Aegon announced its intention to become a carbon neutral company in May 2016. This goal was achieved by August of the same year, reflecting Aegon's commitment to its Responsible Business strategy, and its COP21 pledge to work toward a lower carbon economy.
Carbon offset projects
"As a life insurance and pensions company, the CO2 emissions from our offices are relatively limited," says Marc van Weede, Global Head of Strategy & Sustainability at Aegon. "Even so, our main operations, which are responsible for around 80% of our emissions, are completely carbon neutral. This was achieved through the purchase of renewable energy and the participation in carbon offset projects, a practical and globally-acknowledged solution. We will, in addition, aim to reduce our own electricity, gas and air travel consumption."
In selecting carbon offset programs, Aegon looked to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), and identified three that were aligned with its own business aspiration: No poverty, Good health and well-being, and Decent work and economic growth.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Aegon partnered with ClimateCare, a company known for its role in providing climate and development services, to select two carbon offset investments. Oliver Forster of ClimateCare said: "Our partnership with Aegon is an excellent example of how tackling your carbon footprint can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals."
The selected projects included a renewable energy project in Turkey and clean cookstoves in China. Both are projects that have a positive impact on both people and the environment. Combined, the projects will offset 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions generated by Aegon's operations.
Aegon selected a Gold Standard project, which involves replacing inefficient coal powered cookstoves, used for heating and cooking in China, home to Aegon's joint venture Aegon THTF.
Coal makes up 71% of China's energy consumption and a third of Chinese households still use inefficient cookstoves in the home, exposing families to toxic fumes, contributing to respiratory disease, and releasing greenhouse gases.
Over the last year the project improved the lives of 8,000 people by replacing inefficient traditional high emissions coal-burning stoves each year with new, efficient cookstoves. These are powered by readily-available local biomass waste – typically abundant corn husks – to ensure low-cost, abundant fuel supplies and cleaner cooking.
The improvement in living standards created by the project has been substantial, with 98% of users reporting reduced smoke in their homes after the installation of the new stoves. In addition, the use of the cookstove saved more than $300 in fuel costs per household last year – over 10% of the annual household income.
Aegon's second carbon offset investment was in the Kavakli renewable energy wind power plant. This plant is helping Turkey meet its COP21 targets, reduce air pollution and provide economic development.
Located in Balikesir province to the southwest of Istanbul, it consists of 16 3.3MW turbines with a combined capacity of 50MW, which reduces emissions by over 60,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Increasing energy demand
Turkey is predicted to have one of the largest increases in energy demand in Europe in the coming years. However, the majority of electricity is generated from fossil fuel power plants, causing pollution and global warming.
As well as supporting the development of renewable energy in the country, the displacement of fossil-fuelled energy means a reduction in other local pollutants such as SO2 and particulate matter which is damaging to health. The project has also undertaken a number of social initiatives, including providing access to health care and improving water supplies for local people, as well as creating jobs for women.