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Ethical Travel Insurance

In this guide we investigate, rate and score the ethical and environmental record of 15 travel insurance underwriters.

We also ask if your travel insurance company is funding climate change, spotlight the green and eco insurance companies and give our Best Buy recommendations.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a shopping 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.

Learn more about us  →

What to buy

What to look for when buying travel insurance:

  • Does it have ethical restrictions on its investments? Insurance companies can be essentially thought of as investment companies. Without restrictions insurers may invest in companies that damage the environment and the climate, or abuse animals.

  • Is it transparent about its investments? A responsible company's investment policy should be combined with transparency.

  • Does it have decent climate commitments? An insurance company's major climate impacts are its investments and underwriting. Some are making an attempt to address that, although others are still just talking about changing lightbulbs to LED.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying ethical travel insurance:

  • Is it avoiding paying taxes? Many insurance companies have family trees that look very likely to be structured to facilitate tax avoidance.

  • Is it investing in arms and military supply? Several insurance companies fund arms companies, including nuclear weapons manufacturers.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 100) Ratings Categories

Our Analysis

Ethical travel insurance companies

Brexit and the Covid-19 global pandemic have highlighted the importance of taking out travel insurance. We have become more savvy at reading the small print and looking for exclusion clauses to maximise our chances of a successful claim, should it come to that.

But are we shrewd enough to also find out about the ethical practices of travel insurance companies?

Buying ethical travel insurance

In this guide we look at travel insurance companies’ investment and climate policies, what their tax arrangements are, and if they have connections to weapons and the military.

With some very low scoring big-name brands, and one Best Buys in the guide, there are clear differences between the least and most ethical providers, with many of the companies we reviewed clumping in the middle of our score table.

Why is eco-friendly travel insurance important?

The insurance industry is huge. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the industry in the UK is managing £1.8 trillion of investments. This is equivalent to around 25% of the UK's total net worth. While this figure includes life, health and general insurance too, as you can see from the table, most household names have a finger in the travel insurance pie as well.

Given the monetary value of the insurance industry, and its links to climate change, our choice of which company to go with has global implications.

What's the difference between underwriters and brokers?

There are two main types of company that sell insurance – underwriters and brokers.

Brokers sell policies on behalf of underwriters, and include well known brands such as Sainsburys, the Post Office or the Co-op. They make money by receiving a commission from the underwriter, once a policy is sold.

In this guide we are mainly rating underwriters. These are the companies that take most of the money from an insurance premium (but which also pay out when something goes wrong) and therefore have the most impact. Several underwriters also sell directly to the public, or belong to the same company group as the broker itself. We have included two brokers that have underwriter companies in their family trees: Naturesave, underwritten by sister company Ecclesiastical and part of the Benefact Group, and Saga whose in-house insurer is Acromas.

To complicate matters, brokers can sell policies from a variety of underwriters. And underwriters selling directly to the public can sometimes use different underwriters for other specific policies and risks. 

You should be able to find out the underwriter from the 'Key facts' or policy wording documents which must be provided when you’re considering buying a policy. Comparison websites will also sometimes tell you. If your broker or website won't say who is underwriting a policy proposal, it's best to try another broker.

Travel insurance and transparency of investments

An insurer's investment policies are of crucial importance to ethical consumers. Without scrutiny, you may inadvertently be funding unethical activities like Arctic oil drilling, coal mines or unsustainable palm plantations with your premiums.

We describe how we rate investment transparency in our home insurance guide.

Most insurance companies have some kind of ethical investment or exclusion policy.

For example, apart from esure, Saga, NFU Mutual and Tesco all companies we reviewed placed a restriction on investing in coal mining. But most stop here.

Of all the companies, only Naturesave's sister company Edentree (also under the Benefact Group) discussed restrictions on deforestation, human rights and animal abuse.

Are travel insurance companies addressing climate change?

The less a company restricts its investments, the higher the possibility that it will be investing in climate damaging companies.  

All of the companies in this guide scored worst for our climate change rating and lost a whole mark in this category. The are several reasons for this.

One aspect that all companies failed on was fully reporting on their indirect (Scope 3) CO2 emissions. This includes for example, emissions from supply chains and business travel, but crucially, also investments. Calculating emissions from investment portfolios is not easy but certainly not impossible either.

Companies are also still very willing to invest in fossil fuels, although we can see a trend for divesting. Although most companies that bothered to set a threshold for their coal related investments set it at around 30%, some went lower.

Aviva and Direct Line for example, committed to divest from companies which make more than 5% of their revenue from coal, but they both left a loophole saying “unless they have signed up to Science Based Targets”.

Naturesave is only willing to invest in a company if its revenue from coal was less than 10%. But they went further and apart from checking for the percentage they are also incorporating other considerations reflecting ESG risk (Environmental, Social and Governance factors).

Insure our future against fossil fuels

Insure Our Future is an international campaign calling on insurance companies to exit coal, oil and gas in line with a pathway limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

In October 2022 it published a scorecard assessing and scoring 30 global insurance companies based on the effectiveness of their policies to phase out the provision of insurance and investment to coal, oil and gas companies.

The scorecard only covered two companies in this guide – Allianz and Aviva. They both scored relatively well for their policies on underwriting fossil fuels but they both scored better on restricting investments in coal (9.0 and 5.8 out of 10 points respectively) than the other two fossil fuels (2.9 and 4.0).

Indeed, this seemed like a trend, as on average, the insurers assessed for the Insure Our Future report scored 3.3 out of 10 points for their coal underwriting policies but only 1.1 out of 10 points for their oil and gas policies.

Read the full report on the Insure Our Future website.

How do some of the travel insurance providers rate for different ethical issues?

Below we focus on a few of the categories where we have reviewed and rated the home insurance providers.

Tax avoidance

Tax avoidance strategies appear to be prevalent in the industry.

Apart from Admiral, Churchill, Direct Line, Naturesave, NFU Mutual, and Virgin Money, all the other companies in our guide showed signs of likely use of tax avoidance.

We have a separate article about the finance industry and tax avoidance.

Anti-social finance

Some of the money companies save on taxes goes towards their management remuneration. All of the companies lost a whole mark for paying (well) over £1 million a year to their directors.

We have a separate article about excessive high pay in the financial sector.

Arms and military supply

With war raging just a couple of thousand miles away you may be more interested in/sensitive to knowing which companies finance arms.

Aviva and Allianz were named in the ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ report highlighting investments in nuclear weapons.

Allianz was also included in the Dirty Profits 7 report which named companies with some of the highest investments in 11 global arms companies exporting to countries in conflict.

We have a separate article which looks at banks and military spending.

Positive scores

NFU Mutual received half a mark for being owned by a mutual organisation while Naturesave received a whole mark for being owned by a registered charity.

Naturesave also received an extra Product Sustainability score for being a green insurer. Naturesave's ultimate aim is to "sell insurance that is 100% fossil fuel free".

Although NFU Mutual receives a positive half mark, it has numerous less helpful policies which are explored in a feature on the home insurance guide.

Thinking of booking a holiday?

Read our guide to ethical travel booking companies first!

The guide not only rates and reviews 29 travel companies, it also looks at the carbon impact of flying and alternative travel options, accommodation eco-labels, the impact of holiday homes (including Airbnb), and alternative sustainable holiday options.

This includes alternatives to AirBnB, alternative package holidays and working/volunteer holidays.

Company profile

Saga is a company specialising in insurance, holidays and cruises for those over 50. It says that part of its strategy is “to challenge misperceptions about ageing”.

While this is admirable and very much needed, it is a shame that it only managed to reach the middle of our table, scoring less than half of our Best Buy.

It is unexceptional with regards to its approach to investment transparency, the climate or the environment, it scored worst in all three categories. Its underwriting arm is incorporated in Gibraltar – a tax haven.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the score table.

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