Brokers ‘sleepwalking’ into climate crisis

19 April 2023

Brokers lack urgency and interest in the transition to net zero, according to the latest research from Ecclesiastical.

In its second annual survey1 of brokers’ attitudes to net zero, the specialist insurer found the number of broker firms that have set a net zero target has risen slightly since last year, but apathy remains, particularly among smaller firms.

Two in five (39%) national brokers have set a target, up 1% on last year, while just 10% of regional brokers (up 5%) and 4% (up 2%) of provincial brokers have made a net zero commitment.

Lack of interest

For the second year running, the main barrier to setting a target is that brokers don’t have the resources to focus on net zero right now (51%).

This year’s survey however saw an increase in the number of brokers who said their firm has no interest in being net zero, from 21% to 27%. This rose to 31% among provincial brokers but wasn’t mentioned by national brokers. There was also a big increase in firms saying they are too small for net zero to concern them, rising from 3% to 12%.

Positive signs

The survey did reveal some positive news with nearly three quarters of brokers agreeing that reducing their firm’s climate impact is the right thing to do for the environment.

Two in five (41%) said their company is more aware of climate issues than 12 months ago. And the results also show a small increase in brokers measuring their carbon footprint.

Cost of living impacts

Reducing energy consumption at offices (51%) overtook reducing business travel (42%) as the most popular step to reduce climate impacts, most likely in response to the challenging economic environment. Other popular measures include increasing awareness among employees (30%) and switching to sustainable suppliers (19%).

The survey saw an increase in the number of brokers saying it was important to reduce their climate impact to keep costs down, while a quarter agreed their company was less likely to adopt climate reduction measures due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Supporting clients

The survey revealed that brokers aren’t being proactive in supporting their clients in the net zero transition, with only 12% of respondents believing clients are more likely to do business with brokers that are committed to reducing their climate impact.

Fewer than one in ten are encouraging their clients to take action to reduce their climate impact, while just 4% said their firm offered products and services that supported carbon reduction.

The research also found just 13% of brokers believe clients are more likely to do business with insurers that are committed to reducing their climate impact, echoing recent research from GlobalData that found brokers lack interest in the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials of insurers.

Adrian Saunders, commercial director at Ecclesiastical, said: “These results show brokers are sleepwalking into the climate crisis, despite the urgent need for all industries to transition to net zero. There are some firms out there that get it and are investing in carbon reduction, but most brokers aren’t interested. Our results show they don’t see any competitive advantage in reducing their carbon impacts. However, there’s overwhelming evidence that customers are making greener choices and that trend is only set to accelerate.

“Our research found two in five brokers would like support to understand how they can reduce their climate impact. As an insurer committed to making a positive environmental impact, it’s important we help to build confidence among brokers so they can make more informed choices and expand the climate conversation to their customers.”

Ecclesiastical has produced a series of webinars on its Broker Training Hub to support brokers to develop their carbon reduction plans and set effective targets. Benefact Group, which owns Ecclesiastical, last year announced its carbon reduction commitments to reach net zero by 2040.

1 The research was commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance and conducted by FWD. 251 interviews with insurance brokers based in the UK were carried out between January and February 2023. FWD is an independent research agency and one of only two UK agencies to have received approval from BIBA.