Insurer sets 2030 net zero target with warning to suppliers

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) has said it will become net zero two decades ahead of target with a pledge to work with suppliers who have emission reduction plans in place.

The insurer said it will aim to reach its goal to achieve net-zero emissions in its operations by 2030, after implementing plans announced last year to achieve deep cuts in absolute emissions this decade. After that, emissions that cannot be avoided will be removed from the atmosphere.

As part of those efforts Zurich has signed carbon removal agreements with several suppliers of nature-based solutions, “where it can have the biggest impact on the development of the carbon removal industry”. It revealed it has made advance payments that will help these suppliers further develop, scale and commercialise their early stage and innovative technologies.

However it also said that the strategy will include a move to ensure 75% pf its suppliers will be firms that have strategies in place to become net zero in the next eight years.

“Since we first started measuring our carbon footprint in 2007, we have avoided an estimated 1 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, and our focus remains on reducing them to a minimum,” said Alison Martin, CEO EMEA and Bank Distribution, and the Executive Committee member responsible for Sustainability. “To balance out our unavoidable residual emissions, we are supporting innovative carbon removal solutions. The urgency of the situation means we need to be proactive and help scale up the carbon removal industry, which is still in its infancy.”

The carbon removal projects were selected to “align with Zurich’s broader sustainability goals” including flood resilience, wildfire prevention and through support for good quality jobs in sustainable industries, developing a fairer society, it said.

The chosen carbon removal suppliers are InterEarth from Australia, Bio Restorative Ideas from Puerto Rico and Oregon Biochar Solutions from the United States. Zurich explained its participation in these projects has been facilitated through carbon removal marketplace Puro.earth.

The InterEarth project removes CO2 via woody biomass burial. The company grows a selection of highly adapted woody plants on degraded, low rainfall, and previously cleared farmland in Australia. Periodically, the plants are trimmed of their above-ground biomass and the harvested biomass is buried and encapsulated in dedicated subterranean chambers. The aim is to permanently store the carbon captured within the biomass.

Bio Restorative Ideas plans to convert waste and invasive bamboo to high-quality biochar on the site of a former sugar cane factory in the southwest of Puerto Rico, which will be used to improve soils with cascading benefits in food production and yield. Other applications are also under consideration such as an additive to concrete or building materials.

Oregon Biochar Solutions produces high-quality biochar, mainly sourced from forestry waste, including fire hazard biomass and forest fire burnt wood. Removing this latter material reduces the risk of future fires and puts waste material to a productive use. The U.S. company is already producing biochar, most of which is sold to farms, and has capacity to scale up to produce more than 3,000 metric tons per year.

“Zurich is committed to act now to remove carbon from the atmosphere and will continue to look for and support additional solutions to diversify its carbon removal approach,” it said. “After initially focusing on biomass-based carbon removal, Zurich is now also looking at technological solutions such as direct air capture and storage.

“To complement its net-zero strategy, Zurich aims to have 75% of its managed procurement spend with suppliers that have science-based emissions reduction targets by 2025 and net-zero targets by 2030.”

Until 2030, the group said it will maintain overall carbon neutrality in its operations, steadily increasing the proportion of its carbon removal offsets that qualify for net-zero certification.

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