Impact: The Insurance Industry's Contribution to Community Development

Swiss Re employees build a home for Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area.

The Swiss Re Foundation is active around the world, though it has a heavy focus on emerging economies and developing countries. Locally, the Foundation supports projects that benefit the communities in Swiss Re locations. In the Americas, Swiss Re employees in locations with more than 50 employees choose their local Charity of the Year (COTY) to be their leading charity, both in terms of the amount of money it receives from the Swiss Re Foundation and in terms of the additional support it gets through fundraising events and volunteer involvement from Swiss Re. Although called COTY, employees are able to re-elect and keep their local COTY for up to three years.

Swiss Re Foundation’s philanthropic theme for the Americas is “Building Societal Resilience” which means supporting projects that help communities, and the people who live in them, rebound more quickly from catastrophes. These catastrophes can be natural, health-related or financial catastrophes.

Swiss Re’s Armonk, New York office, which is its U.S. headquarters, has collaborated over the past two years with Family Services of Westchester (FSW). Founded in 1954, FSW runs more than 50 social service and mental health programs that reach 30,000 children, teens, adults and families a year.

The Swiss Re Foundation financed a FSW project — the Lanza Family Center for All Ages (CFAA) in White Plains, New York. The CFAA brings children, teens and seniors together at one site to participate in programs, share experiences and benefit from one another, just as they would in a family setting.

FSW President and CEO Susan B.Wayne offered her thoughts on Swiss Re Foundation’s contribution: “We are delighted to have been selected as Charity of the Year and so grateful for this tremendous donation toward our Lanza Family Center for All Ages. Swiss Re Foundation and Swiss Re employees have been such a generous partner over the years and we are thrilled to see this partnership continue to grow.”

Swiss Re’s offices in Toronto, Canada, Schaumburg, Illinois and Windsor, Connecticut selected Habitat for Humanity to be their local COTY. Habitat’s mission of providing safe, affordable housing fits very well with the Swiss Re Foundation’s focus of building societal resilience.

During Swiss Re’s Community Days, employees came together to help build homes for their communities. Various tasks were completed, such as grouting, painting and installing/ framing doors. Other volunteer projects focused on Habitat’s ReStores which are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Employees unloaded items from trucks, inventoried, organized, stocked and priced merchandise that came in new to the stores.

Since 2014, the employees of the Overland Park, Kansas office have supported reStart Inc. as its local COTY. reStart’s mission is to provide housing and supportive services to help homeless individuals and families move towards independence and self-sufficiency, with the overall goal of ending homelessness within the greater Kansas City community.

Aside from the volunteer work, the Swiss Re employees of Overland Park made a large financial impact and have raised more than $120,000 over the past two years. The proceeds were achieved by various fundraising activities with participation from almost every employee. The employee fundraising activities, combined with the powerful support of the Swiss Re Foundation, have made a meaningful impact at reStart and resulted in making the charity of the year initiative a huge success in the Overland Park location. About this achievement, the Overland Park location head Randy Nordquist said, “The support of the Swiss Re Foundation, and the generosity of Kansas City’s employees, has enabled us to create meaningful change for reStart, while providing a common goal unifying the site.”

Ronald McDonald House was the chosen charity of Swiss Re’s Alpharetta, Georgia and Chicago, Illinois offices for the past two years. Employees supported the charities by serving their community days with them. Their volunteer work entailed purchasing food and cooking meals for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House. Furthermore, Alpharetta employees organized a very successful fundraiser for Atlanta McDonald House.

The Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Swiss Re employees have voted to collaborate with and support Mustard Seed Furniture Bank (MSFB). This nonprofit organization provides household furnishings to families and individuals as they rebuild their lives after suffering a disaster, personal tragedy or other misfortune. Swiss Re’s Fort Wayne employees are fortunate to have strong local support from their location head, Tracy Choka, who said, “Mustard Seed provides valuable support to our community like the Energizer Bunny! The volunteers keep going and going with efforts to meet any need they see. I am most impressed by the level of respect and encouragement Mustard Seed provides to their clients.” Choka’s enthusiasm speaks volumes to the mutual feeling of the rest of the office and is just one of the reasons why MSFB was selected in back-to-back years as Fort Wayne’s local COTY.

In Latin America, Swiss Re employees in Mexico City embraced Alma Fondo de Ayuda Social, IAP (ALMA) and Swiss Re employees in São Paulo elected the Instituto de Reciclagem do Adolescente (RECICLAR) to be their local COTY in 2015. Recently, Swiss Re São Paulo provided additional support — besides the donation from the Swiss Re Foundation — for RECICLAR’s 20th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser. The event was a big success and employees will continue to engage with RECICLAR in 2016 as will the Mexico employees with ALMA.

Swiss Re’s New York City office elected City Harvest, a non-profit which thrives to end hunger in communities throughout New York City via food rescue and distribution, education and other practical, innovative solutions. By dedicating their time, employees engaged in various volunteer activities with their local COTY.

In New Hampshire, Swiss Re Manchester employees collaborated with the American Red Cross for the past two years. In an effort to confront the most common disaster in the U.S. — home fires — employees conducted door-to-door smoke alarm canvassing and completed home safety checklists in vulnerable neighborhoods in Manchester.

Since the implementation of the Swiss Re Foundation in 2013, the local Charity of the Year programs have gained in popularity among employees and charities. To learn more about the Swiss Re Foundation and their programs, please visit www.swissrefoundation.org.