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CORPORATE | 03.06.2021

Antonio Huertas at the International University of La Rioja: “Insurance has been responsive to COVID, and we want to be part of the solution in the recovery too”

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The MAPFRE Chairman and CEO took part in The future of capitalism series, organized by the Social Council of the International University of La Rioja.

Antonio Huertas, Chairman and CEO of MAPFRE, today ruminated on the global tsunami caused by the pandemic, the role of insurance and the bottom line for sustainability during a speech at UNIR (Universidad Internacional de La Rioja — the International University of La Rioja), with the ongoing triple crisis: health, economic and social.

“A global pandemic requires global vaccination,” he stressed, and he called on all organizations—both public and private—to help countries that need protection and access to vaccines.

He implored that the crisis not lead to a deceleration in the progress of sustainability commitments made as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, but that progress be expedited “as much as possible in this decade of action.” “With COVID it seems we stopped and left what was important to deal with what was urgent. We need to refocus on these commitments and the SDGs. But it’s not just a climate issue, sustainability also has a social aspect. We need to talk about equality and inclusion,” he added. Socially responsible investment is therefore an ally, “because it has been shown to be not only profitable, but also a source of social benefits.

The MAPFRE Chairman and CEO prioritized one SDG in particular, because of its “fundamental importance”: Quality education. “Much of the world has missed out on education, and we are increasing the risk. The global community needs to rally and ensure that nobody, not one child or young person, is left behind,” he insisted, naturally putting the focus on digital education.

Toward a more active insurance role

Reflecting on the role of the insurance industry, the MAPFRE Chairman and CEO remarked that “Insurance has gone above and beyond during this crisis; it did not stick to the letter of the agreement, choosing instead to join forces with public authorities. Insurance has worked well. We can play an even more active role in the future,” he said.

The insurance industry is particularly well prepared when it comes to the social benefits of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) products since it acts as a shock absorber, is regulated and has a balance-sheet management model that brings countercyclical stability to the system as a whole.

Huertas then highlighted that companies have been committed to economic recovery during the pandemic. MAPFRE, for example, has allocated more than 200 million to help self-employed people and SMEs. Fundación MAPFRE donated 45 million euros directly to public and private institutions as part of an “unprecedented program” for emergencies and humanitarian aid spanning almost 30 countries.

Insurance is also part of the solution to the ongoing economic and social transformation process. “The countries that handled this crisis most effectively and which are making the best recovery are those that developed a strategy based on collaboration and joint efforts between the public and private sectors,” he pointed out as a more effective way forward.

“There is no capacity to take on a systemic risk like this pandemic alone. Only 1 percent of the 4.5 trillion in European losses were insured, and society needs to be protected. We need public-private partnership mechanisms,” he claimed.

To conclude, he identified three levers for recovery: digital education, support for SMEs and increased capacity for research and development.
Antonio Huertas gave his speech—alongside Teresa Rasero, Chairwoman of Air Liquide Spain, and Emma Navarro, Independent Director at Iberdrola España—during the third session of the conference series, which was presented by Jordi Sevilla, former Minister for Public Administration in Spain and current President of the UNIR Social Council, and led by Rafael Pampillón, Economics Professor and Lecturer at IE Business School.