirational statements, expressed as follows:

  • We will embed in our decision-making environmental, social and governance issues relevant to our insurance business;
  • We will work together with our clients and business partners to raise awareness of environmental, social and governance issues, manage risk and develop solutions;
  • We will work together with governments, regulators and other key stakeholders to promote widespread action across society on environmental, social and governance issues; and
  • We will demonstrate accountability and transparency in regularly disclosing publicly our progress in implementing the Principles.  

Signatories’ obligations

Becoming a signatory of the Principles does, of course, carry with it obligations. Signatories are required to participate in an annual public disclosure process and pay annual fees as scaled according to insurance industry criteria.

If a signatory does not satisfy any of the signatory requirements, the Board of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative (compromised of a broad spectrum of representatives from insurance industry signatory institutions and UNEP) will notify the signatory and discuss the matter with them.

Legal consequences

The Principles are a voluntary and aspirational framework and are not intended to form the basis for legal or regulatory sanctions or any form of claim being brought by the United Nations, regulators, or third parties. They are therefore not intended to be legally binding. The sole sanction that is envisaged by the Principles for continuing non-compliance by a signatory is delisting of the organisation by the Board.

Public statements, and disclosures such as those envisaged by the Principles may, however, have legal consequences, and signatories should take care in ensuring the truth and accuracy of any publicly made disclosures.

For further information see the UNEP FI website at