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Updated: September 16, 2019 Newsmakers

Travelers' first chief sustainability officer: Sustainability is about more than environmentalism

Travelers cos. insurance HBJ File Photo The Travelers Cos. office in Hartford.

To Yafit Cohn, the concept of sustainability includes environmentalism, but goes much further.

Yafit Cohn

Travelers Cos. last month named Cohn its inaugural chief sustainability officer. Under her leadership the company launched a sustainability website, which includes topics like climate strategy and eco-efficient operations, but also things like cybersecurity and capital risk management.

“Sustainability is not simply about environmentalism,” Cohn said. “Rather, we take a holistic view about how the company creates long-term shareholder value.”

Since joining Travelers in 2017, Cohn has spent a significant amount of time familiarizing herself with the developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) ecosystem at Travelers, she said. She’s done that through research and extensive conversations with governance professionals, sustainability leaders and the company’s stakeholders.

What will your role as chief sustainability officer involve?

My key areas of focus will be continuing to engage with our stakeholders regarding our approach to sustainability and our many related initiatives, as well as continuing to guide the company through the constantly evolving and increasingly complex ESG landscape. Relatedly, I also plan to further contribute to the ongoing public dialogue surrounding sustainability and ensuring Travelers remains a thought leader in this space.

Why is it important for Travelers to have a chief sustainability officer?

Sustainability is something that has been ingrained in our company for decades, but we’ve recently taken our efforts to the next level. By creating this new role, we’re better positioned to deepen the sophistication of our sustainability efforts, tell our story more effectively and engage more broadly in the public policy dialogue.

How does environmental sustainability fit in with Travelers as a company and brand?

We are committed to a long-term sustainable approach to help protect the environment, balancing environmental considerations and social responsibility with our overall business goals.

We continuously look for cost-effective ways to minimize our impact on the environment without compromising on our promise to customers and employees. We also offer products, services and discounts designed to encourage environmentally conscious activities, such as fortified home construction, green building and the use of hybrid/electric vehicles.

What role and responsibility do corporations have when it comes to environmental sustainability?

As stewards of our shareholders’ capital, we have the responsibility to maximize the value of the company over time.

We believe that fulfilling that responsibility requires us, by definition, to take a thoughtful approach to all risks and opportunities that could impact our business, including those relating to the environment.

How will you track and quantify your success or failure in this role?

Our success will be apparent when our stakeholders appreciate Travelers’ deeply-rooted recognition that long-term success depends on a commitment to all stakeholders. For us, sustainability is not a branding exercise — it is how we conduct business and create shareholder value.

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