Sustainable Empowerment and Equity

Jun 8, 2021

[IMPACT+: This series features IMPACT posts that take a longer look at vital financial security topics that affect American consumers.]

ESG.

Policymakers around the globe love acronyms as shorthand for big and important topics. We know the E in ESG stands for environment and climate change. But the S (social) and G (governance) aspects of ESG are equally urgent and significant, especially since our nation began a long-overdue public reckoning on racial inequity following the tragic death of George Floyd last year.

By implementing strategic social and governance action plans, corporations can make a profound impact on essential efforts to achieve racial and gender economic equity and close wealth gaps.  

Life insurance companies are uniquely positioned to achieve these goals through the products we offer and the investments we make. Our products build financial certainty and enhance the transfer of intergenerational wealth. Our investments in underserved communities increase the promise of upward mobility for their residents. Our commitment to financial inclusion and digital modernization provides a gateway for all Americans to be able to protect their family’s financial future – no matter their race, gender or economic status.  

ACLI has developed a plan with concrete steps to address these issues and more in our Board-led Economic Empowerment and Racial Equity (EERE) Initiative. Through member company action including smart public-private partnerships, we will help more Americans access opportunities that lead to financial protection and security.

Some examples of our industry’s actions on “S” and “G” priorities include:

  • Algorithmic Accountability – Supporting the development of a regulatory framework for use of algorithms that identifies and avoids any unfair, biased or discriminatory decisions based on consumers’ race. At the same time, we support advocating for new tools like artificial intelligence to increase accessibility and affordability of financial products. These tools can help close the gap between what consumers need and how they are able to meet those needs.
  • Corporate Governance & Diversity – Promoting diversity in our corporate leadership and front-line sales and customer engagement teams in order to better serve underrepresented communities. ACLI supports the Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)., which makes vital changes that will advance diversity and inclusion among corporate leadership. Our support for this legislation is consistent with our belief that all Americans should have tools and resources that will help them thrive and succeed. We offer protection products that can help people achieve financial security for life and we are focused on expanding our reach to underserved communities. ACLI was among the first associations to have 100 percent of its board of directors commit to the CEO Action Pledge to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
  • Financial Inclusion – Recognizing that the need for financial inclusion has no borders, we are actively advocating to close racial and gender access and wealth gaps in global forums with groups including the G20 and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.

A great deal of work is underway to achieve these vital social and governance measures. But there is so much more to do. Our commitment is deep and tangible, initial steps provide a valuable guide path for future action.

For more than 175 years in the United States, life insurance companies’ core mission has been to help people care for their loved ones. Through our commitment and dedication to sustainable priorities and the EERE initiative, we will be able to continue to fulfill our core mission for another 175 years and beyond.

Susan K. Neely

Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation’s leading trade association determined to help families live better lives by achieving financial security and certainty. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI’s member companies that represent 95 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.