Chubb Becomes the first American Insurance Company with Explicit Policy to Not Underwrite Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic Refuge
For Immediate Release
Fairbanks, AK – The Gwich’in Steering Committee applauds Chubb’s policy announcement that helps protect Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (The Sacred Place where Life Begins). With the release of Chubb’s 2023 proxy statement, in advance of their Annual General Meeting on May 17, the company states they have adopted a policy “prohibiting underwriting oil and gas extraction projects in certain government protected conservation areas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).” The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge is the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and sacred to the Gwich’in.
Chubb joins 17 international insurers and every major U.S. bank as the first American insurance company with a policy that precludes underwriting new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. While American insurer AIG previously announced a policy to not underwrite oil and gas projects in the Arctic, it was unclear whether this encompassed the Arctic Refuge. AIG has not responded to outreach from the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies.
“After the Arctic Refuge was opened for oil and gas development, we have met with and encouraged financial institutions and insurance companies to respect the people who live and thrive off this land, which we consider very sacred. Since our first meeting, all corporate lease holders have exited the Refuge and every major U.S. and Canadian bank refuses to underwrite such projects. Chubb’s policy is a first for the American insurance industry and shows leadership to protect sacred lands,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director, Gwich’in Steering Committee. “The Gwich’in and the Porcupine Caribou Herd depend upon Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit for our identity, our culture, and our ways of life. We and the animals we care for are intrinsically linked to this land, and we are grateful to Chubb for this policy.”
The policy stems from Chubb’s new climate and conservation-focused underwriting standards for oil and gas extraction. In addition, one Chubb shareholder, Domini Impact Investments, has asked Chubb to comprehensively screen for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the company’s human rights due diligence (see pg 56 of the proxy statement).
“We call upon investors to vote in favor of the shareholder proposal on human rights at Chubb’s annual general meeting on May 17,” said Demientieff. “Companies cannot divide our people from this sacred place. We must be involved in all decisions where there are impacts to our land, animals, and communities. We call on Chubb and all companies to respect our rights, including our right to free, prior, and informed consent.”
Comprehensive policy that includes a commitment to operationalizing Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is among the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s four primary asks to insurance companies. We have also asked companies to issue clear, public statements refusing to provide insurance and investments to any energy exploration, development, production, and transportation in the Arctic Refuge and across the Arctic Region; adopt a formal policy to prohibit new insurance products or the extension of existing insurance contracts to cover the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge; and avoid financing oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge by ruling out investments in companies involved in the Arctic Refuge development and those that do not have policies prohibiting their own involvement in the Arctic Refuge.
The Gwich’in comprise the northernmost Native Nation living in 15 small villages across Alaska and Canada. Since time immemorial, the Gwich’in have been stewards of these lands, which include the Coastal Plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The Gwich’in people and other Indigenous communities depend on the herd to sustain their way of life, people, and culture.
The Gwich’in have been seeking permanent protections for the Coastal Plain since the 1980s using diverse strategies with a coalition of allies. After decades of bipartisan protection, the Trump administration opened the area to oil and gas leasing in 2017. Although leases were sold in 2021, all energy companies and legacy lease holders walked away from their leases in 2022. However, the Coastal Plain remains under threat until there are permanent protections reinstated. The Alaska state agency AIDEA still holds leases, and the 2017 Tax and Jobs Act mandates a second lease sale to be held by 2024.
To learn more about the advocacy work and campaigns engaging financial institutions that the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies have led, please visit ourarcticrefuge.org.