The pandemic, in its ripple effect, heightened the needs of those most vulnerable and underserved – those relying on social services, welfare or community support. We were forced into our homes, locked away from public spaces, but we kept ourselves open to those in need who needed support now more than ever.
Social commitment plays a central role at UBS, we have been promoting corporate volunteering for many years. Last year, we needed to cancel all face-to-face volunteering to protect the health of our employees, our community partners and their beneficiaries. So we worked with our partners to find opportunities for our employees to support their home communities remotely and get actively involved in charitable projects. In Switzerland, we launched UBS Helpetica, a new volunteering platform for employees. Globally, we doubled the allowance of employee volunteering to four days, so they could use more of their working time to help.
Responding to issues relevant to local communities became of central importance during 2020. But we also knew we needed a collaborative effort to protect the most vulnerable globally. We launched the UBS Optimus Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund. Our clients and employees acted fast, and UBS matched their contributions – USD 30 million was raised, together with 48 partners, working in 35 countries. UBS Optimus Foundation worked with strategic healthcare partners to help prevent the spread of the virus, detect cases as they emerged and effectively respond as the situation unfolded. Our community affairs teams globally supported grassroots organizations working directly with the most vulnerable to distribute USD 10.6 million of the USD 30 million UBS committed to support COVID-19 relief.
During the early stages of the pandemic, grants supported a range of emergency relief interventions: addressing food insecurity and shortages, providing personal protection equipment, training health workers, providing counseling or safeguarding mental health. But as the pandemic continues and its domino effects threaten the future of our communities, we direct our efforts to COVID-19’s secondary impacts. We’ve launched a UBS Optimus Foundation COVID Prize of one million US dollars to endorse promising solutions to improve social outcomes in areas such as education, life and employment skills, mental health, prenatal and postnatal care, prevention of child labor trafficking, prevention of family separation and increased local food production.
Distribution of coronavirus emergency relief grants greatly increased the number of beneficiaries we supported last year (compared with 280,858 beneficiaries reached in 2019). 22 percent of our global workforce volunteered, spending 58 percent of the hours on skills-based volunteering. We committed 104,452 hours to community projects that helped reach 4.53 million individual beneficiaries globally.
What’s next? By 2025, we want to support one million young people and adults to learn and develop skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. Even if the pandemic abates, its effects will last for years. It’s necessary that we help our partners and communities keep up their efforts in protecting the vulnerable and safeguarding progress, on the way to reaching world-changing potential.
UBS Helpetica is a new central online platform for volunteering to support sustainable projects. The platform offers a wide range of opportunities for volunteers and is being launched in partnership with benevol Switzerland, the Swiss Society for the Common Good (SSCG), “Five up” and other non-profit organizations in Switzerland.
More at ubs-helpetica.ch
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