Corporate Social Responsibility

Getting creative about giving back.

New York Life | January 11, 2019

Small plant growing out of the ground

Key Takeaways.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation have both emerged as pillars of the modern business model. So, it only makes sense that companies apply their culture of innovation to how they make a social impact.

Corporate social responsibility has taken center stage in the last decade as making a positive impact on society grows in importance in the eyes of employees, customers, and influencers.

To ensure this work can positively affect as many people as possible, organizations need to find innovative ways to reach out to their communities. One such example is New York Life’s Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative (GSSI).

CSR in action.

GSSI provides numerous resources as well as funding to empower educators and school professionals to support grieving students. It is supported through 1,500 trained New York Life employees and agents and has already reached nearly 600 schools (see below for more in-depth information).

GSSI is funded through the New York Life Foundation, the division of New York Life that provides charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. GSSI and other commitments in this area make New York Life the largest corporate sponsor of childhood bereavement support in the U.S.

CSR doesn't always mean a company just reaching into its pocket to fund a community program. The New York Life Foundation constantly develops innovative ways to give back to communities beyond just financial support.

While funding for nonprofit agencies remains critical, we seek to influence the issues we care about through multiple channels".

Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at New York Life.

Fully committed support.

Other ways in which New York Life has invested in the bereavement sector include providing capacity support and training for Foundation grantees, offering training to its own agents on how to speak to grieving families, and providing resources to bereaved families through its claims kit.

New York Life: supporting communities.

The New York Life Foundation has been operating for more than 40 years and has provided more than $270 million in charitable contributions. Recently, Americans across the country have benefited from the Foundation's innovative partnership with StoryCorps and through "Building Resilience in the Face of Disaster," a long-term disaster relief program supported by New York Life in the wake of the numerous tragedies that occurred in 2017 and early 2018.

  • StoryCorps
    StoryCorps was founded in 2003 and has since given around half a million Americans the opportunity to record interviews about their lives. The New York Life Foundation partnership teams StoryCorps with bereavement support organizations to train them on how to facilitate conversations between children and families to talk about their grief and preserve their most treasured memories.
  • "Building resilience in the Face of Disaster"
    This program, in partnership with the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, made $750,000 available through grants of up to $50,000 for those who experienced a natural disaster or act of mass violence in their local community in 2017-18. The Alliance's commitment to integrating the latest in brain science research and trauma-informed care into social sector practice, policy, and systems has provided an innovative way to build resilience and promote health and well-being in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Finding new ways to do good.

New York Life's dedication to helping out is reflected by the number of its agents and employees who volunteer thousands of total hours every year to assist those in need. The Volunteers for Good program makes it easy for those willing to help to find opportunities, and includes:

  • Month of service
    Each September, New York Life employees and agents volunteer across the country with hundreds of nonprofits, including bereavement camps and schools. They make comfort items for grieving children, beautify camps and classrooms, hold drives for supplies, and work with animal shelters, among other activities.
  • Team grants and individual grants
    Grants are available for projects such as walk-a-thons, park beautifications, and soup kitchens, with teams receiving up to $10,000 and individuals $500 to $1,000.
  • Season of giving
    Each holiday season, New York Life employees and agents "adopt" senior citizens and families and help with holiday celebrations to brighten the lives of those in need.

On any given day in cities and towns across the country, you will find our people tutoring kids in after-school programs, collecting food and clothing for the homeless, or helping to restore and beautify a park."

Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation.

"While corporate-level support of vital community programs is, of course, very important, it is the individual efforts of our agents and employees that we are most proud of," says Nesle.

"On any given day in cities and towns across the country, you will find our people tutoring kids in after-school programs, collecting food and clothing for the homeless, or helping to restore and beautify a park."

Supporting innovation.

Along with its support of CSR programs, New York Life invests in a variety of different partners who are helping change the wider world.

An example of this is New York Life Ventures' investment in Carrot. Carrot developed Pivot, a tech-enabled platform designed to help people quit smoking. Pivot measures the carbon monoxide in the user's breath to show them the effects of smoking and to encourage them to improve measurements by giving up the habit.

"Carrot is a strong example of those companies that are driving exciting innovations at the intersection of digital health and life insurance," says Tim Del Bello, Director of Investments at New York Life Ventures. "These technologies have the potential to play a meaningful role in the future of the life insurance industry and in people’s lives."

Innovative approaches to CSR: The Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative (GSSI).

GSSI was launched in 2018 as a national program to help schools become grief-sensitive, by providing multimedia training resources for educators and school professionals. It also hopes to make a larger impact on school districts by partnering with the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, directed by Dr. David Schonfeld.

Dr. Schonfeld will work with entire school districts over the next three years to develop strategies and best practices for broader, district-wide grief support that can be adopted nationwide.

The pioneering program will train thousands of New York Life employees and agents to give presentations about grief in schools and what resources are available for educators. Schools can then work towards getting a grant if they strive to become more grief-sensitive.

"Student tragedies and acts of violence strike our communities all too often, creating urgent concern around issues of death and grief at school. Grief is an issue that educators encounter in the classroom every single day," says Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation. "Our new initiative is designed to empower educators and school community members to act on a critical opportunity to provide support to their grieving students."



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