Disaster relief and insurance – a natural alignment?

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Disaster relief and insurance – a natural alignment?

Non-Profits & Charities

By Mia Wallace

The alignment between the value proposition of insurance and the creation of a more stable, sustainable and equitable world finds a strong vantage point in the longstanding partnerships between many insurance businesses and charitable organisations. Speaking with Insurance Business, Sanj Srikanthan, CEO of the disaster relief charity ShelterBox, noted how these partnerships are only becoming more necessary as crises are multiplying faster than the present ability to respond.

“Often, we’re left with some hard choices about where we go, and what we do and for how long,” he said. “That makes it very hard for the teams to weigh up where we can be most effective.”

The importance of having the right charity partnerships in place

The role that having the right partnerships in place has to play is being amplified in the current risk environment and Srikanthan highlighted the natural affiliation between insurance and the work of ShelterBox – as exemplified by the charity’s partnership with Arch Insurance International. This goes beyond bog-standard corporate social responsibility, he said, and is rooted deeply in what the insurance industry is looking to achieve in terms of providing a layer of protection for external events out of anybody’s control.

“If you look at the unpredictability of the world, I know insurance is really at the forefront of some really cool stuff around risk insurance, pandemic insurance etc,” he said. “And some of these markets are more developed in the West, but it’s starting to grow in Africa. A key part of what we’re doing is building the resilience of the communities we work with in Africa and Asia.

We are not just responding, but exploring how communities can have more resources at their disposal when disaster occurs and make homes more resilient. Ultimately, that is what insurance is providing and I think Arch very much embodies that for us. For us, corporate partnerships are more than just the funding, it is really about alignment of values, and I think there’s really a lot of overlap between our two organisations.”

Patrick Palmer, head of marketing, communications and CSR at Arch Insurance International, also emphasised the affinity between what ShelterBox is doing and the insurance proposition.

Both have the same fundamental purpose of looking to offer protection against the potentially devastating impacts of disasters, political violence, and other kinds of scenarios, he said. But where insurance has traditionally focused more on the financial impact and ShelterBox more on the human impact – being able to come together in this way to provide immediate, essential disaster relief and emergency shelter in the aftermath of a crisis is a wonderful meeting of minds and resources.

How insurance businesses can engage with disaster-relief initiatives

The time is right for companies to engage further with these conversations, Srikanthan said, not least because young people across all industries are now more purpose-driven than ever and they want to work for organisations that share that purpose. That’s why ShelterBox’s approach to partnerships is so high-touch – to allow people to really engage with the services the charity provides.

Its training opportunities allow individuals to partake in a range of initiatives from a one-hour disaster response escape room to immersive one-to-two-day off-site training sessions where they get a crash course in what the humanitarian teams do when they’re deployed to dangerous or unstable places.

“More than ever, people want the story and experience around this, and so we’re really tapping into that and giving people more than a sheet of paper to understand what it is we do,” he said. “For us, it’s time well spent because that sense of purpose is really coming out loud and clear from people that undertake our training – particularly from the Arch employees who we’ve talked to who have done this.”

This immersive approach brings out the real human element behind the support that individuals give to the charity, he said, and turns contributors into empowered ambassadors who truly understand the ShelterBox story and are passionate about spreading that message.  

“I’ve absolutely loved talking to some of our teams who took part in the training,” Palmer said. “I know that for them it was a life-changing experience. The level of ShelterBox’s enthusiasm and commitment just permeates through the whole organisation and they are terrific at building that internal engagement. We’ve now got a scenario where almost every employee they interact with goes from being a supporter to almost an evangelist. To work with such a great cause that can evoke that reaction is  a wonderful thing.”

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other essential items to families who have lost their homes to disasters. The charity is currently supporting people affected by conflict in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Mozambique. It’s also helping people in Pakistan after monsoon flooding left large swathes of the country underwater, and people displaced by the most severe drought in East Africa for 40 years. For more information about ShelterBox visit ShelterBox.org.   

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