Joshua Geer interviews Alex Hindson about the current state of climate and sustainability in the insurance industry, and what firms should be doing to prepare
Alex Hindson, a partner and head of sustainability at risk, advisory and audit firm Crowe UK, has been named InsuranceERM's climate and sustainability champion of the year.
Hindson scoops the award having proven himself as a highly experienced risk and sustainability professional who is passionate about helping businesses build a sustainable future.
Read about all the winners in InsuranceERM's Climate Risk & Sustainability 2023 awards
Starting his career in the pharmaceutical sector, where he was first involved in environmental impact work in the 1990s, Hindson went on to join Argo Group as chief risk officer (CRO) in 2015, before becoming the property and casualty insurer's chief risk and sustainability officer in 2020.
Beyond the title change at Argo, Hindson established a sustainability function, putting in place a board-approved strategy that brought all the elements of environmental, social and governance (ESG) together.
This included overseeing the production of four ESG reports, signing Argo up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and highlighting the importance of climate change to Argo's business model, consequently leading to its exit from heavily climate-exposed businesses.
Having joined Crowe in January 2023, Hindson works with insurers and other businesses to help them develop and implement sustainability strategies.
Hindson is passionate about making sustainability change happen and is recognised throughout the insurance industry as a strong advocate for collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
For example, he has been a member of the ClimateWise council, in addition to the LMA and ABIR climate risk committees.
At Crowe, he has continued this knowledge sharing with the formation of the Sustainability Risk Function Network, which brings together ESG specialists recently appointed within insurers within second-line risk functions.
Multiple endorsements from insurance experts underline how respected Hindson is as a sustainability specialist.
One head of sustainability at an insurer said Hindson "would be my first port of call" for ongoing needs regarding sustainability issues.
And another insurer CRO called Hindson "both a passionate advocate of sustainability" as well as "generous with his time and knowledge, in a way that has both advanced his, our and other companies' thinking and practices on sustainability".
"Hinson has been at the forefront of embedding climate and sustainability into the hearts and minds of insurance businesses," another CRO said.
Speaking to InsuranceERM, Hindson shared his thoughts on the current state of climate and sustainability in the insurance industry.
He said: "I believe we are approaching an inflexion point for many organisations. The basic aspects of calculating their own operational greenhouse gas emissions and addressing current regulatory requirements are in place. I am starting to see a bifurcation in the market between insurers who are grasping the opportunity side of climate and those who are trying not to commit either way right now.
"From an opportunity perspective, some underwriters are seeing climate transition and a focus on new sustainable industries as a market opportunity for selling risk transfer solutions. They are looking to repurpose existing insurance solutions to address these new needs and, in a few cases, develop new products."
In Hindson's view, the major threat and opportunity for most insurers is how to integrate climate and wider sustainability thinking into underwriting. He says many insurers are starting to look at ESG-data systems as the solution, but he challenges include: How do you engage underwriters and bring them on the journey in what is, in effect, a significant culture change and transformation programme?
And what does this mean for the core underwriting risk selection and pricing processes within each business?
"My feeling is that only then can you unlock the opportunities once the challenges have been accepted and internalised. For as long as this is something that is being 'done to' underwriters, the change will not be effective," says Hindson.
Asked what advice he would give to insurers who are looking to improve their climate and sustainability performance, Hindson says start by taking a step back and asking some basic questions:
- Why are we doing this?
- Where do we position ourselves in the market in comparison to our peers and clients?
He explains: "Meeting regulatory and external reporting requirements is mandatory. However, organisations that will be successful in this space will be able to clearly articulate their sustainability narrative to all key stakeholders, not just employees.
"This story needs to be aligned to the organisation's business model, strategy, and values. In other words, it needs to be core to how the leadership is going to deliver a resilient business over the long term."
Above all as the award winner says: "A commercial, relevant, and authentic sustainability strategy will add considerable value, but it takes time and careful planning to be put in place."