Boston, MA (October 28) – As world leaders prepare to address the climate crisis in Glasgow at COP26, activists in Boston target hometown insurance giant Liberty Mutual with a creative guerilla advertising campaign to expose the company’s role in supporting climate-wrecking, rights-violating fossil fuel projects.
From Back Bay to Fenway Park, Rainforest Action Network and partners “hacked” bus stop shelters and installed spoof advertisements in a campaign to set the record straight on Liberty Mutual’s climate and human rights policies. The advertisements featured LiMu Emu and Doug, Liberty Mutual’s TV mascots, amidst climate-induced flooding in Boston, as well as other designs illustrating Liberty’s links to fossil fuel destruction.
“Liberty Mutual spends $435 million on advertisements each year but what their silly ads don’t make clear is that the insurance giant is a top fossil fuel insurer, backing tar sands pipelines, coal mines, and oil and fracked gas extraction that is poisoning communities globally,” said Mary Lovell, Insurance Campaign Coordinator at Rainforest Action Network. “We gave Liberty Mutual’s advertising campaign a makeover to reveal the devastating impacts of the company’s fossil fuel business on communities and the planet.”
The climate movement is turning to big insurance companies like Liberty Mutual as key enablers of fossil fuel expansion that the climate cannot afford. No new coal, oil, or gas project can be built without adequate insurance coverage, and Liberty Mutual is a top insurer of the fossil fuel industry.
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As European and Australian insurers exit the coal sector and take steps to restrict oil and gas business, Liberty Mutual is plowing ahead with business as usual. Globally, more than thirty insurance companies have ended or limited their coverage for coal. Liberty Mutual’s coal policy, which has not been updated since 2019, remains riddled with loopholes that allow the company to continue insuring and investing in new coal projects.
“Liberty Mutual’s ruthless attempts to build the Baralaba South coal mine demonstrate a willingness to watch the world burn – and to throw fuel on the fire – while we face a climate crisis. Their actions speak louder than their hollow words about commitment to responsible investment. Anything short of full withdrawal of the proposed Baralaba South mine is a crime against our climate and our only home,” said Paul Stephenson, a member of the Save the Dawson community group in Baralaba, Queensland. The group has been fighting for years to stop the proposed Baralaba South coal mine, which is wholly owned by Liberty Mutual and is currently pushing Liberty to stop the mine from being developed or sold on to another coal mining company. “Liberty’s proposed coal mine would destroy our homes, our water, and our future. Their actions exacerbate bushfires, droughts, floods, storms, and sea-level rise. These impacts are killing people, right now, and harming countless others. Liberty can’t be allowed to get away with it any longer. We need to hold them accountable for their destruction.”
Beyond coal, Liberty’s policies remain silent on oil and gas. While fourteen insurers have limited or ended cover for tar sands oil, Liberty has not publicly commented on its support for the destructive sector. It has been linked to the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline network and the massive proposed Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline, both of which are being built without the consent of impacted Indigenous communities. Nor does Liberty have any stance on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, unlike eleven insurance peers.
Despite repeated invitations from communities in Alaska, Australia, Canada, and beyond, Liberty Mutual has refused every single request to meet from Indigenous leaders and frontline communities impacted by its insurance and investment practices.
“It is very troubling that Liberty Mutual continues to dismiss Indigenous voices, especially when we have been reaching out to connect with them. Liberty Mutual has not responded or acknowledged any of our letters, addressed our concerns, or our presence in our own homelands. We will not allow any more people that look at our homelands with dollar signs to brush us aside. The Gwich’in Nation of Alaska and Canada, along with the millions of allies and supporters who continue to stand with us, will hold all who seek to destroy the calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herd responsible. Giving up is not an option, we will never agree to sell our culture or ways of life for any amount of money,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.
“Liberty Mutual must commit to rule out insuring all oil and gas expansion projects, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its Southgate extension, which would carry fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina,” said Russell Chisholm from Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights. “The project has already racked up hundreds of environmental violations, threatening our waters and lands, and would unleash more climate pollution every year than 37 new coal plants. It makes absolutely no sense for an insurance company to back such a risky project and sector. Insurers should protect communities from risk, not enable polluters.”
In recent months, Liberty Mutual has joined a number of climate-focused initiatives, such as the Climate Transition Pathways and the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials. However, these steps have not translated to any concrete action to reduce fossil fuel exposure or ensure that Indigenous rights are respected.
A recent study from DeSmog on the links between 30 insurance companies’ boards of directors and climate-polluting industries may help explain Liberty’s reluctance to act. Liberty Mutual, the research found, had the board with the most ties to the fossil fuel sector. Eight out of its 14 directors were linked to major polluting energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, and Eversource Energy.
Taking note of these links between financial institutions and polluters, young people are rising up and calling on the financial sector to stop supporting fossil fuels across the US and globally. This Friday, October 29, 2021, youth groups, Indigenous communities, and allies around the country are organizing the Fossil Free Future day of action targeting JPMorgan Chase, Liberty Mutual, BlackRock, and the Federal Reserve. Events are planned at Liberty’s biggest offices in Boston, MA, Plano, TX, and Seattle, WA.
“Liberty Mutual’s corporate headquarters are in Boston, and since they have refused to meet with Indigenous and frontline communities, we are coming to them this Friday to demand that they stop funding genocide and drop their policies for insuring climate chaos,” added Mea Johnson, Divestment Campaigner at Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).