2023 Executive Outlook | Rob Wesseling, Co-operators

Rob Wesseling, president, CEO, Co-operators

Insurance affordability and access to adequate protection will continue to be a critical issue in 2023, as climate change impacts increase in frequency and severity.

We need to have a critical conversation in Canada and globally about the need to build more resilient communities. We need to ensure we have adequate and risk-appropriate insurance coverage available for Canadians, but that is only part of the solution: we need to focus on prevention as well.

As insurers, we can enhance the financial security of our clients and communities by doing more to enable loss prevention. One way to do this is to invest in building resilient, sustainable communities that can better withstand and recover from the increasing climate risks we face. Insured losses from catastrophic events in Canada in 2021 totalled $2.1 billion, and Hurricane Fiona alone caused an estimated $660 million in insured loss. We know the total economic impact of these events is much higher. This is not sustainable, not only in financial terms but also in human terms for those people and communities devastated by these events.

As an industry, we understand and clearly see the risks our communities face. We know these risks will only increase, so we need to take a leadership role in helping Canadians understand the very real and catastrophic risks associated with climate change. We must work with governments, partner with community organizations, and collaborate with our peers around the world to develop consistent and factual information to build awareness. Further, we must advocate for responsible decision-making, strategies and policies that will accelerate our progress on climate adaptation. We need to ensure our products and services are adequately protecting clients against those risks.

Significant financial resources will be required to build infrastructure that helps our communities adapt to climate risk. That’s why insurers should consider investments that intentionally and measurably address Canada’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. It’s critical we invest in climate solutions on both the mitigation and adaptation side, so we can reduce the future impacts of climate change, while ensuring our existing communities are built to better withstand the impacts.