"We have to ask ourselves
what a good life is."

Günther Thallinger is a member of the Allianz Board of Management responsible for investment management and sustainability. In this interview, he explains what Allianz is doing to combat climate change. 
Allianz was founded 134 years ago to manage risks for customers, employees and society, enabling thereby their resilience and economic well-being. Allianz's business model has always been based on long-term time horizons. Sustainability is therefore fundamental to our business and our success.
Günther Thallinger, member of the Board of Management, Allianz SE
Photo credit: Allianz
Yes, and not only when it comes to the fight against climate change, but also when it comes to issues of justice or the role of business in government and society. Many people say that companies are not yet doing what they should be doing. On the one hand, this is a problem, but it is also a great opportunity for the companies that are taking on a pioneering role here, leading the transformation and working towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. 
Firstly, we should agree on what sustainability is. It is about ensuring a social minimum for all people in the society without exceeding ecological limits. The problem today is that we are not achieving a social minimum for everyone, even though we are overstepping many ecological boundaries, so much so that we are experiencing climate change, jeopardizing biodiversity or polluting the air in some cities to such an extent that it is making people ill. It is anything but trivial for a company to position itself here. It is a major challenge to set the right priorities. Even a company like ours — with around 160,000 employees in more than 70 countries — cannot tackle all the issues simultaneously. 

Through our global insurance and asset management business, we manage risks that affect our customers' lives and businesses, and we capitalize on opportunities that promote financial freedom, economic stability, and environmental security. From inflation to climate to cyber risks, we help people manage uncertainty and prepare for a better future. 

But in places where we operate locally, we want to go one step further. We build social resilience by working toward positively influencing the current and future living conditions, employability, and the well-being of local people. We build resilience through education. Our programs and partnerships aim to help people develop the skills they need to access decent work and thrive in today's rapidly changing world of work. 

Climate protection is a priority in our environmental strategy. This is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13: Take action on climate change. The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. They are excellent signposts. We can use them very well to set our priorities. 

We presented our net zero plan in 2023. In this plan, we reaffirm our commitment to the goals of limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 °C and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by taking concrete steps. 

Our investment portfolio is to reach net zero by 2050 by reducing and offsetting emissions and we have set ourselves interim targets for this. Greenhouse gases from investments are to be reduced by 50%, emissions intensity in property and casualty insurance by 45%, and absolute emissions in motor insurance in nine key European markets — Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain — by 30%. We also want to implement the 1.5°C target in our operations and reduce operating emissions per employee by 65% by 2030. 

Today's challenges are too great for one organization to solve alone. We believe that partnerships are key to bringing about the necessary changes. They can act as a catalyst and accelerate government policy and regulatory reform by highlighting issues of importance to businesses and proposing actionable plans to policy makers. 

This is why we supported the creation of the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA). Its members are asset owners from all over the world who are working on concepts for investment portfolios’ decarbonization. In our last activity report, we were able to show that the absolute emissions in the investment portfolios have fallen slightly.  

Yes, that is a big goal. It may not seem achievable. But let's think about this step by step. Firstly, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. We have the technical means, we have the financial means, we already have the first good examples of success -  (see the NZAOA). It is quite feasible to achieve the first major target: 50% by 2030. 

We can also see that if many countries were to finally expand the supply of energy from renewable sources as quickly and comprehensively as China, we would already be on a good path toward an energy market that can provide us with much more and cheaper energy. 

To speed up expansion, we could reduce subsidies for fossil fuels and only provide support to those who really need it. The large sums saved would result in immediately available funding for more renewables. Development along the path outlined in Paris 2015 is possible. 

However, we need to rethink and certainly scrutinize our values. We also need to ask ourselves what a good life is. The way we live today is not good. But we could live much better.