Can insurance really be a tool for solidarity? For us the answer is easy: it can and must be. But there is no solidarity if we depend only on individual altruism. Talking about solidarity makes sense only if it is incorporated into our social, economic and political activity as a fundamental value.
The finance industry – and insurance is one of its expressions – has resources to make its desire for solidarity continuously and clearly visible: social volunteering programmes, conciliation mechanisms, patronage of noble causes, many solidarity award schemes, etc. It cannot be denied that all this has a positive impact: soup kitchens, mobility programmes, support for elderly people, help for children at risk, rehabilitation, cooperation for development projects, research and many more projects.
Certainly practices involving solidarity are not exclusive to the financial industry, but few economic sectors have needed and used the formula so shamelessly and with such diverse purposes, either to differentiate a product, capture sensitive customers or improve trust from stakeholders and, above all, make a supposedly social mission visible.
But, how can this social dimension be made compatible with an industry that has based its behaviour on the logic of privatising the profit and socialising the losses caused by its voracity? The financial markets have developed mechanisms to ignore the public aspect, the collective interest: deregulation of the sector, opaque accounting, tax evasion, etc.
It is clear that, despite the solidarity awards, benevolent work and corporate volunteering programmes, the inequality indices continue to grow. In Spain, between 2004 and 2015, the AROPE poverty index has grown by 14.40% and the Gini index, which measures inequality of income, has increased by 11.60%.
When solidarity is just an individual option more or less inspired by generosity, reality is implacable: grains of sand are not enough.
If we leave the redistribution of wealth in the hands of financial corporations we have got a serious problem. Social cohesion will continue to depend on the willingness of some and not on collective action. The first consequence is that, with our consciences clear, we forget that social relations are a system in which we all play a co-responsible leading role.
It is time to change the solidarity paradigm: we must go beyond specific solidarity practices and understand that solidarity is a value and a social norm. Only in this way will we be able to take back the tools to build a fairer, more sustainable society.
Exactly this logic can be found at the origin of insurance. The community accumulates resources to help those among its members who suffer a loss. This is the mutual spirit. Seen in this way, insurance is a social tool for solidarity only when, forming part of a community, it prioritises collective above individual benefits.
In this way, insurance – and the financial system as a whole – is established as a right of its members and a mechanism for social cohesion. A fair, progressive society does not limit the access of someone in need to the means to move forward with their life or economic plans.
And here is the challenge. That is why it is necessary to imagine insurance founded on the principles of ethical finance integrated into a social and solidarity-based economy serving people and communities.
We need a financial system integrating banking, credit and insurance committed to a fair, more solidarity-based and more human vision of society. And it is an urgent need.