UNC Kenan-Flagler Sustainability Blog

The Redwoods Group: Not Your Typical Insurance Company

April 23, 2013 By Tracy Triggs-Matthews

By Jessie Robinson, BS Environmental Science ’16

Who knew that an insurance company could be financially sustainable and effect positive social change? Well that is what the Undergraduate Net Impact Career Fellows, a group of select UNC students, discovered when Kevin Trapani, CEO of The Redwoods Group, and Dan Baum, the Executive Director of The Redwoods Group Foundation, spoke on March 26 as part of the Net Impact Career Series.


Jessie Robinson, BS Environmental Science ’16

The Redwoods Group is a social enterprise whose mission is to love, serve, and transform, in that order. A certified B corporation that aims to satisfy stakeholders, not just shareholders, the company mainly insures YMCAs across the country as well as other nonprofit and for-benefit camps. Trapani and Baum stressed the need to do important work well and to scale. They often take the road less traveled and do things that will have a greater positive social impact, despite the challenges it may present.

Fifteen years ago when The Redwoods Group started, the YMCA was “uninsurable” due to the high average of about thirteen cases of children drowning in YMCA pools per year. Most insurance companies either refused to insure YMCAs or would charge an extremely high premium in order to make a profit. The Redwoods Group, however, did not follow suit. They began insuring YMCAs and advised the employees on ways to create a safer environment for kids. The YMCA now has an average of zero to two child deaths from cases of drowning per year. Although the number of deaths has significantly decreased since The Redwoods Group began working with YMCA, they will not be satisfied until there are zero deaths.

(left) & Kevin Trapani (right)

Dan Baum (left) & Kevin Trapani (right)

As a student at UNC and member of the Net Impact Career Fellows, it was fascinating to hear about the social impact of The Redwoods Group. Before listening to Trapani and Baum speak, I believed almost every insurance company simply focused on making a profit and benefiting at others’ expense. However, I have learned that this stereotype is incorrect. Although The Redwoods Group does make a profit, they do so as a means to ensure greater social impact and financial sustainability, and to “create a hedge against volatility,” as Trapani remarked. Hearing about the impact of The Redwoods Group made me realized that a variety of companies can be successful at positively impacting their communities, even the untypical insurance company.

The Redwoods Group has already had an enormous impact on YMCAs across the country, helping them to reduce the cases of drowning, identify sexual abusers, provide safer vans to transport children, and much more. I can only imagine the extent of the social impact The Redwoods Group will continue to have in the future.