Q&A with David Young, Vice President of Investor Relations and ESG, Aflac Incorporated
Uncategorized | Feb 18, 2022 | Gabelli School of Business
What does ESG mean to you?
Governance is the firm foundation upon which a well-managed company rests, and it means ensuring that the right oversight, processes, and controls are in place to identify the risks and opportunities — including environmental and social factors — that a company faces. As a result, ESG means doing the right thing for our communities while striking that balance between purpose and profit that delivers long-term value to your shareholders and stakeholders alike.
How did you grow into the role you hold today?
Several years ago, I began engaging the stewardship teams of our institutional investors along with our corporate secretary, and in recent years we gradually fielded more questions about environmental and social aspects in these meetings. Naturally, I became more interested in these topics, and taking on the ESG role really fit and made sense when that time came.
When you recruit for ESG-focused positions at Aflac, what kind of experience, attitude, or other factors do you look for in new hires?
Like any role, we want to see experience and expertise in the field that is aligned with the level of the position. This can be challenging in the current environment when many companies are seeking such candidates to fill positions. However, when we hire, we are also looking for a new hire who cares and who aligns with our culture.
What do you see as the expectations for ESG adoption in your industry?
I think that shareholders and stakeholders are looking to life insurers to address the ESG risks and opportunities that they face. While the degree of risk or size of opportunity may vary, especially relative to other industries, they exist, and therefore the market expects life insurers to address them.
Where would you rate Aflac in meeting those expectations? What are some things you’re proud of, and perhaps an area where you’d like to see the company do even more?
I’m biased, but I think that we are a leader, particularly in areas like diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will continue to make progress on this front, but at the end of 2021, 64 percent of Aflac Incorporated’s board of directors were women or people of color. Of our senior management roles in Japan, women occupied 23 percent. Women and people of color occupied 28 percent and 27 percent, respectively, of our senior management roles in the United States. I also look forward to making continued progress on our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
What is Aflac doing to address the debt that can result from medical bills not covered by major medical insurance?
As part of our commitment to educate and advocate, Aflac launched The Care Index, an inaugural study that provides a deeper understanding of consumer awareness and exposure to debt resulting from medical bills not covered by insurance. Of 6,514 people surveyed across the nation, aged 25 to 54, who have health insurance and make or share in household decisions, 83 percent believe they have enough health insurance to protect themselves from medical debt, and 46 percent said they don’t have enough in savings to pay for medical expenses. I encourage you to learn more.
Tell us which of the “Seven Commitments of the Aflac Way” resonates most with you and why.
All seven are truly rules to live by, but I think “Treat everyone with respect and care” resonates the most. It’s the Golden Rule!