Don’t forget the ‘Human’ in World Humanitarian Day 2018

Steve Killeen, Global Goals and Sector Director, Business in the Community, on the important role of business in response to disaster relief 

On Sunday 19 August we celebrate World Humanitarian Day 2018. It honours those people working on humanitarian aid and those touched by disasters across our planet. The impacts can be acute or chronic but they all affect the lives, livelihoods and well-being of fellow human beings. 

In 2014, Lord Ashdown concluded the UK Humanitarian Emergency Response Review by calling for the ‘untapped capacity and expertise within the private sector needed to reduce suffering and rebuild communities’. Since then, Business in the Community has been working with businesses and NGOs to unlock that potential. In that time, disaster relief as an ad hoc philanthropic commercial response has reduced, as has NGOs’ initial wariness of private sector involvement. In its place, strategic cross-sector partnerships have emerged, balancing the needs on the ground with commercial expertise.  

Providing a framework through the Global Goals
Throughout its five years, research has underpinned BITC’s International Disaster Management programme, supported by DFID. In 2014, analysis of business approaches showed that the majority of private sector involvement was financial, philanthropic and focussed on response and recovery. However, already back in 2014, some companies that were offering their core competencies and unique products were found. The disaster management strategy of these businesses was more likely to be integrated into the core of their business, sustained in tougher economic circumstances, focussed not only on relief but also on preparedness, and was more consistent in their support, whatever the ‘type’ of disaster. It has also become apparent that we must also consider International Disaster Relief in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These Global Goals provide a powerful framework and imperative for all sectors of humanity to collaborate on our journey to 2030. 

This type of proactive, collaborative approach, based on core expertise was championed by BITC, and the research in 2016 demonstrated that it was gaining traction. It has provided an excellent opportunity to work with and learn many leading global businesses such as United Parcel Service (UPS), InterContinental Hotel Groups (IHG) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Long-term solutions and partnerships
This research, at the end of this stage of the programme, shows that this trajectory has continued and become the norm, with more emphasis than ever on long-term solutions, collaborations and partnerships, as well as unprecedented support for man-made and rapid natural onset disasters.

Both business and NGOs see the future as building on the proactive long-term innovative support for disaster management but integrated with the interdependent climate change, global goals, social purpose and humanitarian agendas. Our final research report, Business Unique Contribution 3 will be available in the early autumn of this year. 

BITC has a strong addition in recognising responsible business through our annual Responsible Business Awards programme. This year the UPS International Disaster Relief and Resilience Award (supported by DFID) considered a range of high-quality entries. The winner was Arup for its expertise in ongoing disaster relief around the world – and not just when disaster strikes.

Whether you are an individual, an employee of a small company or part of a global business don’t forget the human in World Humanitarian Aid day on Sunday 19 August.