#PRAwards 2021 highlight: How MSIG got staff to roll up their sleeves in sustainability push

MSIG Asia is big on sustainability, with protecting, conserving, and restoring biodiversity one of the highest priorities when it comes to its shared values. While the company had an overarching vision, ensure it was well implemented in each of the markets in Asia was a challenge. As such, the team came up with the campaign MSIG for sustainability to double down its efforts in its respective offices. This led to the insurer bagging the bronze award for Best Employee Engagement/Internal Communications at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent PR Awards.

Challenge

Three years ago, MSIG Asia's parent company, MS&AD, drew up a mid-term plan known as Vision 2021 containing its ambitions and targets that would drive its sustainability agenda. The plan was developed based on a framework of creating shared value (CSV) and comprises seven key areas MSIG believes its role as an insurer can have a significant contribution to society, while also impacting its business growth.

Among the CSVs, protecting, conserving, and restoring biodiversity was identified to be the highest of priorities as it played a key role in minimising the impacts of climate change, as well as the provision of a wide range of ecosystem services that are essential to human well-being and livelihoods.

However, in early 2019, MSIG discovered that markets from around the region were slow to integrate Vision 2021 into their business plans and operations as they were more focused on other priorities such as revenue growth, profitability, and customer retention. Markets also did little to pursue sustainability initiatives that could aid the organisation in achieving the milestones that were set out in Vision 2021.

Hence, MSIG decided to get all employees personally engaged in day-to-day corporate sustainability efforts by educating employees on what sustainability is. This comes with a focus on protecting, conserving, and restoring biodiversity given that was MSIG's top priority in Vision 2021.

The insurer also demonstrated to employees how they can bring the company's sustainability ambitions to life, especially in the space of protecting, conserving, and restoring biodiversity. It also encouraged employees to live and think sustainability, as well as incorporate it where possible in the tasks they perform for work or in their personal life.

With the key objectives set, MSIG sought to engage all 3,500 staff from its regional office and six core markets: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. The staff involved comprised in-country market leads whom it had to get buy-ins from to integrate Vision 2021 into their business masterplan, as well as employees, most of whom had little knowledge of sustainability.

Strategy

Employees had to comprehend two areas: why MSIG needed to transform a sustainable business model into business-as-usual, and why MSIG committed to the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to push greater change forward.

According to the insurer, the reasons were simple:
1. The World Meteorological Organisation reported global warming could exceed the key threshold of 1.5°C by 2024, far sooner than scientists had predicted.
2. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.
3. Nature alone is 37% of MSIG's solution to fighting climate change, but only 2% of all economic investments support this front.

MSIG saw this as a strong wake-up call to do better. As the insurer that sees the heart in everything, MSIG sees an invaluable opportunity to create tangible value to the communities in which it operates, not just for this generation, but for the generations to come.

As such, it developed strategic partnerships with partners such as World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Conservation International Asia-Pacific to leverage their expertise on biodiversity and climate action to develop content for employee education.

On the sustainability front, MSIG wanted employees to know what the term means in a business context, why it needs to be incorporated into its business practices, and how employees can learn to embrace it. Meanwhile, for biodiversity, employees will learn about the fundamentals of biodiversity and why it is vital to human well-being and livelihoods, threats to biodiversity, how restoring and conserving nature can help safeguard biodiversity and protect the future, and how one's action can have an impact on various ecosystems and affect human well-being and livelihoods.

It also tapped on the connectivity these partners had with local non-governmental organisations to develop sustainability initiatives that allowed employees to directly contribute to climate action through a first-hand experience in restoring and conserving nature.

To encourage employees to live and think sustainability and incorporate it into their work, a sustainability criterion was introduced in its annual internal MSIG Innovation Award that recognises employees' efforts to build a culture of improvement and innovation. Apart from being evaluated on their impact on business processes and bottom-line, employees’ ideas were also assessed on its contribution towards the organisation’s sustainability goals outlined in Vision 2021. MSIG utilised platforms including townhalls and conferences, intranet articles, LinkedIn, Yammer, signages and banners, calendars, red packets, notebooks, and staff t-shirts.

Execution

To drum up awareness, MSIG hosted sustainability-themed staff townhalls - "To sustainability and beyond" and "Resilience and sustainability in the new normal" - and programme line ups that included masterclasses about sustainability and diversity, games and quizzes, and sustainable careers. It even created an MSIG biodiversity t-shirt.

msig sustainability

It also reinforced sustainability messages and practices in staff activities. The insurer worked with its employee recreation club to embed sustainability messages in staff activity including the eco-bingo challenge (pictured left) where staff members were encouraged to recycle, reuse and reduce. The company's dinner and dance (pictured centre) was also a channel for MSIG to get the message out. At the same time, it produced a series of biodiversity e-learning videos and quizzes. These were all well-received by the staff as everyone across rank and file caught on to the spirit of sustainability.

msig sustainability 2

There were also on ground biodiversity activations across its markets in Asia which involved employees working with NGOs. MSIG Hong Kong launched an initiative encouraging employees to save trees by going paperless. The number of trees in local parks such as Chater Garden and Kowloon Park was used as a reference and employees were challenged to work towards saving an equivalent number of trees by reducing paper usage.

In Indonesia, the team specially designed and implemented a programme called Biodiversity Fun Class for elementary students, starting with selected schools in Jakarta, Bogor and Tangerang. It also tied up with National Movement for Foster Parents, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping local= children receive education, to identify schools that would benefit most from the classes.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, the team there recognised that there is much to gain from having mangroves in flood-prone areas and collaborated with the Malaysian Nature Society, a well-established and prominent non-government organisation. In Singapore, it teamed up with WWF Singapore and District Race to spearhead a community-based initiative for the public to learn more about biodiversity, guided by an app that will take them on an interactive and engaging trail set within the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The MSIG Biodiversity Trail is the result of this collaborative effort

MSIG Thailand collaborated with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to restore the mangroves through a three-year project. With the support of local communities and authorities, MSIG Thailand hopes to rehabilitate and ensure the survival and growth of the mangrove wetlands by maintaining and planting more baby mangroves over the next two years.

Additionally, the insurer also launched eco office initiatives include BYO reusable mugs to reduce disposable cups, encouraging computer shut down or sleep mode, turning off lights when meeting rooms are vacated, refusing single-use plastics, and reduction of email printing.

Results

Employee participation for sustainability-themed townhalls increased from 70% to 90% and 99% of employees felt the townhalls met or exceeded their expectations. Its on ground biodiversity actions also bore fruit. In Hong Kong, employees saved a total of 1,083,290 sheets of paper, equivalent to 59% of the number of trees in Chater Garden and paper consumption dropped by almost 20%. In Indonesia, 137 students were educated on biodiversity protection while 137 sansevierias planted across schools in Jakarta, Bogor and Tangerang.

Similarly in Malaysia, 22 employees planted 150 mangrove seedlings along Cherating River, north of Kuantan. In Singapore, over 690 trails and 6,030 biodiversity challenges were completed, and over 2,300km was covered in total distance. For Thailand, the team planted 21,300 mangroves and restored 11.86 acres of land.

At the same time, MSIG also embarked on a strategic partnership with Conservation International Asia-Pacific to elevate its commitment towards biodiversity. The partnership will support a variety of biodiversity conservation efforts in Asia Pacific.