CSR in the Core Business
VIG intends to combine its profit-making objectives with social and environmental factors. Some examples are given below showing how the Group integrates CSR in its core business.
Products and services with sustainability aspects
In addition to general customer loyalty measures, customer-oriented, needs-based product and service design also plays a central role in our ongoing efforts to increase customer satisfaction. Sustainability elements are also naturally incorporated into the design of new products and services when possible and reasonable – beyond what would normally be done based on the inherent long-term orientation of the insurance business towards securing the future.
A number of examples from Wiener Städtische, Austria, VIG's largest group company, are listed below.
Carsharing is a trend that fits perfectly with modern city life and can also be significantly cheaper than owning a car. A car is often required if you have to cover distances that cannot be covered by public transport. However, buying your own car is expensive and not always profitable especially if you only use it from time to time. Car sharing can be an economical and ecologically sensible alternative.
Wiener Städtische in Austria offers the “deductible rescuer”, an online lockable deductible insurance for car sharing. This jumps in when the deductible comes into play after a self-inflicted traffic accident or parking damage and reduces costs.
Around 400,000 electric bicycles are in use in Austria. They are the most common electric vehicle and the trend is rising. Wiener Städtische Versicherung AG offers the right insurance package for them that combines third party liability and own damage coverage and can be expanded with modules like driver accident, legal expenses and special class handling after accidents.
Environmentally friendly e-box
Wiener Städtische's electronic mailbox for sending insurance correspondence is secure, free of charge and environmentally friendly. If requested, customers receive their mail electronically via e-box – quickly and easily around the clock.
WetterService app (weather service)
Wiener Städtische's free mobile services keep customers fully informed at all times, even on the move. The mobile WetterService app helps protect property and keeps you safe when underway. In addition to warnings about storms, heavy rain, snowfall, hail and black ice, current 5-day weather forecasts are also provided for all of Austria and travel destinations worldwide.
“United Funds of Success Ethik” unit-linked life insurance
Wiener Städtische has been offering its "United Funds of Success Ethik" unit-linked life insurance policy for several years. The policy allows the investment portion of premiums to be invested sustainably and ethically. The premiums are invested in the "Superior 3" fund managed by Schellhammer & Schattera. An ethical advisory committee of prominent individuals from the church, business and academia nominated for the fund meets regularly and defines concrete requirements and conditions for these investments. In addition, information on social and environmental developments related to companies, sectors and countries is used continuously for investment decisions. Independent auditors check compliance with the selection procedure, thereby ensuring the transparency and credibility of the investment process.
Wiener Städtische would like to help its policy holders achieve their health goals. The goals they set is naturally a personal decision. One thing, however, is clear. The unique “Besser Leben” supplementary package to our special class health care insurance makes these goals easier to achieve. The package offers a health-promoting lifestyle programme, such as a Weight Watchers course or special back training. It also gives policy holders the opportunity to have a needs-based preventative medical examination. Alternatively, a choice can be made from more than 300 wellness, leisure and fitness programmes.
Nursing care challenge of the future
Nursing care is one of the greatest challenges of the future. Wiener Städtische has been working hard on this issue for more than ten years and is the market leader in Austria. It also wants to make the general public aware of the issue. The “Carer with a Heart” initiative gives a voice to people active in the area of nursing care. It was started in 2012 with Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein to give a well-deserved “thank you” to these people. In addition to the original partners, namely the Ministry of Social and Economic Affairs and the Erste Bank Sparkasse Group, the organisers, Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein and Wiener Städtische, acquired another two supporters in 2014: the Austrian Economic Chambers and the Austrian Chambers of Labour. They all share the goal of creating awareness of nursing care-related issues and casting a spotlight on Austria's “Carers with a Heart”. Prizes are awarded in three categories: nursing and care professions, relatives providing care, and 24-hour care. In 2019, the initiative received around 3,100 nominations from all Austrian states. The jury, consisting of the initiators, sponsors and largest Austrian NGOs in the care sector (Caritas, Aid Agency, Red Cross, Diakonie, Volkshilfe), selected three winners for each federal state. The winners received EUR 3,000 in prize money donated by Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein and the Austrian Economic Chambers.
Increased customer benefits through digitization
Wiener Städtische founded a corporate startup called “viesure” at the beginning of 2019, which has already had a great result. The health app has made life easier for Wiener Städtische customers since autumn 2019. As part of health insurance, medical bills can easily be sent to the insurance company by taking a photo and sending it via the app. This not only saves the customer time, but also all paper work associated with the process.
"Think globally – act locally” – Vienna Insurance Group also follows this guideline when making investment decisions. In the area of infrastructure investments, this means supporting local infrastructure projects that bring sustainable improvements in local living conditions. An example is its ongoing involvement in providing affordable living space in Austria. Vienna Insurance Group is invested in several non-profit building societies in Vienna and other Austrian states and at the end of 2019 it had indirect interests in real estate with a book value of around EUR 3.8 billion. This gives a broad section of the population access to low-cost and – due to the unlimited term of most of the rental agreements – long-term housing. In addition to increasing the stability of the housing market, this also promotes social solidarity, which is an important contribution given the increase in rents, particularly in metropolitan areas. The extensive use of renovation in social housing also reduces heating energy use and therefore makes an environmental contribution. The focus on multi-story buildings also increases density, thereby reducing space use.
A central factor in Vienna Insurance Group’s investment philosophy is its ongoing investment in government bonds. These investments in local government bonds form an important part of the securities investments made by VIG insurance companies in CEE region. These ongoing investments by Vienna Insurance Group provide long-term capital to help meet the funding needs of CEE countries.
A responsible investment strategy is particularly important for life insurance, given the long-term obligations that are created. Ensuring that these obligations can be fully satisfied in the future is a top priority when investments are made. The life insurance companies in the Group are required to use appropriate control measures to ensure that this is the case. Internal analyses of maturity matching are performed regularly in the Group using current market parameters (yield curve).
Using operational risk management to prevent losses and protect the environment
VIG collaboration with Risk Consult and Risk Experts
VIG engages Risk Consult and its subsidiary Risk Experts to inspect industrial operations, trade and industry equipment, infrastructure, etc. in Austria and abroad and recommend measures aimed at preventing losses or reducing the scale of such losses. Risk Consult and Risk Experts are risk experts with 25 years of experience in operational risk management, making them a pioneer in this area in Austria and the CEE region. Numerous risk-mitigation measures prevent or reduce losses for large customers of VIG, thereby having a positive effect on the environment. Here are a few examples:
Changes in construction methods or the choice of different building materials can prevent toxic emissions in the case of fire.
Quick, professional claims settlement reduces air, soil, surface water and groundwater pollution.
Increased safety on construction sites leads to greater awareness and fewer construction errors, thereby also reducing materials use.
Risk Consult and Risk Experts proposed and assisted the innovative INEX Sustainability Challenge, a study unit jointly offered by the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna University of Technology and University of Vienna under the direction of the renowned climate researcher Helga Kromp-Kolb, to examine the environmental effects of a loss due to fire. It was quantitatively documented that preventing a loss not only avoids negative social effects, but also has a highly positive effect on the environment. In summary, using risk management to prevent (fire) losses is a simple way to help reduce CO2 emissions. In addition to CO2 emissions, enormous amounts of environmental pollutants are also avoided.
Risk Experts receives DAPHNE environmental technology award
The recommendations and assistance of these risk experts prevent hundreds of losses a year or dramatically reduce their negative effects. Risk Experts’ innovative business model, whose economic and environmental significance was previously completely unknown to many, was nominated for the DAPHNE environmental technology award in 2013 and was named a “DAPHNE Excellent Project”.
Continuous assistance with company risk management
The monitoring service offered by Risk Consult and Risk Experts includes assisting VIG companies and policy holders to implement improvements. This has many positive effects: greater awareness due to repeated recall, continuous risk improvements in, for example, technical and organisational fire protection, etc. The implementation rate for recommendations made for such companies has risen from an initial 15% to more than 60%.
Rapid loss management in emergencies
Even though the focus of risk expert activities appears to be on protecting company property and preventing long periods of production downtime, such work has direct positive effects on people and the environment.
Once a loss has occurred, one generally assumes that the size of the loss – and therefore the negative effects on the company and environment – can no longer be influenced. That is, however, a false assumption – this is where Risk Consult and Risk Experts loss management comes in. They are on site as quickly as possible to help the company concerned (for which a large loss is generally an exceptional one-time occurrence) quickly restore unrestricted operational capability. Property losses can often be reduced by 30% or more if the proper measures are implemented quickly, but can rise significantly if measures are not taken or the wrong measures are implemented. Providing the proper assistance and taking immediate action can minimise the amount of contamination and increase recycling and/or reuse. When soil and/or groundwater is contaminated, rapid coordinated assessment and action is also crucial.
CSR in the VIU Underwriting and Claims Handling Academy
VIU, Vienna International Underwriters GmbH, a subsidiary of Vienna Insurance Group, is an underwriting agency that operates throughout the Group in the corporate and industrial business. The activities of a responsible underwriter require specific technical knowledge and in-depth training. An advanced training programme was therefore created in 2008 for VIU underwriters, the insurance specialists of VIG, and later also for claims specialists. In addition to providing specialised training in the industrial and large customer area, the VIU Underwriting and Claims Handling Academy also focuses on networking and the exchange of best practices. During their training, the participants also receive a course that familiarises them with CSR.
Environmentally friendly claims handling
VIG insurance companies are concerned with handling claims as quickly and easily as possible. In addition, however, care is also taken wherever possible to save resources. The following examples from our companies show this:
The Croatian company Wiener Osiguranje cooperates with garages that specialise in glass repairs to repair damaged windscreens instead of installing new ones. Seesam Insurance AS in Estonia waives the customer deductible if damaged glass is repaired instead of replaced.
Another example for environmentally friendly claims processing is the way how VIG Group company Bulstrad dealt with massive hail storm damages in Sofia in July 2014 can be mentioned. A severe hail storm caused major damage, including damage to more than 300,000 cars. Repair garages were overwhelmed by the scale of the losses and waiting lists were correspondingly long.
The employees of the Bulgarian VIG company Bulstrad took matters into their own hands to provide unconventional, but effective claims handling for their customers. An empty hall was rented where damaged cars were repaired by experts. The innovative paintless dent removal method was used to repair hail damage to bodywork. This method reduces the replacement parts, labour and painting needed compared to conventional methods and is therefore less expensive, faster and more environmentally friendly.
Natural disasters – VIG handling and solutions
Vienna Insurance Group is an expert in analysing and assessing risks. Natural perils, such as floods, storms, hail, snow loading and earthquakes, represent an important category of these risks. As part of their corporate social responsibility, Vienna Insurance Group companies and other insurers in their countries help to make our regions more resilient and capable of taking action in the event of natural disasters.
Comprehensive coverage for losses due to natural disasters
As part of its preparations for Solvency II, Vienna Insurance Group extensively improved its expert knowledge in the area of natural disaster modelling. It uses the most-up-to-date natural peril models available to analyse the natural peril exposure of its insurance portfolios. All relevant components of the natural disaster models that are used have been, and continue to be continuously validated and checked for plausibility to ensure they are appropriate for modelling the VIG portfolio. During this process, the Group and its local companies acquired extensive knowledge about the modelling methods used in the models.
VIG offers its customers comprehensive coverage for losses due to natural disasters, such as floods, storms, hail, snow loading and earthquakes. The modelling results are used to design these insurance products and determine their pricing. However, they also help to increase customer risk awareness and help customers develop risk management measures to reduce their risk.
VIG uses the modelling results to make adequate provisions for claims. VIG obtains reinsurance from the largest, most highly regarded reinsurance companies to cover its exposure significantly beyond the modelled 250-year event level, thereby offering its customers risk coverage with long-term stability.
Effective preventative measures
Risks and perils have to be recognised before effective preventative measures can be taken for natural disasters. Risks zoning and mapping of natural perils is the first step in successful natural disaster management. VIG was therefore an active participant in the Austrian “HORA” flood risk zoning project as a member of the Austrian Insurance Association. The project produced a digital risk map providing information on exposure to flood and earthquake as well as storm, hail, lightning stroke and heavy snow risks. This public-private-partnership between the Austrian Insurance Association and Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management represents a major step forward in risk management for natural perils by the Austrian insurance industry.
Since the middle of 2006, it has been possible to check addresses on the Internet at www.hochwasserrisiko.at to see what exposure a building or property has to flood risks, earthquake risks, ... “HORA” therefore makes it possible for potential risks to be identified and evaluated. It also increases risk awareness among the population and therefore helps limit future losses.
As shown by the changes in previous years, a general increase is taking place in the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. The economic damage is considerable, and the loss amounts are rising at a faster than average rate due to increased population density and higher asset values. Storms, hail and flooding generate losses in the millions practically every year.
Good quality public weather and climate information plays an important role in prevention. Group company Wiener Städtische therefore presented its Risk Radar in 2016. The interactive map at risikoradar.at allows users to perform an independent analysis of their personal risk for the first time in Austria. Risks due to storm, hail, flooding and lightning are available so far for users to select. Because the long-term trend is important, two time periods (ten years and five years) are specified. The risks can be analysed separately or in combination to produce a detailed risk analysis. Wiener Städtische is helping to increase public awareness of risk in this way.