New analysis reveals weaknesses and loopholes in Liberty’s sustainability policy

Boston, MA (October 15, 2020) — Liberty’s current climate policies and practices are not in line with keeping global warming below catastrophic levels, according to new analysis released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN). A campaign backed by Rainforest Action Network, The Indigenous Environmental Network, Public Citizen, Waterkeeper Alliance, Mazaska Talks, The Sunrise Project, and others is calling on Liberty to stop supporting global fossil fuel expansion, which experts say is fueling the climate crisis. 

“As our climate crisis worsens by the day, every industry must be held accountable for its role in perpetuating this crisis and take the urgent action necessary to address it. Liberty Mutual’s empty promises and half measures are simply unacceptable. By continuing to insure major fossil fuel projects and carbon polluters, Liberty Mutual is complicit in the environmental injustice and harm affecting frontline communities from Chelsea to Chinatown here in the Massachusetts 7th, and Indigenous communities across the globe,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass). Liberty Mutual is headquartered in Congresswoman Pressley’s district.

“The time for studies, internal reviews, and deceitful loopholes is long past. We demand action that is precise, intentional, and meets the scale and scope of this crisis. If Liberty Mutual is serious about their purported commitment to climate action, they must prove it by swiftly and fully divesting from any and all fossil fuel projects,” the Congresswoman continued.

The campaign comes amid record-breaking wildfire and hurricane seasons in the US, and on the heels of protests led by Indigenous and climate activists at Liberty’s offices across the US and in the UK. The protests denounced Liberty’s role in projects like the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain pipelines that threaten climate stability and violate Indigenous rights and called on Liberty to meet with Indigenous leaders, which executives have so far refused to do.

Liberty’s policies enable the climate crisis 

The world’s top scientists find that we have less than 10 years to transition off fossil fuels, and building any new fossil fuel project is incompatible with keeping warming below catastrophic levels. Yet the analysis, the first to examine Liberty’s policies in detail, finds that despite Liberty’s rhetoric on climate, its coal policy leaves the door open for it to insure “hundreds of coal expansion projects.” This is because the policy only applies to companies with more than 25% exposure to coal. Liberty itself is the sole owner of a proposed coal mine in Australia.

Liberty’s policies are silent on oil and gas, enabling it to insure expansion of the tar sands pipeline system in North America, which has devastating consequences for Indigenous Peoples and the planet. The analysis concludes that while Liberty has appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer and ESG team, it falls far short of meaningful action to address climate change.

Fossil fuel projects require insurance to operate. As insurers around the world adopt policies against insuring coal and tar sands, Liberty Mutual plays an increasingly key role in enabling the expansion of fossil fuels. Nineteen major insurers – primarily in Europe – have policies ending or limiting underwriting for coal, and eight for tar sands. US insurers like Liberty have been under mounting pressure to join their peers. In an industry first, 60 US businesses recently called on US insurers to drop fossil fuels

On October 2, Indigenous and climate activists led protests outside Liberty’s Boston headquarters and its offices in San Francisco, Portland, Dallas, and Bristol (UK). These actions called on Liberty to stop insuring destructive tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL and meet with Indigenous leaders to discuss their concerns. Hundreds joined through an online rally.

“Liberty Mutual is insuring treaty violations and violence in my homelands. It is profiteering off of our lives and land, and it needs to stop. Keystone XL continues to threaten violence towards our women, increase crime, and potentially bring this deadly COVID-19 disease to our borders. How dare they insure such evil doings to our tribal nations,” said Joye Braun, Member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and frontline organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network.

Liberty has no systems in place to ensure that projects it insures respect the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Because Indigenous Peoples have stewarded many of the world’s lands for generations, their territories are primary targets for fossil fuel projects that pollute their water, air, and sacred spaces – and further climate chaos.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is as clear cut a case of climate stupidity as exists on planet Earth.  By supporting it, Liberty Mutual turns its back on Indigenous Peoples, farmers and ranchers, and the future,” added Bill McKibben, co-founder of and leader in the global divestment movement. 

A Path Forward 

“It’s time for Liberty to start listening to Indigenous communities, to climate scientists, and to politicians that are raising their voices and demanding that they stop insuring fossil fuels and instead insure our collective futures. A rapidly growing movement is calling on Liberty Mutual to stop insuring all new fossil fuel projects and phase out coverage for coal, oil, and gas companies in line with a safe climate pathway,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network and author the analysis.

The analysis lays out how Liberty Mutual can shift its operations to align with the Paris Agreement:

  1. Stop insuring new fossil fuel projects.
  2. Commit to phasing out insurance for oil and gas companies in line with the Paris Agreement.
  3. Divest all assets from coal companies and oil and gas companies that are not in line with a 1.5 degree pathway.
  4. Respect human rights, especially Indigenous rights.

“Liberty Mutual presents itself as adhering to principles of respect and trust–that its insurance is a socially responsible product. Yet it continues to provide underwriting for Keystone XL, a pipeline that delivers tar sands oil, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Its coal policy is woefully weak. It must move quickly away from its fossil fuel business or stop touting its principled approach that is destroying the planet,” said Mary Cerulli, co-founder of Climate Finance Action, based in Boston, MA.