Swiss Re, a global reinsurer based in Zurich, officially launched a massive solar array at its U.S. headquarters in Armonk on June 15 with help from a local/global dignitary: President Bill Clinton.
Clinton helped cut the ribbon as the company launched its 2 megawatt array, which has 7,700 photovoltaic panels and is expected to provide 60 percent of the power to the 700 employees in its headquarters.
Clinton told the crowd of employees gathered outside the company’s headquarters that he wanted to bring attention to the company’s clean energy commitments.
“I hope it gets you a few more pictures,” Clinton said.
He added: “This is a company that for more than a decade has made a commitment to addressing climate change in a way that works for its employees, works for the company and works for the economy as a whole.”
Clinton praised not only Swiss Re’s solar investment, but also an employee incentive program, called C0you2, which he said was the first corporate program to encourage individual investment in sustainability. The program offers employees up to $5,000 for clean energy projects.
“If employers all over America, and indeed all over the world, incentivized their employees in this way, the transition to a clean energy future would be much better,” Clinton said.
Swiss Re is the second largest reinsurance company in the world. It first landed at its wooded 127-acre campus in Armonk in 1999.
Swiss Re Americas CEO and President Eric Smith said the $7 million project shows both the company’s commitment to Westchester and to addressing climate change.
“We understand the science behind climate change, we have been committed to it for many, many years,” Smith said.
Along with IKEA, Swiss Re is a founding member of RE100, a group of corporations committed to eventually drawing its power from 100 percent renewable energy sources. Facebook, General Motors, Bank of America, Apple and Coca-Cola are among the group’s 81 members.
Smith said Swiss Re will reach that goal globally by 2020.
“Despite recent debate on the topic, we have been committed for more than 30 years,” Smith said. “…we know that the annualized losses of one to 12 percent GDP are already occurring around the globe from existing climate risks.”
The company published a report in 2015 that predicted climate change would lead to an increase in the severity of dangerous and costly natural catastrophes such as floods, storms and drought.
The economic impact of climate change was also part of the message from Clinton, who said, “nothing would do more to shut down this country’s future, or the global economy, than caving in to the worst consequences of climate change.”
Smith said the company’s investment in the solar panels would be paid back within seven years by energy cost savings. The project was supported by NY-Sun, the solar development arm of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.