Supporting a healthy society for all
ANNE VAN DEN BERGH
Anne Van den Bergh, Director of Sustainability for Ageas Group, sat down with us to discuss complex challenges, promising initiatives and unexpected synergies for a healthy society. Since Ageas is partnering for the Health Track at Impact Week, our interview with Anne gives a first glimpse at some of the crucial questions we’ll be discussing in December.
Anne Van den Bergh is passionate about leveraging business for good and connecting business, people and purpose. Since September 2020, she has been shaping the new sustainability strategy within Ageas’s Impact24 program and supporting the business in its transformation towards sustainable growth and innovation.
How does Ageas try to achieve a positive impact on society?
Impact24, Ageas’s company-wide strategy launched in 2021, commits us to building a sustainable, responsible business that creates value for all our stakeholders. The lens of sustainability helps us making choices that have a positive impact on a wide range of social challenges, from health and ageing to sustainable living and climate change. To deliver on this ambition, and stay accountable, we have a comprehensive plan with four impact areas and clear targets we want to reach by the end of 2024 at the latest:
Sustainable investments: From green infrastructure and carbon-neutral buildings to public-private partnerships and ESG-focussed portfolios, the way we invest has a great potential to drive positive social and environmental impact. By end 2024, Ageas plans to direct at least €10 billion towards investments that will make a positive contribution to the transition to a more sustainable world. Also by then, 100% of our investment decisions need to integrate ESG considerations. Sustainable cities, local economies and climate change are some of the themes we’re focussing on today.
Product innovation: Via our products and services we can incentivise more sustainable behaviour among our customers. By 2024, 25% of our insurance premiums (gross written premiums) will come from products that stimulate the transition to a more sustainable world. We aim to make the benefits of insurance more accessible for more people, by reviewing 100% of our products for transparency.
GHG emissions reduction: We’re on track to become carbon-neutral in our operations by 2024. By 2050, at the latest, our investment portfolio will have net zero carbon emissions.
Our people: We’re working towards a 50-50 male-female succession pipeline in our top 800 management. Our aim is to be ranked in the top quartile for equal participation of women at the decision-making level.
Ageas is partnering with EVPA for Impact Week, leading the health action track. How can the impact community meaningfully support a healthy society for all?
Impact players can contribute to a holistic view on health, expanding and fine-tuning our work to make sure all dimensions get attention: physical, emotional and mental health go hand in hand.
Health is also about leaving no one behind. Supporting a healthy society means we need to first address questions of how to make sure healthcare is available, accessible and affordable to all. We’re actively discussing how to bridge the protection gap, exploring, for example, how new technology such as AI can offer more data-driven solutions to access challenges.
Organisations working to drive change will also need to gaze further into the future. How will increasing longevity affect society and the ways we work and live? How will we define the ethical boundaries of new technologies, such as CRISPR?
The impact community can play a key role as we attempt to answer these questions, because the lens of social value is built into this sector’s activities and expertise.
By working together we can combine our respective strengths.
Indeed, the impact community seeks to find common ground between our strengths and the most pressing challenges on Ageas’s agenda. What keeps you up at night when you think about the future of health?
The pandemic proved that change could come at lightning speed. Those considering the future of health must also consider the agility of humankind to react to new forms of diseases in a globalised world. Will we be able react more quickly to the next pandemic? How quick must we be to save lives?
Another pressing question is how climate change will impact health. New diseases are popping up. Climate crises are also projected to cause migration of unprecedented scale. How can we keep on ensuring protection?
Questions like these fuel many sleepless nights for those who wish to shape a positive future for health. Difficult questions may make us uneasy, but they’re better asked now than later.
Our focus this year is on breaking barriers and building webs of change. What kind of networks and ‘unusual’ partnerships is Ageas involved in or would like to see in order to solve complex social issues?
Partnering is in Ageas’ DNA and we are always exploring new ways of partnering. We try to look beyond traditional financial partnerships, such as those with banks, to expand the very definition of partnership. We see value in cross-business collaborations, academic collaborations and, of course, public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships, for example, can transform cities into sustainable areas, with the goal of mitigating climate risks – we see this already happening, but there’s a lot of potential to scale this approach up.
Also, as ecosystems become more and more relevant to address customers needs, Ageas is developing new ventures beyond insurance, like in Health, we set up dental clinics in Portugal to increase access to dental care, or in Belgium, we created AG Health partners, to support companies in taking care of the mental health of their employees.
Innovative partnerships are also about the people partnering together. Flexible ways of working can create a diverse generational mix: experienced people and young entrepreneurs, corporates and startups. These generational and organisational pairings serve to stimulate and support social innovation.
Is there an out-of-the-box idea or challenge you'd like to throw out as we get ready for December?
We see Impact Week as a chance to get together and find synergies to scale up and accelerate change. We would challenge the impact community to bring unexpected ideas this December: show us which innovative approaches in health, climate, youth and cities/sustainable living you’re most excited about. Ageas is actively seeking processes we might not have seen before, and projects and networks where we can make a meaningful contribution. Bring your boldest ideas – our ears are open!