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Journal article

Developing and using a Five C framework for implementing environmental sustainability strategies

A case study of Nordic insurers
Sustainability Greenhouse gases Insurance Project delivery Environment Green building Denmark Finland Iceland Norway Sweden

Limited literature exists on how insurance companies incorporate a focus on environmental sustainability into their core business strategy and practices. The article is intended to contribute to the implementation of corporate sustainability practices by presenting a framework or blueprint for insurance companies to follow which will enable them to integrate sustainability goals into their culture, core business, strategy and structure. Findings are based on a case study and interviews involving insurance companies operating in the Nordic region, a follow-up study, and secondary data.

On a global level, actions of Nordic insurers include commitments to international agreements, schemes and initiative dealing with environmental issues. On a regional level, actions include collaboration through financial and insurance associations, conferences and publications. National level actions include eco-labelled insurance, commitments and green office programs.

Building on earlier literature, and based on the actions of these Nordic insurance companies, a Five C framework for the insurance sector environmental sustainability is developed. The framework identifies five phases in corporate strategy development on the path towards environmental sustainability: (1) commitment, (2) configuration, (3) core business, (4) communication, and (5) continuous improvement.

The study findings show that the phases identified in the Five C framework are mainly developed through actions carried out by the larger companies included in the study. The smaller companies appear to be passive or reactive in developing sustainability practices. Therefore, the suggested framework can facilitate positive changes and enable companies with limited resources or those at the early stages of strategy development to learn from sustainability implementation best practices of early adopters. The Five C framework proposed is intended to: (1) help insurance company leaders better understand how, through their actions, they can contribute to industry-wide adoption of sustainability strategies and practices thereby influencing the scale and speed at which these are implemented, and (2) to emphasise the importance of the core business in strategy implementation which has not been adequately addressed in prior academic literature and industry frameworks.

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