Aegon is one of the founding signatories of the UNEP-FI’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI). The aim of the PSI is to make sure sustainability becomes business as usual.
The PSI comprises four basic principles. Against each of these principles, we’ve set ourselves specific goals and targets. Each year we report our progress. We put these goals and targets in place three years ago – when the PSI was launched. In many areas, we've already reached the objectives we set for ourselves. That's why we've now set new goals, outlined below.
Aegon is committed to doing business responsibly. We have internal policies, procedures and frameworks that set out how decisions should be made in areas such as procurement, investment, tax, product development, remuneration and information security. We also have a Code of Conduct, which applies to all Aegon employees worldwide. This Code of Conduct contains basic principles governing our workplace, social responsibility and business conduct.
The aim of these policies and procedures is to protect stakeholders by ensuring we are aware in our decision-making of all relevant financial and nonfinancial factors. We monitor implementation and take remedial action where necessary to ensure full compliance. We have a dedicated Non-Financial Risk Committee, which meets monthly. The Committee's members are drawn from Aegon’s Legal, Compliance and Risk departments, among others.
To oversee our investment approach, we have a Responsible Investment Strategy Committee. We also have a formal Responsible Investment Policy; we provide mandatory ESG training for portfolio managers, and have built responsible investment into both our risk management framework and into our investment mandates. We prefer to engage, though we do exclude some investments, where there are international agreements in place, or a clear social or environmental case to do so. Our Exclusion List was last updated in February 2019. The list comprises 14 companies involved in controversial weapons, 48 in thermal coal mining, 11 in oil sands and a further 63 in tobacco. We also exclude investment in 15 countries.
We engage regularly with all stakeholders, including customers and business partners.
Among our products and services, we offer specific financial products for vulnerable groups and socially-responsible investment funds (SRI). In several countries, we sell products for customers on low incomes — for example: our ‘My Family’ micro-insurance product in Brazil and low-cost life insurance in Romania. We also provide support to those facing chronic illness. In China, our critical illness coverage offers protection against both diabetes and cancer; we also have products that help customers suffering from cervical and breast cancer. In addition to our products, we also support a number of financial education programs. In the Netherlands, for example, we pay for budget coaches to help customers in financial difficulty. In the US, we work closely with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. We also offer lessons, online seminars and clinics for members of the public. For our customers in the UK, the Netherlands and Hungary, we have SRI funds. At the end of 2018, these funds had EUR 3.4 billion under management, almost 80% more than they had five years before.
We encourage greater energy efficiency through our real estate investments — for example, we are renovating properties in our Amvest fund in the Netherlands. We want to achieve an average B label for energy efficiency; currently, more than half of these properties are rated E or F (A is the highest). To Dutch customers, we offer green mortgages.
Our business partners help us develop, market and distribute our products and services. When working with outside providers, our goal is to create long-term relations that benefit Aegon and allow our partners to develop and grow their businesses. We regularly assess the companies we work with against minimum social and environmental standards. These standards are set out in our Sustainable Procurement and Outsourcing Risk policies.
As a financial services company, we buy goods and services, including IT support, office equipment and management consultancy. We also buy utilities (electricity, water etc.). That said, we do not have a particularly complex supply chain and we do not need to source raw materials or deliver physical goods to customers. Our Sustainable Procurement Policy, which sets out environmental, social and governance standards for our suppliers. As part of our approach, we require some of our suppliers to sign a Supplier Sustainability Declaration; at the end of 2018, these declarations covered 25% of our total procurement spend.
Though the nature of our relationship has changed, intermediaries remain a valuable sales channel. We provide training to our distributors, so they understand our policies and are able to provide the right advice to our customers.
Aegon has a dedicated Global Government & Public Affairs department, whose aim is to support regulators and lawmakers.
Our aim is to become a thought leader on retirement and healthy aging. We invest in research through the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) and its sister organizations in the US and Brazil. We have also built a network of partnerships to push for change and reform in the way we manage retirement, healthcare and aging. As part of this network, we work with the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the VU University Alzheimer Centre and the MIT AgeLab.
In many countries, we know people can no longer rely on state or company pensions and benefits. We are therefore putting more efforts into financial education. In the Netherlands, for example, we have the ‘Goed met Geld’ – or ‘Mastering Money’ – program. By the end of 2018, more than 100,000 people had completed the program’s basic financial awareness test. We also have supplemental health and long-term care businesses in the US. In the UK and the Netherlands, we invest in care homes for the elderly. In 2018, we supported a new Dementia Discovery Fund and stopped investments in tobacco; smoking is a leading cause of many of the chronic illnesses pushing up healthcare costs.
We have a responsibility to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where we can, both as an investor and a provider of financial services. We focus on SDGs most relevant to our business and have selected specific goals and targets linked to our strategy. In addition to these goals and targets, we also work directly with other organizations to support the SDGs. As well as the UN Principles for both Sustainable Insurance and Responsible Investment (PSI, PRI), we are members of the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), which works for greater transparency in reporting financial flows within the global energy and minerals sector. Aegon has also signed the Paris Pledge for Action, which was launched at the Paris climate change conference in 2015.
We publish details our progress each; our latest progress report is included in our 2018 Integrated Annual Report (page 434).
We have internal policies, procedures and frameworks covering a number of relevant areas, including: responsible investment, health & safety, community investment, human rights, remuneration, sustainable procurement, product development and approval, and fraud and other financial wrong-doing. We also have a Code of Conduct which applies to all Aegon employees worldwide. Most of these policies and frameworks are available at www.aegon.com. Policies are supported by training and development programs. Where relevant, policies are incorporated directly into Aegon's operational risk management framework (including tax, responsible investment and health & safety etc.) Policies are also updated regularly.
We engage regularly with customers, business partners and other stakeholders through polls and surveys, conferences, workshops, and face-to-face meetings. We use intelligence from our stakeholders to improve our products and services, and to ensure our business remains as accountable and relevant as possible. In some cases, we have departments dedicated to engagement (Investor Relations, Global Government & Public Affairs, Procurement etc.). Engagement is also an integral part of our approach to responsible investment. We also engage through our membership of international organizations and initiatives (including the Global Coalition on Aging, Geneva Association, Principles on Responsible Investment etc.).
Aegon has a dedicated Global Government & Public Affairs department, whose aim is to support regulators and lawmakers. We carry out or fund research into key ESG issues (including the impact of aging and the serious illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer's), and we work with other stakeholders through multilateral organizations and agreements.
Each year, we publish progress against the PSI principles. Our progress report is included as part of our Review, and is available online
|Goal||Progress update March 2017
|Ensure responsible business is an integral part of Aegon's corporate strategy – of which the implementation is the responsibility of Aegon's highest management level||We redefined our Responsible Business strategy and now have a focus area and direction. The intersection between financial security and well-being. We will continue to define this strategy in 2017, developing goals and objectives and expect to have country specific implementation plans by the end of 2017.|
|Where possible, incorporate our sustainability policies into our existing risk and compliance frameworks to ensure effective identification, monitoring and management of ESG risks.||We incorporated our global Responsible Investment Policy and our Health & Safety statement into our operational risk management framework. In 2017 we will perform an attestation process on these policies.|
|Only offer products and services that customers can trust.||We rolled out a mandatory Information Security E-learning training module for all our employees and started further initiatives in order to embed privacy considerations in our business models.|
|Conduct a climate change risk assessment across our investment portfolio, and develop an appropriate governance process based on the climate risks and opportunities identified.||Aegon Asset Management ran a project to analyze investment risks related to climate change. Key conclusion was that there is significant uncertainty around how climate change will impact financial investments, and that current methodologies to measure the impact have considerable limitations.|
|Respond to clients quickly, fairly, clearly and transparently at all times.||In the US, we developed a voice and tone guide for Transamerica on simple and clear communications. In the Netherlands we have made similar steps towards uniform fair and transparent communications with a ‘communications style’, measurement instruments and trained writing or call coaches to help our customer-facing employees.|
|Goal||Progress update March 2017
|Proactively and regularly disclose our progress in managing ESG issues and implementing our PSI commitments via our Annual Review and website.||Each year we publish progress against these principles. For next year we expect to have objectives and targets as part of our new Responsible Business strategy, as well as focus areas for the Sustainable Development Goals – which we will report against each year in our annual Review and this website.|
|Goal||Progress update available March 2017
|Monitor key suppliers on ESG issues relevant to their business, most specifically relating to the criteria set out in our Sustainable Procurement Policy, and stimulate responsible business conduct.||We have implemented our Global Sustainable Procurement Policy. In 2016, 95% of our businesses were assessing suppliers on ESG risks. This will continue to be a part of our Responsible Business Strategy going forward|
|Encourage clients, business partners and suppliers to disclose ESG issues using relevant disclosure or reporting frameworks.||We encourage partners and peers to take up integrated reporting practices by our continued involvement with the International Integrated Reporting Council Insurer’s network. As co-chair of this network, we share our knowledge and experience on integrated reporting within our industry.|
|Apply our market conduct principles to the selection process for intermediaries, and only do business with intermediaries that share our values.||Group Regulatory Compliance conducted a global review of business units to determine the inherent risk in their distribution channels and processes, identify the controls, and risk rank the residual risks. Business units with higher risk profiles are required to implement additional controls, if necessary. The SIRA process will continue into 2017.|
|Where possible, extend our approach to responsible investment to assets managed for us or our customers by third-party asset managers.||After a gap analysis of our Responsible Investment Policy, we identified the need to ensure that external managers are complying with the Policy. We want to push for stronger compliance on exclusions based on Aegon’s exclusion list, ESG integration, and active ownership for external managers of our General Account assets. In the coming years, this a priority in our Responsible Investment Strategy|
|Goal||Progress update March 2017
|Continue our research efforts and engage with governments, academia and the scientific community to promote retirement readiness and healthy aging.||Our retirement research centers have produced reports, infographics, tools, and videos raising awareness about the need to prepare for retirement. This year we launched the Institute for Longevity in Brazil. Also, presented our research at high profile events including the OECD Forum and testified before the US Senate’s Special Committee on Aging.|
|Implement minimum standards of market conduct – both for ourselves and our brokers and intermediaries.||We successfully established and implemented our Market Conduct Principles in our risk management framework as an internal benchmark for dealing with customers during all aspects of the relationship we have with them.|
|Introduce new rules for pricing our products focused, in part, on benefits for customers.||In July 2015, we updated our Pricing & Product Development Policy. The Policy contains an obligation to explicitly consider the interests of our customers in the development and pricing of new products and services, and is audited regularly.|
|Where possible, make our products clearer and easier for our customers to understand||We've been continuously improving our customer communication materials, using direct customer feedback to establish how our materials can be clearer, easier to understand and more personal. We've also provided platforms via which (potential) customers can test their retirement readiness enabling them to make educated choices when researching and buying products online.|
|Use our employees' diversity to bring new insights into our business.||We've brought out a company-wide Statement on Diversity & Non-discrimination and have implemented affirmative action programs and Employee Resource Groups to encourage greater diversity within the company's workforce. Further implementation will remain a key strategic objective for Aegon in the coming years.|
|Develop a set of indicators and measurements to track progress on our overall sustainability strategy.||We have KPIs in place against each of our strategic objectives, and we'll continue to report against these in the period ahead.|
|Put in place minimum social and environmental standards for the goods and services we buy.||We introduced a Sustainable Procurement Policy in 2013. This policy applies to all our businesses worldwide, and is based regular ESG risk assessments.|
|Make sure we invest responsibly and engage actively with companies we invest in.||We've had a Responsible Investment Policy in place now for more than four years. This Policy covers all businesses and all major asset classes, and outlines our approach to active ownership, engagement and ESG integration.|
|Look at opportunities to expand investments where there are clear social or environmental benefits.||We now have more than €7.6 billion in impact investments. These include affordable housing, green bonds, sustainable timber and renewable energy.|
|Organize panels of stakeholders to provide feedback on our work and performance.||We carry out an annual survey of our leading stakeholders. And we work through other stakeholder
bodies, such as our Customer Advocacy Board in the UK and customer arenas in the Netherlands.
|Fund research into aging and demographic change in both the US and Europe.||We publish twice-yearly Retirement Readiness reports based on research in the US, Europe and Asia. In the US, we have entered a collaboration with the Stanford Center of Longevity to contribute to research on how well people are doing in areas deemed critical to well-being as people age. We also operate the not-for-profit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (external link), which works together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab.|
|Provide limited paid-time off to allow employees to support community projects and initiatives.||Volunteering programs have now been extended to more than 90% of Aegon's global workforce. Last year, employees gave more than 21,000 hours, equivalent to almost a €1 million.|
|Publish these goals and targets and our progress against them in both this report and on the Aegon website.||We publish our progress against the PSI principles every year. We have updated our goals and targets, in line with the new strategic direction of our business.|