Sustainability
Opinion Article
December 15, 2020

Why a business leader should not be an ostrich

We are first bench witnesses realizing that immortality is getting closer. But at what cost? While technology keeps following Moore’s law, we are emptying, polluting, and destroying the world (the planet / the earth system / the natural resources) in a way that no economic model will be able to solve the problem once passed the tipping point… we might have passed already.

Let’s be honest, from the fifties till the nineties, everyone, but some isolated visionaries were focused solely on growth without caring how the world would look like some decennia later. Now we know better, and no one has an excuse anymore not to see the glaciers and icecaps melting away. Microplastics can be found in any fish we eat, and global warming will become irreversible. You can read or watch it on the daily news, and science has given multiple evidence for it. If we continue like this, we will need two planets to support our consumption by 2030. It is time to act! Time to act all as fast as we can together because the speed of action up to now is insufficient to face the challenges, and secondly, we need a global and joint approach in the next decade before the doom-scenario of 2030 is indeed irreversible. The balancing act will be to continue to make every individual wealthier, healthier and more educated while respecting what the earth can produce in one year.

Is this feasible?

At Ageas Portugal Group we are convinced that it is. Every industry and every activity has to scrutinize what it can do to make this a better world, for-profit, for people, and for the planet. Be it through its production process or by applying strict procurement rules along the value chain, to name a few, to gradually become a carbon-neutral company and a sustainable organization. Companies that remain profitable find new revenue sources in sustainable business models while being an ethical employer with an impact on society.

We have chosen 10 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals where we considered we could be meaningful (no poverty, good health, quality education, gender equality, decent work, and economic growth, industry-innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, climate action and finally partnership for goals). We are on a journey, and the path is widening every day with new actions and initiatives, as the recent commitment we assumed within the European Green Capital agreement, but we still have a long way to go.

An integrated approach on sustainability will see the light within a couple of months with a great ambition for each manager to embed sustainable practices in their field of expertise and responsibility. Along with that, we will move to new Ageas houses in 2021, where sustainability is a key element. It is crucial that next to the field of philanthropy where we have been present for many years and continue to be, we apply the principles for impact in our products and services, in our investment practices, in our employee engagement programs, and company culture.

Ageas Foundation is a unique asset we have with a multitude of projects that are focused on literacy, inclusion, the aging population, and poverty, and is gradually moving towards social impact investment that will allow the foundation to keep on supporting more projects in the future.

Being a main investor in a social impact fund, Ageas Portugal Group brings a third and crucial vehicle in the picture where investing in start-ups that prioritize impact as a purpose above shareholder value is a real-time example of how to join forces and build the future we want.

We are convinced that capitalism and sustainability can easily walk hand in hand if mindsets can be changed towards such goals. We all know that changing the actual culture towards a culture of shared value where inclusion becomes part of product design, where body shops use 100% ecological paints and green parts, where we go full-fledged towards prevention in chronic diseases and nature conservation, and apply circular models in the insurance industry will not happen overnight. However, more and more people within Ageas Portugal Group become convinced that it is the only way forward, that the insurance industry has a key role to play as a risk manager and investor, and by doing so, setting the example and influence the whole business scene in Portugal.

Steven Braekeveldt

Chief Executive Officer Continental Europe at AGEAS, Nova SBE Corporate Partner

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