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Free buyers' guide to home insurance, from Ethical Consumer.

Free buyers' guide to home insurance, from Ethical Consumer.


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

We investigate the insurance industry's ethics, and whether it's partly to blame in creating the crises it has to pay out on.

The report covers the major underwriters of home insurance and includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings for 26 home insurance underwriters
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • how insurance companies may be contributing to climate change
  • which insurance companies invest in arms companies
  • who are the ethical and green or eco insurance companies
  • which insurance companies are transparent about their investments

 

This product guide is part of a Sector Report on the Insurance Industry.

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Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings

 

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The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

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Best Buys

as of December 2012


As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


Co-operative Insurance is the stand-out product for home insurance because of its pioneering model to ethically screen the fund into which your insurance premiums are put.

The insurance broker Naturesave may also be attractive in some cases.

Second choice underwriters on the score table – showing some understanding of ethical investment and scoring relatively well include Ecclesiastical followed by Aviva, Lloyds of London, Hiscox and Inter Hannover.

Because our score tables only cover underwriters, to find more options ask a broker or look at Key Facts documents to find out who is underwriting the products that offer you a good deal.  

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Home Insurance

 

There are two eco branded insurance products on the market covered in the table below. Ethical Consumer is not convinced that carbon offsetting is a particularly useful activity. See our article on the subject from May 2007.

We are, though, very impressed with Co-operative Insurance’s introduction of the world’s first ethically screened insurance product.

 

Green Home Insurance

 

Company Model Eco features

 

Naturesave

 

Discount:

 

Discounts for ‘Green’ homes

 
Speciality cover: Cover available for all types of building, including self build & eco homes
   
       
Green Insurance Company (owned by Ageas) Offset: 1 tonne of your household’s emissions offset free of charge
   
Discount: Discounts for ‘Green’ homes
 

 

 

Five Cheapest Brokers

 

Five cheapest quotes for contents insurance from brokers using underwriters on our score table:

  • Budget – £222.93 – AXA
  • Allianz – £227.33 – Allianz
  • Swiftcover – £227.41 – Swiftcover
  • MORETH>N – £233.18 – RSA
  • Esure – £234.34 – Esure

 

We looked at moneysupermarket.com to see which brokers used which underwriters. Based on 3 bed semi-detached house in Barking, Essex with contents value of £5000.

 

 

Naturesave

Tim Hunt spoke to Matthew Criddle of insurance broker Naturesave to find out what was unique about his company.

 

“From the outset we wanted to give consumers an alternative green option, similar to what Anita Roddick did with Body Shop in the cosmetics industry. We wanted to make the insurance industry a vehicle for sustainable development,” says Matthew, founder of Naturesave. And for almost 20 years this is exactly what Naturesave have tried to achieve.

This focus on the environment permeates Naturesave’s business model. 10% of premiums go to environmental projects (either as grants or as investment) through the company’s trust. Matthew describes this as a symbiotic relationship as the green projects and green minded individuals who use the insurance then help fund new green projects.
They also insure niche green projects such as properties that many mainstream insurers won’t touch e.g. straw bale houses and community energy projects. They also offer insurance for home renewables as standard on their home insurance. “That’s completely unique” says Matthew, “no other provider does that.”

Interestingly, although they don’t have a fixed group of underwriters, they also engage with insurers to get to the root of some of the environmental problems. He uses the example of Catlin (an underwriter not covered in the report). He admits they will be involved in “some unsavoury practices” over which Naturesave have no control, but he says they are also monitoring the Arctic ice thickness in the North pole, and Naturesave are helping to give them, and others, long-term direction by “putting pressure on these organisations to act on these issues rather than just think about them.”

Last year the company was awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Sustainable Development and this, Matthew feels, goes to vindicate his approach. They are the first insurance company to be awarded the prize. This is in stark contrast to other green insurers. He won’t be drawn on names but describes some insurers’ green offerings as “tokenistic” and that they only “pay lip-service” to environmental concerns.

This seems to sum up the industry as a whole which doesn’t seem to have moved much over the past 20 years. In fact in some respects it seems to have gone backwards.

Matthew rails against the call centre-based, easy-money mentality that now dominates the industry and tries to offer a service with values at its core, both environmental and personal.

More importantly Matthew feels that, 20 years on, the industry is still largely ignoring the root causes of some of the factors which most affect their business. “The industry is about transferring risk and we felt that there were certain risks that were being transferred that were unsustainable, such as the effects of climate change and flooding, and these should not be ignored by companies who are then charging higher and higher premiums due to these factors.” Lets hope another 20 years sees a much greater change.

 

This buyers' guide is part of a special report on Insurance including buyers' guides to car, home, travel and pet insurance.

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