A healthy natural world and broad biodiversity are important in counteracting climate change, but they are often unfairly neglected. AXA is firmly committed to enhancing biodiversity.
Despite some successes, such as salmon returning to the Rhine and large numbers of beavers reappearing in Thurgau, biodiversity is severely under threat in Switzerland, just as it is throughout the world. The impact is hard to measure, in part because we don't have a complete picture of the untouched natural world, but the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that biodiversity has reduced by almost 70% in the past 50 years. Vertebrate populations alone have shrunk by as much as 68% since 1970. The number of species that have been lost is huge – not to mention the unseen insects, worms, plants, and fungi that keep our ecosystems alive.
Biodiversity often takes a back seat to global warming in environmental debates. One reason for this could be that climate change is relatively easy to measure – for example in tons of carbon dioxide, meters by which a glacier has retreated or of course degrees Celsius of warming. Biodiversity, by contrast, is less tangible and more complex.
Nevertheless, experts agree that enhancing and expanding biodiversity areas is an important means of counteracting climate change. Functioning biodiversity secures our livelihoods in the long term and has a positive effect on our climate.
"The importance of our ecosystems is unfairly pushed into second place. The problem of rapidly dwindling biodiversity is just as urgent and existential as climate change," says Daniela Fischer, Head of Human Responsibility at AXA Switzerland.
The loss of biodiversity could even be a bigger threat than global warming. Up to a certain point, we can adapt to a changing climate. If a species goes extinct, however, it's lost forever, and the damage is irreversible. That's the bad news.
The good news is that each and every one of us can do something to support biodiversity directly at a local level. The decisions we make day to day can help our ecosystems to remain diverse, whether it's how we design our gardens, which foods we buy or how we invest our savings. We can take small steps to preserve and promote biodiversity with comparatively little effort in our daily lives and thus make an effective contribution to sustainability in the area where we live.
AXA has made protecting and preserving biodiversity a priority of its corporate and climate strategy. With its Flora Futura initiative, AXA Switzerland is adding to the Swiss biodiversity landscape, which will in turn improve people's quality of life.
It intends to enhance biodiversity across some two million square meters of land by 2025, one square meter for each of its customers.
"We see protecting biodiversity as a natural extension of our climate strategy. Together with our partners, we want to convince as many people and companies as possible about the need to protect nature and the climate and reverse the growing trend of biodiversity loss before the decade is out," says Daniela Fischer.
As one of Switzerland's biggest landlords, AXA is also promoting biodiversity at a local level through the design and management of its properties' exterior spaces. Its nature-friendly approach involves not using pesticides, sourcing indigenous plants, and employing structural elements such as groups of trees, hedges, and brush piles to provide a habitat for large numbers of birds, insects, and small animals.
The AXA Research Fund is addressing the environmental, social, and economic impacts of biodiversity loss directly through more than 60 projects. These include a marine biodiversity fund that co-finances eight postdoctoral grants and the AXA Chair in Coastal Resilience at the University of California Santa Cruz.
The insurance industry's biodiversity efforts are underpinned by research, which supplies valuable information on quantifying and measuring impacts so that relevant issues can be taken into account more effectively in business decisions. We also provide support and information on developing reforestation solutions to regenerate natural habitats, raising groundwater levels in moorland, and adopting sustainable agricultural practices, all of which are ultimately reflected in more sustainable direct investments.