Business’ unique contribution to international disaster relief

In 2013 disasters cost the world US$140 billion in insured losses* and in 2015 it’s estimated that 375million people** will be affected by disasters. Apart from the tragic loss of lives and devastating environment and economic impacts, the effect on supply and value chains and the resulting market instability is dramatic.

The private sector represents a huge source of untapped capacity and expertise to reduce suffering and help rebuild communities in the aftermath of a disaster. It can also help to mitigate disaster risk through prevention and preparedness. This potential must be unlocked if future challenges are going to be met.

- Lord Ashdown,
Chair, UK Humanitarian Emergency Response Review
Neither Governments, nor the humanitarian sector can address these challenges alone, but together with business and a coordinated effort, each one identifying its unique contribution and playing to its strengths, the chances of addressing the crises and minimising the impact are greatly enhanced.

Our new research, Business’ Unique Contribution: International Disaster Relief, supports this, with over 90% of businesses and NGOs agreeing that it is important for business to contribute to international disaster relief. 83% also said that international disaster relief contributes to more stable and sustainable markets.

According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance 2014 Report, the level of humanitarian response rose to a record US$22billion in 2013, US$16.4billion of which was from government contributions and US$5.6bilion, from the private sector and voluntary contributions. Yet a third of humanitarian need continues to be unmet. 71% of the businesses we spoke to said they could do more and 61% report that they could be better prepared.

So while needs remain unmet, individuals, communities and markets falter or potentially collapse.

There is much that many businesses do already to support the humanitarian and economic relief efforts. And it is not just about cash. Our research shows that 59% of business have some sort of disaster relief process. This includes thinking about a holistic approach to disaster management, engaging skilled and non-skilled employee volunteers, and their business products and services. 78% of NGOs agree that businesses offering non-financial support including skills products and services, is of great value. Businesses are beginning to identify both their broad and unique contributions. But there is more to do.

The Business in the Community International Disaster Relief Award Winner 2014, UPS and the companies that were shortlisted are inspirational. These examples demonstrate the strategic approaches, identifying their unique contribution to international disaster relief.

Our research identifies that there are challenges in developing an integrated strategic approach. Business and NGOs both say they are not clear what is needed nor do they always appreciate what’s on offer; the logistical challenges; the time involved. Both business and NGOs clearly identify the need for partnerships to help address these challenges, the lack of such partnerships was cited as a barrier for offering wider support.

With over 300 disasters, some $140 billion in insured economic losses in 2013, and with the frequency and intensity of disasters on the increase, the back drop is menacing.  Globalisation means that impacts of those disasters are increasingly evident throughout the supply chain, value chain and the markets. Business is being called upon by internal and external stakeholders to scale up its response. The time for action is now.   The challenge is how; how to develop a holistic approach and identify and maximise each business’ unique contribution.

Through our programme on International Disaster Relief, we encourage business to step up to the challenge; to define your business case for action, to mobilise resources more effectively and efficiently and to work with us and others mobilise business on international disaster relief.

We hope to see more business stepping up to this challenge. We encourage them to collaborate, to develop a strategic and holistic approach and to leverage their unique contributions, to help improve the business response to the increasing number of disasters projected in the future

Sue Adkins is Business in the Community's International Director

*Swiss Re 2014 Report

** DFID Humanitarian Emergency Response Review 2011