Milestones of Support for Victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake
The earthquake and tsunami that struck eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, caused catastrophic damage. We promptly paid out insurance payments and also provided various forms of reconstruction support based on changing local needs.
[Fiscal Year 2011]
- Dispatched more than 3,000 employees to the disaster area, promptly paid out insurance payment.(Sompo Japan)
- Donated about 120 million yen (from Group employees) via the Central Community Chest of Japan.
- 68 employees volunteered locally to assist in reconstruction.
- Started Sompo Holdings Volunteer Days (donation of money made by selling second-hand books and CDs and other activities)
- Puppet shows in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture
Sompo Japan has the Himawari Hall puppet theater at the Sompo Japan Nagoya Building and is undertaking social contribution activities through collaboration with a local group, the Aichi Puppetry Center.
On March 20, 2012, a year after the earthquake and tsunami, Sompo Japan organized puppet shows in Unosumai-cho, one of the hardest disaster hit areas of Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. The events were held in collaboration with the Aichi Puppetry Center, which operates the Himawari Hall puppet theater in Aichi with the sponsorship of Sompo Japan.
With the aim of cheering up children across the affected region, the puppet shows were also performed 27 times at performing venues over a broader geographical area from August 2012 to March 2017. Audience also received fabric balls and message cards made by volunteer employees of Sompo Japan.
[Fiscal Year 2012]
- Launched Farmers Markets to Support Disaster Recovery and Promote Local Products from the Most Heavily Damaged Areas
- Radioactive Decontamination Liability Insurance
The nuclear power plant accident that followed the 2011 earthquake is still affecting radioactivity levels in extensive surrounding areas and a number of municipalities are working to minimize the contamination. To support such operations, the Japanese government announced on April 1, 2012, a subsidy program that requires recipient municipalities to carry insurance for third-party liability and for physical damage in the decontamination sites.
In response, Sompo Japan released a new dedicated insurance product in May 2012. The new insurance, covering liabilities arising from accidents during decontamination operations, fully meets the qualification requirements for the national subsidy program. Sompo Japan will continue to contribute to radioactive decontamination efforts, one of the pressing tasks in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
● Fiscal Year 2012: Employee Dispatch Program Highlight (1)
Ten employees were dispatched to General Incorporated Association CANNUS Tohoku during July to September 2012. CANNUS is a volunteer organization specializing in nursery care, active in helping people affected by the earthquake near Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. The employee volunteers provided various skills and efforts while dispatched to CANNUS, such as analyzing data and developing manuals to enhance activities and the quality of everyday operations.
Employee volunteers meet with local staff
<Voice of Employee Volunteers>
“I felt the need to let other people in Japan know the current situation of the disaster affected area, how hard people are working for the recovery, and what issues need to be more aggressively addressed in the affected areas.”
“The environment was totally different from our usual working environment. But I believe we could offer our skills, such as (1) the ability to produce a solution based on the understanding of customer needs, which we have developed through sales operations; (2) an attitude of attending carefully to the voice of customers, which we have acquired in insurance claim services; (3) techniques to enhance operational efficiency through data management, which we have gained from administrative work; (4) skills to create tools with a quantitative effect evaluation; and (5) creativity to propose ideas for developing external public relations tools.
Participants in the Employee Dispatch Program
● Made in Sendai Preserved Flower Project
The Made in Sendai Preserved Flower Project was launched in collaboration with Hibiya-Kadan, a Japanese florist, to help create a sense of community among victims of the earthquake and tsunami who live in temporary housing. Over the course of four seminars held between December 2012 and March 2013, residents at Okada Nishimachi Temporary Housing learned how to make artistically preserved flowers under the instruction of a representative of Hibiya-Kadan.
Sompo Japan employees provided administrative support. After the seminars, the participants formed their own organization and made 300 preserved flower products for Mother’s Day for sale at Hibiya-Kadan stores and within Sompo Japan’s office building.
Learning how to make preserved flowers
Preserved flower named Magokoro (Sincerity in Japanese)
● Tohoku Social Entrepreneur Support Fund (Sompo Japan)
Sompo Japan has launched a fund jointly with the Public Resource Foundation for entrepreneurs who start a socially beneficial business in disaster-hit areas by utilizing local human resource, technology, nature, and products. Out of 79 applicants, 11 recipients were selected based on an evaluation of their business model’s social benefits, viability, positive impact on local communities, and other criteria.
Over the year to December 2013, we provided support to ensure the launching of new social projects according to plan, through the provision of subsidies and consulting services.
First training seminar for fund recipients
Final presentation of the problem-solving workshop
● “Learn to Create in Tohoku” Projects (Sompo Japan)
Sompo Japan organized a series of programs under the banner of the “Learn to Create in Tohoku (northeast area of Japan, disaster-hit area)” projects in cooperation with an NGO, Japan for Sustainability. These included: (1) Learning Journey in Tohoku, where young people from Japan and abroad visited disaster-affected areas and met with local people; (2) Youth Leadership Development for Disaster Recovery, a leadership program for young people who are working hard to rebuild Tohoku; and (3) Tohoku Kids’ Performance for the Future, a musical play performed in Setagaya, Tokyo by children from disaster-hit areas.
Tohoku Kids’ Performance for the Future (photo by Mr. Joe Takano)
● Supporting Low-Carbon Reconstruction Projects (Sompo Japan)
To support efforts for early reconstruction and eco-friendly community development in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami, Sompo Japan utilized the J-VER* scheme and purchased offset credit units generated by projects organized in quake-struck areas. In collaboration with the Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE), a public nomination process was held to identify candidate projects chosen according to level of disaster-related damage, impact on job creation and local economic revitalization, and other predetermined criteria. The total amount of carbon emissions offset by the projects was 10,000 t-CO2, one of the largest offset amounts in Japan (as of end of August 2013).
- J-VER: Japan Verified Emission Reduction, Japan’s carbon offset credit system, under which credits generated through the reduction or absorption of CO2 by MOE-approved projects in Japan are sold as offset credits.
J-VER projects signing ceremony
[Fiscal Year 2013]
● Stranded Commuter Insurance for Local Governments (Sompo Japan)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) on April 1, 2013 enacted an ordinance that specifies required actions to manage the estimated 5.17 million people who will be stranded in the event of a devastating earthquake striking Tokyo. In this situation, such commuters may be tempted to try to walk home, resulting in a massive crowd, which not only poses a risk of personal injury due to collapsing buildings but could also potentially hinder access by emergency responders. To discourage this, the TMG ordinance requires temporary shelters to be made available for those who would otherwise be out on the streets. TMG has implemented additional measures to alleviate the financial burden on businesses called on to provide such temporary shelter facilities.
In response, Sompo Japan in April 2013 launched the industry’s first insurance product that covers a local government’s subsidization of such temporary shelters for stranded commuters.
The company believes this product will help save lives and provide safety in the event of a catastrophic earthquake.
Shinjuku Station, Tokyo on the day of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Sompo Japan)
● Fiscal Year 2013: Employee Dispatch Program Highlight (2)
Nine employee volunteers were dispatched from July to October 2013 to the Fukushima Recovery Minamisoma Solar Agripark in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, a project designed to provide local children with opportunities to experience and learn about renewable energy and agriculture in a photovoltaic power plant and an agricultural factory. The dispatched employees engaged in various tasks, including developing a system that enables continuous improvement in quality with work sheets used by children to ensure more effective learning; preparing documents for grant application; proposing ideas on how to expand the number of solar panel owners; cultivating and listening to opinions of local partners; and planning and taking part in local events.
Children learning on site
Dispatched employees at work
<Voice of Employee Volunteers>
“When I went to the disaster affected areas to support insurance payments immediately after the earthquake, I lost words at the sight of the tremendous damage caused by the disaster and felt that I should do something. This is why I decided to participate in the program.”
“I felt how difficult it is to find issues myself and make achievements in new assignments that are totally different from my ordinary duties. I also realized that speed and enthusiasm are key to accomplishing something new.”
“I now see the importance of responding to the needs of each individual rather than just following customs and practices.”
Debriefing meeting of the Employee Dispatch Program
[Fiscal Year 2014]
● Fiscal Year 2014: Employee Dispatch Program Highlight (3) (Sompo Japan)
Sompo Japan dispatched four employees in total to the CANNUS Tohoku (general incorporated association) in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture under its fiscal year 2014 Employee Dispatch Program, where it also sent employees under the first program in fiscal year 2012. The volunteer organization of nurses in the fields of medical, nursing care and elderly care and the dispatched employees undertook various tasks, including creation of an advertising catalog covering exhaustive activities and questionnaires to handout in the debrief meeting as well as data aggregation.
The dispatched employees expressed their satisfaction after completing the program, which, they explained, allowed them to broaden their view by having extraordinary valuable experience, and proved very beneficial for future career development.
Members of CANNUS Tohoku and participants of the Employee Dispatch Program
● Bringing People Joy with Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (Sompo Japan)
As part of the support efforts to recover from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the company lent out a Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting from Sompo Japan’s art collection to a special exhibition at the Miyagi Museum of Art from July 15 to August 31, 2014.
There are seven Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” masterpieces dating to his Arles Period in the world and one of the works can only be seen in Japan at our Sompo Museum of Art permanent exhibition. As a general rule, this “Sunflower” masterpiece cannot be lent out to other museums due to the difficulties in conservation management. However, as part of the reconstruction support, we decided to lend out our “Sun Flowers” for the first time to Tohoku district (northeast area of Japan) with the hope of bringing brightness and courage to the disaster-affected area through the dynamic masterpiece of Van Gogh who sought bright colors in Arles, South France.
Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” Special Exhibition at the Miyagi Museum of Art
[Fiscal Year 2015]
● Fiscal Year 2015: Employee Dispatch Program Highlight (4) (Sompo Japan)
A total of five employees were dispatched to work with Replus, an organization in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, that is promoting integrated rehabilitation services with the philosophy of creating a society where people can continue to live a healthy life in the community, from children to the elderly, and regardless of whether they have any illnesses or disabilities. Our employees worked with them to establish the management structure and prepare manuals for resident-led initiatives to develop healthy and sustainable community. An example of comments from employees who participated was that they would like to put into practice in the workplace the approach of dealing with issues as soon as they arise, rather than waiting, and have a holistic perspective to find solutions to each individual issue.
The host organization also had positive comments, saying that our employees had helped in developing the organizational structure, “not just from step one to step two, but all the way from step one to step ten.”
Employee volunteers meet with local staff
● Investment in Solar Power Project in Fukushima
We have invested in solar power development in a district in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture. This project aims to generate electricity on farmland that has become difficult to cultivate due to radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. We are working on this important and financially viable form of reconstruction support with other financial institutions and with comprehensive support from the Fukushima prefectural government.
[Fiscal Year 2016]
Farmers Markets to Support Disaster Recovery: Ganbappe Fukushima!
With the theme of working together to support Fukushima, we sponsored farmers markets at the Shinjuku Headquarters and in our Saitama and Chugoku regions. The markets were aimed at reversing some negative publicity for local products in disaster-struck areas by bringing products in to sell to Group employees. For the Chugoku markets, products were brought in not only from Fukushima but also Tottori and Kumamoto prefectures, which were hit by earthquakes in 2016. Meanwhile, in the Kansai region, we provided backup support for the purchase of local products from Fukushima.
[Fiscal Year 2017]
● Holding a exhibition of patchwork praying for reconstruction
Sompo Japan held a exhibition of patchwork praying for reconstruction on the theme of "Do not weather the memory of the earthquake disaster." in March 2018.
This is a project to make patchwork by gathering the kimono damaged by the Great East Japan Great Earthquake, which brought about in the process of reforming the kimono.
This work made of patchwork of 50 centimeters square was made from all over Japan and 33 countries in the world from 1 year to 95 years old, wishing for the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Currently more than 2,000 works are gathered, and activities to communicate the memory of the earthquake disaster are expanding.
Recovery Support for Victims of the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes
A series of large earthquakes struck Kumamoto in Kyushu, Japan, starting on April 14, 2016. We put a special effort into making payouts of insurance as one of our core business function, and also solicited donations from employees in the entire Group, making it possible to donate some 12 million yen to the Central Community Chest of Japan and other organizations.
We also sold about 8,000 original-design charity t-shirts and handkerchiefs, and from revenues made a donation (about 4.6 million yen) to a reconstruction support fund for cultural assets including the Aso Shrine, damaged in the earthquakes.
Disaster Response Headquarters
Original-design charity t-shirt
Original-design charity handkerchief
New Product: Kumamoto Fire Insurance
Sompo Japan has developed an insurance product that triggers donations of 100 yen from both the agency and Sompo Japan when a client signs a new fire insurance policy with an earthquake insurance rider. The company started selling the special locally-targeted product as Kumamoto Fire Insurance in October 2016, with the aim of supporting the reconstruction efforts based on a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Kumamoto Prefecture, which suffered damage mainly by the earthquakes that year.
Event to Express Hope for Kumamoto Earthquake Reconstruction
Every year, we hold an event to remember the Kumamoto earthquakes and express hope for the reconstruction efforts as well as to raise awareness of the people in the prefecture on how to help yourself and others in an emergency situation.
On April 16, 2018, marking two years since the Kumamoto earthquakes, we distributed about 1,000 awareness-raising packs to local residents, from young children to elderly people, that included disaster preparedness goods and handbook created by Kumamoto Prefecture.
Support for Areas Affected by Heavy Rains that hit Japan in July, 2020
Two Group companies donated a total of 15 million yen to civil society organizations and volunteer groups providing support to people who suffered loss in areas affected by the heavy rains, aiming to assist with rebuilding and recovery activities in those areas. The SOMPO Chikyu (Earth) Club, a volunteer organization of which all group officers and employees are members, donated one million yen to the Central Community Chest of Japan and other organizations.
We will continue to do our utmost to provide support through our business activities as well as to support people affected by disasters and assist with reconstruction efforts in disaster areas.