Tatjana Helbing and Martin Justen

Zurich Group Germany

What is Sustainable Finance for you?

Tatjana Helbing: For us, Sustainable Finance primarily means living up to our social obligations as a responsible investor.

Martin Justen: As a globally active insurance company, we want to make our contribution to a more sustainable real economy through our investments in companies and countries, for example by supporting companies in their transformation to a more sustainable business model.

What do you see as the key to the successful further development of the sustainable finance movement?

Helbing: We believe that the key to a successful design lies in the conviction that responsible investing can only be developed and driven forward together. We do this together with a wide range of stakeholders, not least within the framework of the Cluster.

Justen: Basically, the concept of responsible or sustainable investment is still comparatively new. However, it has gained in importance in recent decades. Nevertheless, the responsible investment approach still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream.
For the responsible investment agenda, we need more extensive support from the public sector. This includes investment in education, training, research and appropriate tools.

Helbing: Another crucial factor is the availability of data, which is still expandable even for listed companies. This also helps in the implementation of regulation, where effectiveness and comprehensibility are the keys to success.

“Our goal is to increase the effectiveness of responsible investing and to bring the approach into wider use.”

What role does Zurich Group Germany play here?

Helbing: As Zurich Group Germany we see our investment decisions as having the strongest leverage in accompanying us towards a low-carbon economy. We have therefore set ourselves the goal of creating a completely climate-neutral (net-zero) investment portfolio by 2050. To underline this goal, we joined the UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance as a founding member in September 2019. Our ambition is to take a leadership role in the Alliance and to continuously track and communicate progress.

Justen: In achieving these goals, we focus primarily on engagement with the companies we invest in. This means that we do not simply categorically exclude all companies and sectors that we currently consider less sustainable. This would contradict our approach of exerting influence on those companies that have a clear potential for growth in terms of implementing a sustainable corporate strategy.

“In achieving these goals, we focus primarily on engagement with the companies we invest in.”

What is your personal goal?

Helbing: Our goal is to increase the effectiveness of responsible investing and to bring the approach into wider use. Implementing these measures requires collective action by all stakeholders. We as Zurich Group Germany want to set a good example and take a pioneering role in order to make our contribution to a greater sustainability.

Justen: As a large and globally active investor, we have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with the management of the companies in which we invest, either directly or indirectly through our external asset managers. We specifically address the extent to which the aspect of “sustainability” is taken into account in the strategy of the individual companies.

„In order to stop climate change – the effects of which have long since been noticeable – enormous investments are needed. This is why we are embracing the idea of private capital also being invested according to the principles of sustainability. The Cluster aims at further promoting this movement.”

Hessian Minister of Economy, Tarek Al-Wazir