Aviva finds a new way to demonstrate social value

Adapting the leading community investment evaluation tool for carbon offsetting projects sheds new light on Aviva’s social impact.

Business snapshot


Insurance, savings and investment

Business profile:

The sixth largest insurer worldwide, with over 31.4 million customers. One of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance.

Social value priority areas:

· Fair and transparent engagement with customers and employees

· Financial and time investment in charities by staff

· Climate change (energy, transport and waste management)

· UK Living wage employer

Social value measurement tools/indexes

DJSI, Stoxx Global ESG leaders index, FTSE4Good ESG Ratings, FTSE4Good European Environmental Leaders 40 Index, Ethibel, Carbon Disclosure Project, Newsweek green rankings, Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, Oekom Research, Signatory to UN Global Compact

Social Value membership/awards:

Consistent inclusion in benchmarks and indexes listed above.

A strong partnership

Aviva has been carbon neutral since 2006, when it was the first global insurance group to offset its entire operational emissions. ClimateCare is an expert in integrated projects that tackle issues including carbon emissions, poverty and healthcare. Through ClimateCare, Aviva uses its offset budget to deliver Social Value. “By working with ClimateCare, offsetting not only helps tackle climate change, it supports sustainable community development”, says Zelda Bentham, Head of Environment and Climate Change at Aviva.

External stakeholders relate better to the outcomes of community impact measurement
Envirofit Cookstove and LifeStraw Carbon for Water had the greatest community impact.

Communicating the value to stakeholders

ClimateCare and Aviva needed a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach to Aviva’s internal and external stakeholders. A pioneering measurement approach enabled them to do this. The organisations undertook a world first for a carbon offset programme: they analysed Aviva’s carbon offsetting activity through the LBG framework, the internationally recognised standard for measuring corporate community investment. Aviva was already using the framework to measure its community investment programmes.

By adapting it for carbon projects, Aviva could apply the framework’s power to a wider cross-section of its Social Value work. “This gave us a clear picture of the overall community impact of Aviva’s entire Social Value programme”, Zelda explains. It also enabled Aviva to report on the impact through LGB structures that were already in place. The framework showed that in two years, Aviva’s investment in two projects, LifeStraw Carbon for Water in Kenya and Envirofit Efficient Stoves in India, had improved the lives of 200,000 people. This robust figure allowed Aviva to demonstrate the Social Value of its programme, helping to engage internal teams and external stakeholders.

“What was interesting was how favourably ClimateCare’s integrated climate and development projects compared in terms of community impact” says Zelda Bentham, Head of Environment and Climate Change at Aviva. “If you’re going to invest in offsetting carbon emissions, why wouldn’t you do it with projects that can make a measurable difference to people as well as the environment?” The process required a significant level of commitment and resource from Aviva and ClimateCare, particularly since it was an entirely new set of the LGB framework.

The right methodology

The outcomes of Aviva’s carbon reduction projects were already reduction technologies. For example, an efficient cookstove project has to have a different measurement approach to a water project. Even a cookstove project will differ depending on the source of fuel, the type of stove, and so on. It meant that each project had to have its own set of measurements and impacts before it could be applied to the LBG framework.

The power of a story

Aviva found that internal and external stakeholders relate better to the outcomes of community impact measurement than to carbon emissions alone. “It can be difficult to convey the benefits of one tonne of carbon reduction”, says Zelda. “It is easier to explain the positive carefully measured at the project level. This enabled Aviva and ClimateCare to identify those with high community impact that could be analysed through the LBG framework. By assessing the carbon reduction project portfolio, they discovered that Envirofit Cookstove and LifeStraw Carbon for Water had the greatest community impact. To measure Social Value through the evolved LBG framework, the calculation began with the number of carbon credits purchased and worked back to look at the outcomes - for example, the number of people provided with safe drinking water. Aviva and ClimateCare faced a significant challenge in that no single community impact methodology fits all carbon impact of a reduced risk of illness or creation of a new job”. Zelda recommends explaining what you are doing within the company first, such as reducing energy consumption through LED lighting. You can then explain the benefits for communities and the environment generated by offsetting remaining emissions.

A bright future

LBG have since adopted Aviva’s approach into best practice guidelines. Zelda believes this makes it easier to repeat this process in future years. “Both Aviva and ClimateCare hope many other organisations will be able to benefit from our work”.

Tips from Aviva

· Make the measurement process robust, prudent and credible

· Measure all the impacts of carbon offsetting projects from the outset

This case study is an excerpt from the Social Value Measurement Toolkit compiled by Uscreates - a resource providing guidance, inspiration and practical advice from organisations that have successfully delivered social value.

You can download the toolkit here.