AG’s sustainability policy - AG Employee Benefits
What concepts underpin AG’s sustainability policy? Nathalie Erdmanis, Director of Sustainability, shares her thoughts.

Published on 25/10/2021


AG goes all out on sustainability

At AG, we’ve consistently applied long-term thinking to our growth strategy, which is guided at all times by the needs of our customers. And as the leader in the Belgian insurance market, we recognise that we bear a responsibility to wider society. Sustainability now permeates everything we do – at every level of our business. Nathalie Erdmanis, Director of Sustainability at AG, explains what sustainability means and how it plays out across the organisation.

What makes AG a sustainable company in today's world?

Sustainability means different things to different people, and the way the concept is understood varies across sectors and industries. At AG, we see a sustainable business as one that meets the needs of today without compromising the needs and development opportunities of future generations. Of course, that means being profitable and achieving growth, although not at any cost. It also means adopting the kind of long-term thinking that's typical in the insurance industry, not least so we can meet our pension commitments.

But our commitment to sustainability doesn't end there: we also consider our impact on the environment and on wider society, adhering to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in everything we do. Sustainability comes as second nature for an insurance company like AG, and we're mindful of the depth and breadth of our impact on society across different parts of our business. In short, sustainability is an incredibly broad concept that covers a lot of different things at AG.

What are the foundations of AG's sustainability policy?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ​served as the starting point for our policy. We chose to focus on 10 of the 17 goals that mostly closely align with our business and activities, such as “Good Health and Well-being" and “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure". Our second process step was to develop a set of key sustainability principles based on ESG criteria.

"At AG, we consider our impact on the environment and wider society, adhering to ESG principles in everything we do."

We recently published our first Sustainability Report, which outlines all the efforts we've made on this front throughout our history and explains where we still have work to do.

Can you give some concrete examples of what AG is doing on sustainability?

To give one example, we're working hard to shrink the environmental footprint of our business. AG isn't a manufacturer, so our direct environmental impact is somewhat limited. Even so, we're determined to calculate our carbon footprint, reduce it where we can, and offset any emissions we can't avoid as quickly as possible. And those efforts have paid off: in 2019, we became the first Belgian insurance company to receive the CO2-Neutral label.

One way we're making a real difference for the environment is through responsible investing. We're one of Belgium's largest institutional investors, with over €85.3 billion in assets under management at year-end 2020. So our investment decisions obviously have a palpable effect on the economy. 
In fact, sustainability is hardwired into our investment strategy. As Wim Vermeir, AG's Chief Investment Officer, explained in an earlier interview, we weigh up ESG criteria in every investment decision we make, and always with the same aim: to deliver steady, long-term returns. That's why, for instance, our investment policy excludes coal, tobacco and weapons and why we prefer to invest in sectors like renewable energy and sustainable housing.

How is AG doing its bit for wider society?

As an insurer, we have a duty to help address some of the major issues facing our society – and, more generally, to be a good corporate citizen. And that's precisely what we're doing through initiatives like AG Solidarity, which we set up 25 years ago to support charities and non-profits tackling social exclusion and working with disadvantaged children. AG also has an extensive sponsorship programme: we promote sport and the health benefits of exercise through Move by AG, we're a supporter of Paralympic Team Belgium, and we back organisations working to tackle colon cancer and improve fire safety. Another example is our website that draws attention to the problem of loneliness (

How long has sustainability been an integral part of AG's
business model?

Wim Vermeir and his team have been working flat out to incorporate sustainability criteria in AG's investment processes for 15 years now. However, in its current format, our sustainability policy – formally documented, properly structured and systematically applied – is three years old, although that's not to say we did nothing beforehand. Becoming a sustainable business isn't something that happens overnight, and we still have plenty of work to do to get there.

How did AG deliver on its sustainability commitments in 2020?

For AG, 2020 was obviously a year like no other. The COVID-19 crisis has been a permanent feature of our work over the past 18 months, but that hasn't stopped us doing things sustainably. As Jan Heyvaert, AG's Chief HR & Sustainability Officer, explained, we kept our services running as staff switched to working full-time from home, and we signed up to the measures agreed between the government and the insurance sector. But we also went above and beyond with our own measures: for instance, volunteers employed as medical auxiliaries received free occupational accident insurance coverage.

AG also stepped up to help customers and local businesses through our "Supporter of Retailers" campaign (FR & NL), distributing 200,000 vouchers worth €20 each for customers to spend at non-food retail, hotel and catering, and wellbeing businesses – a huge cash injection into those sectors of the economy hit hardest by the crisis. Again, the campaign reflected our sense of responsibility towards society at large, and our focus on long-term, sustainable thinking.

"Our first Sustainability Report, which outlines all the efforts we've made on this front, is intended to embed a culture of sustainability across AG."

Has AG done anything in particular to support mental wellbeing and medical research?

The pandemic has put mental wellbeing at the very top of the agenda. Our subsidiary AG Health Partner moved quickly to develop new programmes to help employers promote mental and social wellbeing among their employees. And in the early days of the crisis, the AG Health Partner team held a series of free webinars – developed in record time – on pre- and post-lockdown workplace wellbeing.

Turning to medical research, we teamed up with Ageas to donate €750,000 to the prestigious Leuven-based Rega Institute for Medical Research to support research into a new COVID-19 vaccine. We also provided €250,000 in funding to Imec (FR & NL), a research centre also based in Leuven, to develop a rapid COVID-19 breath test. And recognising the mental and social wellbeing impacts of isolation through lockdowns and social distancing, we launched an online platform to make organisations and the general public more aware of the issue, and to encourage people to act.​​

What are the key takeaways from AG's recently published 2020 Sustainability Report?

It's not easy to pick one or two takeaways from 2020. But the three-part structure of the report – “Supporter of the economy", “Supporter of people" and “Supporter of the planet" – says a lot about our approach.

These three priorities lie at the very heart of our sustainability policy. And in fact, if you read between the lines, they map closely to the three ESG criteria: environmental, social and governance. The key point is that, for all their differences, these three priorities complement one another. By definition, a sustainability policy demands holistic thinking: you can't just cherry-pick from a list of options. Good corporate citizenship is about everyone inside and outside AG – our employees, partners and customers – acting in accordance with these three principles.

"Long-term thinking and sustainable management practices come as second nature for an insurance company like AG."

In recent times, AG has ramped up its internal communication efforts – such as through the 2020 Sustainability Report and through Connect AG, our internal social network – to help raise awareness of sustainability issues. We're getting there, but we still have some way to go. Because – it's worth stressing again – sustainability is everyone's business.

Read AG’s 2020 Sustainability Report ​

About Nathalie Erdmanis

  • ​Nathalie holds a Master’s degree in Business Engineering from Solvay Business School (ULB).
  • Her career has included roles as Vice President of Marketing at Brussels Airlines and Marketing & Communications Director at McDonald’s.
  • She joined AG in 2016, initially as Director of Strategic Marketing & Branding.
  • She was appointed to the position of Director of Sustainability at AG in April 2021.
  • Alongside her role at AG, Nathalie also serves on the Board of Directors of the Brussels Chamber of Commerce.