Thierry Corti is senior sustainability manager for Swiss Re, where he is responsible for advancing Swiss Re's Sustainable Business Risk Framework – the group's risk management instrument designed to assess and tackle potentially negative effects of its transactions and investments on local communities, workforces and the environment.
His role includes introducing new policies, further integrating the framework into the business processes, and putting it into the wider context – for example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
A climate change and sustainability expert with over 15 years of experience in climate modelling, data analytics, and corporate sustainability, Corti is a widely-respected thought-leader on sustainability and climate change.
What inspired you to work on climate change issues?
My dream job as a teenager was climate scientist. The rest of the story is very straightforward. I studied environmental science and became a climate scientist. My PhD topic was still firmly on the academic side, even though it involved chasing storms in the tropics with a stratospheric aircraft, so it was exciting enough.
Then, my second postdoc showed me how to combine scientific knowledge and commercial questions to create effective solutions for climate risks. I also discovered that companies like Swiss Re are a great place to do so. I thus ended up leaving academia after 10 years, yet I still feel and think like a scientist to date.
What are your work priorities right now?
My main role is to connect the various internal and external partners, ranging from the climate experts to IT specialists and client managers to create new sustainable solutions and products. I love to work with professionals from various disciplines; combining our expertise allow us to co-create innovative solutions that would otherwise never have seen the light of the day.
Tell me one step the insurance industry needs to take, to improve its response to climate change?
The insurance industry needs to focus even more on decarbonising its underwriting portfolio, and in a smart way. Excluding high carbon-intensive business will bring us only so far. We also need effective partnerships with our clients to create the low-carbon solutions, and understand, manage and transfer the associated risk to enable a rapid transformation. We are making progress in that respect, also thanks to key initiatives such as the UN Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C, just to name one.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic we can avoid the worst effects of climate change?
I am optimistic that we can transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 and thus avoid the worst. To me, the Paris Agreement in 2015 marked a turning point and I am even more optimistic today. In the midst of a pandemic, climate change is still the number one topic on my interactions with partners across all industries, be it insurance companies, major corporations, NGOs or other stakeholders.
What are you doing personally to reduce your climate impact?
I am lucky to have climate-friendly interests and preferences: I live in a low-energy house and prefer to travel by train rather than by car. I love to explore the local mountains here in Switzerland on extensive hikes. When the weather is too miserable to go outside, I spend my time building my own furniture, preferably from scrap wood.