A critical analysis of the management of climate change risk among short-term insurers in South Africa : evidence from company annual reports

Banda, Musale Hamangaba (2009) A critical analysis of the management of climate change risk among short-term insurers in South Africa : evidence from company annual reports. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

This study investigates the extent to which South African short-term insurance companies manage climate change risk, as evidenced in their annual and sustainability reporting. The study context takes into account the fact that the world’s climate has been changing at a more accelerated rate since the early 1970s, causing disasters that have negatively affected world economies in the last ten years. Insurers, due to their huge financial resource base, long history of spurring innovation around risk and encouraging loss-reducing behaviour as well as high levels of vulnerability, have been identified as one industry that could lead societies in finding solutions to climate change risk. A key element of such a corporate resolve involves taking a leadership position which makes business sense for insurers. As such, this research analyses how innovative solutions to change-related problems could result in reduced exposure to climate change in line with corporate triple bottom line objectives. Based on a purposive sampling of short-term insurance companies operating in the South African market during the 2007 financial year, the study uses the companies’ annual and sustainability reports in order to critically assess evidence of climate change-related performance. The assessment is undertaken against the best practice indicators of climate change risk management, as defined by Ceres – a global researcher on climate change management in the business context. The data analysis is largely qualitative, consisting of a narrative presentation of the results and a conceptual application of the results to the triple bottom line which forms the theoretical framework of this study. The study finds that the South African short-term insurers were generally not living up to the climate change management ideals, in comparison to their multinational counterparts. For the South African short-term insurers, corporate strategic product innovation and planning was insignificant. Also negligible was board involvement, as well as CEO involvement, though in at least one case of the 4 local short-term insurance, there was evidence of extensive CEO involvement in climate change risk management. On the whole, these findings represent a lapse in corporate governance inasmuch as climate change risk management is concerned. Local short-term insurers generally performed well in the area of public disclosure, with their scores ranging from insignificant to extensive. In contrast, multinational short-term insurers’ performance with regard to climate change risk intervention ranged from insignificant tointegrated, across the five governance areas of board oversight, management execution, public disclosure, emissions accounting and strategic planning. As such, the study broadly recommends that short-term insurers in South Africa should make climate change part of their overall risk management strategies in order for them to remain competitive in an environment of increased climate change-related risk. More specifically, the research project recommends that the local insurers should proactively lead climate change mitigation measures through, for instance, investing in clean energy projects and incentivising their clients’ participation in the carbon market to prepare themselves for possible regulatory restrictions after the Copenhagen climate change conference planned for December 2009. This study also challenges insurers to help communities and as well as other businesses in their value chain to reduce their negative impacts on the world’s climate and to be more resilient against disasters which may arise from the high levels of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Further, it recommends that insurers should create internal board and executive level climate change-related structures, as these will facilitate the integration of the proposed initiatives into their overall sustainability strategies. Above all, the study recommends that insurers should enhance the reporting of their climate change-related risk, opportunities and initiatives to improve their integrity.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Insurance companies - South Africa - Case studies, Risk (Insurance) - South Africa, Risk management - Evaluation - South Africa, Insurance companies - South Africa - Management, South Africa - Economic conditions - 1991- - Environmental aspects, Climatic changes - Risk assessment - South Africa, Disaster insurance - South Africa
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Divisions:Research Institutes and Units > Rhodes Business School
Supervisors:Rafferty, Kevin
ID Code:1789
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:23 Feb 2011 15:04
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
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