Road crashes are the leading cause of death globally among children and young people, with 1.3 million people dying in preventable road accidents every year. In addition to this, 50 million people are injured on roads annually. In August 2020, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on global road safety, proclaiming 2021-2030 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety and setting the goal of preventing half of all road deaths and injuries by 2030. As part of this work, a high-level meeting on global road safety was held in New York on 30 June-1 July 2022, during which Ylva Wessén, President and CEO of ICMIF member Folksam (Sweden) was invited to speak about how insurance and pension companies can contribute to the financing of global road safety projects.
The background to Ylva’s participation is that in February 2020 Sweden hosted the third UN Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. The aim was to develop the global road safety goals for 2030, and Ylva Wessén spoke about how insurance and pension companies can contribute by making investments aimed at improving road safety. Back in 2020, Folksam suggested that a road safety bond similar to the green bonds that exist to support important climate initiatives should be developed.
“At Folksam, we are experts in road safety – we have been researching the subject for over 50 years and have been heavily involved in important advances such as seatbelt reminders, whiplash protection and guard rails. Unfortunately, in much of the world, much of the infrastructure that we take for granted in Sweden is still rare or non-existent. If we can offer an exchange of knowledge to improve things, of course we would like to do so,” says Ylva Wessén.
The CEO of Folksam participated in a discussion entitled “Sustained domestic investments and international financing for capacity-building and development assistance in evidence-based road safety interventions”. In particular, Ylva Wessén wanted to highlight how global investments in local projects in low- and middle-income countries can be made possible. It is in this category of countries that 90% of all road deaths and injuries occur.
“It takes capital to save lives, and we have capital that we want to invest in a way that makes a difference and provides a secure return for our clients. We have a long tradition of responsible investment and now want to help develop investment models for private capital for road safety, in a way that is beneficial to all parties. For those who can get the necessary funding at local level for projects that increase road safety, Folksam wants to contribute to a more sustainable world and provides a safe and attractive investment on behalf of our clients while actually saving lives,” concludes Ylva Wessén.
To reach the goal of halving all road deaths and injuries by 2030, the World Bank estimates that additional funding of around USD 260 billion is needed and that private funding will be required to achieve this. According to Ylva Wessén, road safety bonds, similar to green bonds that exist for investment in sustainable initiatives today, could be a way forward.
Photo credit: Thomas Nilsson