As a global investor and signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), we believe that factoring ESG considerations into investment decision making will improve long term, risk adjusted financial returns and aligns to stakeholders’ and community expectations. As a responsible global investor, we recognise that our decisions have an impact on the economy, environment and society at large.
As an asset owner, we seek to responsibly invest our proprietary assets, including our premium income, across the globe. QBE maintains a multi-asset, multi-currency portfolio. Our fixed income portfolio represents the majority of our overall investment assets, with the portfolio largely managed directly using in house portfolio managers and analysts. Our growth assets portfolio represents the remaining investment assets, and we use external managers and funds to access the various asset classes.
Our Investment Philosophy Framework (Framework) and principles are designed to deliver an investment outcome that supports and facilitates the protection and growth of appropriate stakeholder value. The Framework provides an overview of our approach to RI, commitment to responsible investing and integrating ESG factors into our due diligence, managing climate related risks and opportunities, and appropriate transparency and reporting. QBE aims to maintain leadership among its insurance peers in impact investment and industry development. The Framework is applicable to all of our assets under management.
Our Impact & Responsible Investments (IRI) Guidelines define further the environmental and social factors in our investment decision making processes and systems, including considerations outlined in QBE's Environmental and Social Risk Framework.
QBE has formalised guidelines on ESG factors. ESG analysis is integral to QBE’s approach to investment due diligence and monitoring. We apply an ESG assessment to each corporate entity, considering independent external ESG ratings and portfolio manager assessment. Selection and monitoring include materially negative ESG developments. All issuers are subject to the Group Energy Policy and Global Sanctions Policy, while positive screening for leading ESG performance is applied to determine the investment universe for fixed income.
The highest governing body for sustainability-related issues is our Group Board of Directors. The Board is supported by the Board Risk & Capital Committee (BRCC) which oversees and guides QBE’s sustainability approach, initiatives and reporting requirements. Our Group Executive Committee (GEC) reviews and approves our sustainability agenda and priorities and receives updates on these throughout the year. The Executive Risk Committee (ERC) supports the GEC in managing non-financial risks.
QBE has a dedicated Group Impact and Responsible Investments (IRI) team, which reports to the Group Chief Investment Officer (CIO) and the Group Chief Financial Officer, a GEC member. The IRI team aims to integrate ESG considerations into our investment decision-making process. The IRI team’s activities are also overseen by the BRCC and, where appropriate, the Board Investment Committee. The Group CIO and/ or Head of IRI participate in numerous sustainability related committees including the ESG Risk Committee and Climate Change Steering Committee.
Our Group Energy Policy outlines our approach to investing in thermal coal projects, now and into the future. We integrated new third party data sources into our investments process to ensure compliance with this policy.
In 2020, QBE developed an environmental and social (E&S) risk framework to help us identify and mitigate risks to our underwriting and investment portfolios. The following issues and sectors are included in the E&S risk framework: biodiversity and protected areas; forestry; fishing; defence: controversial weapons, firearms; energy: coal, oil sands and Arctic drilling, oil and gas; mining; and, large-scale hydropower dams.
The E&S risk framework, which will be fully implemented by 1 January 2022, was developed to promote informed decision making that is consistent with QBE’s commitment to sustainable insurance and investment. In line with our United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) commitments, the E&S risk framework further supports the integration of ESG considerations into our underwriting and investment and increases transparency with customers.
The E&S risk framework is available here: www.qbe.com/investor-relations/corporate-governance/global-policies
We consider ESG integration approaches across asset classes. Fixed income makes up the majority of our portfolio. We apply an ESG assessment to each corporate entity, considering independent external ESG ratings and portfolio manager assessment. Selection and monitoring include materially negative ESG developments. All issuers are subject to the Group Energy Policy and Global Sanctions Policy, while positive screening for leading ESG performance is applied to determine the investment universe for fixed income.
We use external fund managers to manage our infrastructure and real estate investments. We aim to maintain a minimum of 75% of all funds under management with external managers being PRI signatories.
We incorporate ESG integration and analysis in our manager selection, appointment and monitoring process. We continue to strengthen our external fund manager reviews, and an annual ESG review applies for all existing managers in which we have an advanced ESG practice. In 2020, we increased attention to workplace health and safety (infrastructure assets), climate risk, TCFD, human rights, modern slavery and gender diversity and inclusion, as well as UN Sustainable Development Goals.
QBE prefers engagement to affect change in companies and external investment managers, rather than divestment. QBE adopts limited and targeted engagement with key issuers reflected in the fixed income portfolio, and in line with the Group Energy Policy and Global Sanctions Policy – and other policies as they are developed.
Since 2018, we have continued to engage with issuers that are identified as the highest emitters in our fixed income portfolio regarding their progress towards advancing to a low carbon economy. We consider carbon risk in our assessment of corporate credit issuers to identify corporations with high carbon intensity and identify concerns such as reduction targets, reduction programs and initiatives to better understand a company’s strategy. We actively engage with our managers on their TCFD plans, strategy and disclosures and performed a more detailed review of carbon related assets to understand the climate related risks in our portfolio.
We have increased our focus on collaborative engagement opportunities through initiatives such as the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance.
QBE is committed to managing climate risk in all investment decisions, where we deem it material. Climate change also provides investment opportunities. As an investor, QBE supports climate positive investments in various asset classes and through our Premiums4Good program.
Climate-related risk is a type of strategic risk which we identify, assess and manage using our enterprise risk management framework and ESG business practices. Climate-related risk is also implicitly considered within the insurance, credit, market, liquidity and operational risk classes.
We continue to support the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations.
In 2020, we committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 in our investment portfolio and became the first Australian-headquartered insurance business to join the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance. Joining the Alliance means QBE will take into account the best available scientific knowledge and collaborate with other global institutional investors on developing standard industry frameworks. Over the coming years, we will explore strategies and approaches to align our investment portfolio with the objective of the Paris Agreement to be net zero emissions by 2050, including setting and communicating our interim targets.
We consider sustainability outcomes in the portfolio, and specifically in QBE’s impact investing initiative, Premiums4Good and are committed to growing our impact investments, with a target of USD2bn by 2025. The initiative directs a portion of insurance premium to impact investments to deliver an environmental or social impact or return alongside a financial return.
Impact Investments seek opportunities to meet appropriate risk-adjusted return requirements and deliver a positive, measurable social and/or environmental benefit. Premiums4Good investments are made in asset classes as diverse as fixed income, private equity, infrastructure and renewables. We also make catalytic investments in alternatives such as social impact bonds. QBE aims to maintain leadership among its insurance peers in impact investment and industry development. We aim to scale with integrity of impact through governance, investment selection, systems and reporting. Impact governance of our Premiums4Good investments have oversight through Classification of Social Investments Committee, which includes external representatives, and the program through the Premiums4Good Global Steering Committee. We communicate with our customers and business partners about the impact of these investments.