Earth Day – Protect, Impacts and Restore. Steve Weinstein shares with @Michelle St Jane how has Bermuda contributed through re-insurance leadership.
Now is the opportunity to protect our precious Earth Day. The 2021 Theme is ‘Restore our Earth.’ Bermuda has centuries of engagement around conservation and preservation with physical initiatives focused on being a green country extending into a blue economy. Financial initiatives cover catastrophic risk management, insurance, reinsurance around resiliency. Stephen Weinstein speaks of movement into an adjacent vertical, a new frontier of the world of climate risk finance.
“Now we're all climate companies. Everyone's strategy is impacted by climate risks. Whether your recognition moment was the wildfires of recent years or the disruption of your supply chains from tropical storms.” - Stephen Weinstein
About the Guest
Stephen Weinstein was elected BDA Chair in 2020 and has been a member of the board since 2016. He currently serves as an advisor to RenaissanceRe. Stephen serves on the boards of several industries and charitable groups including:
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About the Show
Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane
A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.
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Intro: [00:00:00] You're listening to life and leadership, a conscious journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people, planet and the wider cosmos. If you want to live a life of intention, to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to life one today at a time you were in the right place at the right time, let's get started.
Michelle St Jane: [00:00:38] 2021 Bermuda, green country, blue economy. Earth day was launched over 50 plus years ago. It supports environmental initiatives, strives for transformative change for people and planet along with engagement of society and wider stakeholders.
Why is important? Our earth, our home, is the heart of our wellbeing for our societies and our economies.
[00:00:59] More than a billion people and 192 countries participate in earth day activities. This is the largest civic observance in the world.
My focus today is Bermuda. Why Bermuda?
Bermuda leans into a 500 plus years legacy of building through technology advancements, global conservation and environmental initiatives providing the world with an evolving offering of resiliency, risk and climate solutions.
The first engagement was in the 17th century. Socio and environmental concerns were evident and addressed early in the Island settlement with the enactment of the first conservation law in the new world in 1623, that reads
To protect the breed of tortoises.
By the law curiousness and wastefulness of many persons
killed our young and scared away provides against this today.
Diligence is maintained through the Bermuda Turtle Project, in collaboration with other Caribbean islands. Bermuda fosters habitats and conservation for the populations of turtle that travels between our shores.
[00:02:03] Dr. Edward O. Wilson reminds us that:
The 21st century human has
paleolithic emotions, medieval solutions, and God-like technology.
Let’s start a conversation around the Earth Day 2021 theme restoring our earth today. I'm joined by Stephen Weinstein. He was elected the chair of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) in 2020.Bermuda has a long legacy of centuries in the game of being a country focused on conservation. Welcome Steve.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:02:33] Hi Michelle. It's great to be with you.
Michelle St Jane: [00:02:34] Bermuda, a green country continuing its climate and environmental legacy. What's your stand on this? How does the BDA support this?
Stephen Weinstein: [00:02:43] You're right. Bermuda has four centuries of environmental protection legacy. The first statute written in the Western hemisphere, at least by a so-called Western civilizations that dates back to 1610, one year after the settling of Bermuda in 1609.
[00:02:57] As a result of that, Bermuda has maintained a pristine and beautiful environment that both sustains and inspires its resonance. While we have much to be proud on. We have much to build on a much to look forward to. Bermuda can and should grow in that legacy of environmental conservation protection. By continuing it, showing the world the example of how a small Island jurisdiction can protect its land and water and air, but also reviewed it can serve an extremely important role going forward to fostering climate adaptation and climate transition.
In addition to its four centuries of environmental protection and half a century of leadership in finance, particularly in climate driven, natural catastrophe reinsurance, for me, it is now about seeking to grow very ambitiously into the most adjacent vertical climate risk finance.
I'm confident that Bermuda can, we will play an important leadership role promoting adaptation, mitigation, and resilience. That's such a beautiful linkage with our own natural and beautiful environment at this time. Between our business strategy and our own lived climate strategy that has a nice energy to it, and it is really quite inspiring.
Michelle St Jane: [00:03:55] Absolutely.
Being a bit of a history buff, I was following the tortoise legislation and was quite delighted to see that when I was doing my doctorate, that we were demonstrating global leadership there. There was also Sir Edwin Sandy’s, a member of the Bermuda company, I think it was around 1614. When he came to the Island he expressed concerned about social and environmental impacts. Quite forward thinking from the settlement.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:04:20] You're exactly right, Michelle. The very first legislation indeed was legislation to preserve the sea turtle population. Motivated in part by the ecological considerations of biodiversity, but also a recognition that by the bad environmental practices imposed a human cost.
That the early settlers of lesser means who depended upon sea turtles for nourishment were harmed by the overutilization. So that tether, which was evident in Bermuda from the very beginning, that to provoke social justice and health for its citizens, we had to have a climate strategy. Has indeed been part of our viewed as DNA from the very aftermath of its settlement.
Michelle St Jane: [00:04:53] Absolutely. King James, the first was very keen on setting up his settlements as companies. There were the Bermuda company and the Virginia company that was a lesson in risk management with the settlers almost starving to death. Thanks to the shipwreck that found of Bermuda meant they were able send food to that settlement, which was set up also as a plantation for tobacco, which didn't quite work out.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:05:16] Another little understood fact about Bermuda is that for the first time, well, in decades, the population of Bermuda European population would be exceeded that of Virginia and major reasons for that. One reason was the more successful set of environmental strategies in Bermuda compared to the mainland settlements that we saw those first couple of decades.
Michelle St Jane: [00:05:34] Yes. John Rolfe, who was sent to head up the tobacco plantation in Virginia. His wife actually delivered his daughter on the Island, the first born human being on Island. Sadly, they both died shortly thereafter. John Rolf rather than a Captain John Smith went on to marry Pocahontas. Already we can see Bermuda is already appearing on the global stage, right from the ship wreck. Managing the risk of the Virginia Colony to being ambassadorial between the different cultures in the UK with Pocahontas tribe.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:06:09] That's absolutely right. Michelle, on the one hand, Bermuda is the second most isolated Island in the world. On the other hand, it's always been deeply connected with those stories from its founding days to today, where Bermuda is deeply interconnected, a responsible member of the family of all nations.
I think we understand as an Island that no Island really is an Island. That the quality of our air and water depend upon outcomes of behaviors rolled around. Also our economic prosperity depends upon events worldwide. I think living in Bermuda and running businesses from, to investing on the one hand focuses the mind because of the scale of the geographic territory in which you operate, but also expands it because it forces you to think globally in a way that's so unique. I think to Island environments.
Michelle St Jane: [00:06:47] Bermuda is a great example of this.
Earth day 2021 is about restore the world's ecosystems. What's happening in Bermuda around the green initiatives.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:07:02] Well, let's talk about a couple of things.
First. I can share some news around some physical initiatives and some news as well around financial initiatives. Actually, Michelle we've already talked a bit about our success in nurturing and sustaining our sea turtle population. At times the other side of success poses its own challenges because our boisterously robust sea turtle population has an appetite for sea grass.
[00:07:21] I'm very pleased to announce that a significant government led and community supported effort to restore and protect Bermuda's extremely valuable seagrass is underway. That's only one of the initiatives that government and individual citizens and community groups in Bermuda are focused on not just for Earth Day for 2021, but across time and make sure that the Island remains beautiful. That what it’s about. Diversity for me is about the treasures we've been handed off to the next generation. We're also engaged in a set of less physical immediately because financial impacts indirectly promote the physical impacts. I've mentioned already Bermuda’s half a century of leadership and financial services, particularly in the insurance.
[00:07:58] The roots of Bermuda's re-insurance leadership are in a significant. Climate driven risk events, like Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992, slightly after that event, brought new capital, and importantly, new business ideas, new technology driven approaches to an old industry that re-emerged in Bermuda and to summarize conquered the world.
[00:08:15] The Bermuda reinsurance market went from a standing start to a broad and global relevance, and just a couple of years by bringing new technologies, new approaches and new human capital to a very old industry reinsurance. Now we're looking at a new frontier, the world of climate risk finance. It is the adjacent vertical, no market, no regulator, no population of human talent understands how climate risk resides on a financial services balance sheet, better than those constituencies of Bermuda.
[00:08:41] We can take our strengths, our track record of our leadership and extended into climate risk. Partly because in the wind at our back includes this of growing awareness of how significant challenges are, but the other side of challenges, opportunity, and no culture has embraced that ethos better than Bermuda over its four centuries of adventure.
Michelle St Jane: [00:08:58] I like the fact that you touch on the blue economy. I’d liked to pause and have another historical reference here. Women actually exceeded the maritime economy in the 1730s. It was dubbed the Bonnet Boom. Queen Anne took the Bermuda bonnets into high fashion. The women on the Island had industry that involved the elderly, the disabled, the children. They were using the resources on the Island to create ropes and baskets, because it was a maritime community, but the bonnet scene ended up being the big selling point.
[00:09:28] That was really great to quote a frequent visitor from another century. Mark Twain said.
“Throw off the bow line,
sail away from the safe Harbor,
catch the trade winds in your sails
Explore, dream and discover.”
This sounds like what you're talking about with this new initiative to move into an adjacent vertical of climate risk. Who's better positioned for that. A lot of people don't realize how central Bermuda was for the space exploration. I was at ACE when they were underwriting, reinsuring satellites. I’ve also had the chance to broke to the fortune 500 when they were providing D&O to fill the gap and excess liability gaps. Bermuda has always nicely pivoted into these uncharted waters and said, “Hey, let's figure out how to do that.”
In terms of the blue economy, right on our doorstep, we have this golden rain forest, the Sargasso Sea essentially ocean within an ocean, rich in biodiversity. Looking seaward to develop this economy.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:10:25] At the BDA, we've been deeply involved in an initiative called the Blue Ocean Prosperity Initiative. You're right. We stand at the cusp of great wealth. I think Bermuda understands broadly that that's a shared resource and there are opportunities for Bermuda and Bermudians to prosper. The best strategies will involve alignment and collaboration and custodianship of these resources.
[00:10:45] Yeah, Michelle, you also touched on something quite interesting too, that from UTIs prosperity has always been founded by adventure and a willingness to move into the unknown with real confidence and whether it was the maritime adventure as of the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries, or the financial courage that Bermuda has shown in this century to tackle things that others were afraid of and to do it awfully, to do with science and to deal with data that served from you to well, as it pioneered satellite coverage.
[00:11:09] It served it well, as it led the world and hurricane and flooding and wildfire protection, we are absolutely the best place to invest in and try to provide new solutions and new innovation for what is sadly the rapidly accelerating climate related risks that we face the world over. But Bermuda has always been brave in the companies that have set up shop in Bermuda, embracing, expanded that ethos. I'm really confident we can do it again.
Michelle St Jane: [00:11:31] Bermuda’s a brilliant incubator. We have some brilliant minds on three or four square blocks. Now many are working from home and sheltering in place.
This podcast is reaching global leadership across 30 countries and 13 cities according to the analytics. That's a great opportunity to share some initiatives and some of your thought leadership philosophies. What's your compass for the future? Steve, where's your true North.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:11:54] Well, for me personally, we're fortunate to live at a time when the challenges that we face are really coming into resolution. The path before is as clear. Whether as citizens or as business leaders, as investors, or as parents, I strongly believe we've got to face it squarely and honestly the existential climate risks that we face as a civilization and as custodians of this earth. More than that we can align our own activities, and importantly, our business strategies with the realities of climate risk and the challenges and opportunities that adaptation poses, the better off you are.
[00:12:22] We'll all look back with pride if we can contribute in our own ways to reducing risk and fostering the transition that we need. It's the best way to make a buck and it's the best way to recruit talent to your organization. It's just the best way to inspire your teams and recruit new people. It's the best way to address the enormous set of opportunities.
I think a few decades back I heard, that firms and organizations, whether government or private, didn't recognize that they were in the technology business. We're doomed to failure. We were all technology companies. Whether we knew it or not.
That's true today. Now we're all climate companies. Everyone's strategy is impacted by climate risks. Whether your recognition moment was the wildfires of recent years or the disruption of your supply chains from tropical storms, that a place you are to where you are actually doing business.
[00:13:07] Now that data is in front of you. But awareness isn't power, right? And we can all jump on this in our world in a way that makes sense. In a way that utilizes our own strengths and be a part of the solutions. We can do that. We're going to look back with a lot of pride in what we accomplished.
Michelle St Jane: [00:13:19] I totally agree with you. With the way technology is going, our life spans could be going out to about 130. So I can tell you stopping on a dime and deciding to do my doctorate at 50. This was not a hard choice when it was pointed out to me I might have another 80 years ahead of me. It was like, what do I want to be when I grow up. There could be a more couple decades ahead of me. Who knew I'd decide to pivot podcasts.
[00:13:42] If you realize your children, grandchildren could be around for 130 years and you may have multiple decades past 70 than you realized I think you think differently when you have that perspective sitting on your dashboard. You're quite quick to be considering what you can do to make a difference. Even if it's just recycling or educating someone. Having a conversation, sharing stories, or even your values around what you believe in.
People and planet are very much highly valued by me. As well as intergenerational collaborations.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:14:14] I think it's extremely important to have those conversations. Like one regret I have of our current moment is the degree to which many of us have retreated into our silos. You can live in an information silo or try to live in the conversations.
[00:14:26] Some of the climate related challenges we face, I'll tell you with high conviction that I think this is true, really requires an all hands on deck approach. We've got to do our best to try to bring everyone along. We're not going to do that unless we engage with them.
[00:14:38] People have their own perspectives. Their own set of data that is in front of them. Their own set of biases. Including ourselves. I'd never learned anything, actually, when I'm talking. You can only learn things when you're listening and receiving, and that's true of everyone else. The more that we can engage and share our perspectives and make transparent what our own values are, the better off that we're going to be in general.
[00:14:57] People want to act out of benevolence, self-interest. They care about their futures. The futures of the circles around them. Their families. By empowering people with information that they trust, we can all try to move together. We have to move together in different ways. The next step doesn't look the same. For some of us have got to be actually picking up a piece of material trash and recycling.
[00:15:16] Some of it is going to be an ESG investment. For some it's going to be a vote. A leader that aligns with your longer term values. It's going to be different for everyone. And sometimes it's going to be all of the above. Every little step matters.
I think too, there’s a sense of, when the challenges are vast, what I do doesn't matter. Is a barrier to overcome, because it's not true. Everything matters when you multiplied by a million and we can multiply it by a billion by taking the action and sharing our example and a flower sets off a thousand balloons.
Michelle St Jane: [00:15:43] Oh, absolutely. Really well said. I've always felt it's so important to have the conversations. Allow the thoughts to ripple out and speak your truth. Even if it's to power, that's not quite ready to hear it.
It's so important because we lead by example. I mean, I had the opportunity to be in boardrooms in the late eighties and early nineties when I was the only woman on the ground, juggling four kids and parenting by text, that sort of things. I've had a heart for diversity and inclusion because there's a lot of strength and hope in the worlds wisdom traditions, thought and institutional history. That's so important to be collected and so applicable because we're mapping out this new reality with COVID at the moment with these novel, unique risks working out. How do we manage this? Stay connected. Stay social, stay environmentally aware.
Stephen Weinstein: [00:16:32] Well, something that I've heard consistently, Michelle, as I have conversations with executives in the C-suite over the last several months, are on climate strategies and climate communications. They're hearing it from both sides of an extreme.
To their surprise, members of boards of directors are wise counselors. A very important role a director can play as a management team peer around the corner to the next challenge. I think a number of executives have been surprised by the degree that the boards as a whole, individual director have been prodding them to think about longer term and medium term climate risk and to embrace both strategies and communications.
[00:17:05] They're hearing it from their wise counselors and they're hearing it from their young talent. I've been hearing this real repetition that young employees, newly recruited talent have bravely been raising their voice, whether it's company texts, virtual meetings or physical meetings for those companies are having and asking about the climate strategy. From the newly-hired to the senior directors, it's coming across the spectrum.
[00:17:26] I think that's part of what's been inspiring, a new impetus to action, and C-suites typically in the Bermuda market, but it's broader than that again, every company today is a climate risk company. And if you don't know it, you're going to know it soon.
Michelle St Jane: [00:17:38] Oh, absolutely. Bermuda has been watched for centuries because of our well-proven history and agility in the marketplace.
[00:17:46] I would speak on ageism as it is something that I, as a woman of a certain age, I've seen a fair bit of this. You can have this wow factor by referring to things that happened in the eighties and nineties. Most of the conversation has been around this century and I'm like, this is not new. This has all happened before. It's cyclical. Well with re-insurance it can be anti-recessionary and go the other way. We don't always think about it. As I said, we're sort of mapping out this new reality.
What was your earliest memory as a leader being attracted to climate change?
Stephen Weinstein: [00:18:16] Well, let's decompile that into two parts.
[00:18:18] I think I've always had a personal interest in climate. In my youth, given my own age, I've crested North of 50, I think in the vernacular of those days, pollution, the ozone layer issues in the U.S. The burning rivers of my year. The reality that many of those problems were solved. They weren't intractable. We were able to reduce pollution and restore many environments and reduce the amount of certain types of particulates, which are in the air over the communities that I grew up in.
As a leader, we began to encounter climate issues with a range of public policy initiatives that were encouraging moral hazard. It's not well-known, Michelle, but the enormous subsidies in the United States and Europe jurisdictions around the world, lurking in the insurance market, promote development, of a lot of our coastal regions, a lot, our rivers in areas that are prone to drought because there's subsidies for insurance. They make construction cheaper in places where it ought to be expensive, where the pricing ought to tell you, that's a dangerous place to build. That's a uneconomical place to plant crops that depend upon a lot of water, but probably providing stealth subsidies through the insurance mechanism, we provide a lot of bad subsidies for bad behavior, mostly unknowing. So that linkage between business strategies that we had to reduce the cost of operating.
[00:19:26] When you tell people to build in plywood on sand dunes, and then try to require cheap insurance. It's an attractable business challenge. If you allow the price mechanic and the actual variable mechanic to tell people through the price signal, that ought to be expensive because it's dangerous. The way that we've empowered the auto market to motivate safety with better signals, red convertibles, driven by people with a record of accidents drive a certain type of insurance premium. Safe cars with all the safety features driven by people who've never had an accident deserve a different type of premium. By massing that signal with building practices, we're sending the wrong signals. We're telling people to build where it’s dangerous or telling you to plant where you shouldn't and it's quite destructive.
That intersection between a set of really important business imperatives and our long term climate needs became very inspiring for me and also quite daunting because we shouldn't kid ourselves. The challenges are large. We also shouldn't be afraid because they can be addressed. We've had a number of success, stories and success breeds success.
[00:20:21] The more that you move forward, even at small steps, the more you feel motivated and able to take the next one is to make the next step.
Michelle St Jane: [00:20:28] Wow. A lot of wisdom in those statements.
Steve, as we're starting to wrap up, what is the one thing you're always optimistic about?
Stephen Weinstein: [00:20:34] I’m always optimistic that we can do great things together.
[00:20:36] As an Island, we have always exceeded in collaboration. The industry Michelle, that you and I have spent a lot of time in, is by definition, a collaborative industry. It helps give you that behavioral model to move ahead with partners. To bring people together. To identify common ground. To push out a door that wants to open.
[00:20:53] I find that more fun. I find it more exciting. I find the outcomes to be more significant. Climate's going to require that. I think our industry, our country, in our circles of social conduct, we are really well positioned to do this because we've always preferred a collaborative model and that's what we have. Small-scale success stories to point to, and to inspire us to tackle the bigger successes I know lie in front of us.
Michelle St Jane: [00:21:13] Yes. That is for sure. You're in your first year at BDA.
What are you most proud of?
What are the outcomes that you're really want to celebrate?
Stephen Weinstein: [00:21:21] Thank you for asking that Michelle. What I'm most proud of in this first year is something I hadn't expected to be proud of.
[00:21:26] I'm extremely proud of how the BDA contributed to Bermuda’s resilience across the pandemic. That's not the challenge I signed on to tackle because none of us were saw this 18 months ago. I'm grateful to Bermuda’s government for the transparency and focus on life safety, which has led across as era.
I am grateful for the BDAs team, which pulled together and these virtual environments, in some of which we now work. To make a real difference in how Bermuda navigated and maintained its economic prosperity, invested in the future while managing the crises.
I'm especially proud of our community. There are always ripples around the edges, but by and large Bermudians pull together as a community to look after each other and mostly do the right thing. I think we can forgive ourselves our sins on the margin.
[00:22:05] We have been pulling through this and we will pull through this. As we put the pandemic in the rear view mirror, we're going to probably forge ahead to tackle and develop and grow new opportunities for Bermuda and Bermudians.
I'm excited about our climate risk finance initiative. I'm excited about promoting Bermuda as the ideal location to beta test.
[00:22:23] I'm excited about continuing to support our world beating reinsurance market and all the other success sectors, which have made them successful. I also know that we will do at least one thing that I have never heard of because the team at the BDA are young engaged to creative. We were going to push the envelope. I'm just going to be proud to be associated with them and to cheer them on.
Michelle St Jane: [00:22:41] It takes all types and all complexities. They're very blessed to have you at the helm. Having met some of your team, you are well-supported with bright Bermudians behind.
Just as we wrap up, what last words would you have around earth day, Steve?
Stephen Weinstein: [00:22:58] Let's make earth day every day. Again, in all of our actions, our investing decisions, our spending decisions, the way that we vote, the way that we manage our lives, given the scale of the challenges we faced.
[00:23:08] Make this something that affects as many of our behaviors. We can choose to work for a company which shares your values. What are their DEI values? Hopefully also your ESG values as well.
Think about using the power of your personal way to send a message. Again, communicate, ask questions, poke holes at the areas where you have doubts or want to know more. But it's just imperative that we confront these issues 365 days a year, not just one. It's just so inspiring.
[00:23:35] Take a pause, look around you. Turn something off that, draw some power. Enjoy the air and water around you. Call a friend and tell them you care about them. If this runs on Earth, they let me wish you a very, very happy earth day and joyous one’s to come.
[00:23:48] Join us on this adventure. If you can visit from Bermuda. It is safe, clean, close and beautiful, and I hope to see you here.
Outro: [00:24:02] Dr. Michelle St. Jane is of conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for a real talk around life leadership and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections.
Stephen Weinstein was elected BDA Chair in 2020 and has been a member of the board since 2016. He currently serves as an advisor to RenaissanceRe. Stephen serves on the boards of several industry and charitable groups including:
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), an independent U.S. non-profit scientific research and educational organisation based in Bermuda
The R Street Institute, a leading U.S. non-partisan policy organisation. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest non-profit conservation organisation