As SHRM Online reported in May, a small number of relief organizations like The American Red Cross and World Vision received millions of dollars in support from corporations to aid the devastation in Myanmar and China.
Now the Conference Board reports that as corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes an integral part of the business culture, corporations are playing a more active role in humanitarian efforts by forming partnerships with relief organizations. And these corporate-humanitarian partnerships have the potential to deliver fast, effective support during a crisis.
On May 12, 2008, an earthquake rattled southwestern China, killing nearly 56,000 and leaving an estimated 5 million homeless. On May 3, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, formerly Burma, in Southeast Asia killing more than 130,000 people and leaving 2 million homeless. For 20 days, the ruling junta refused to allow aid groups into the country, but as conditions worsened it lifted the ban May 23.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported that Myanmar’s ruling military junta agreed to "allow all aid workers regardless of nationalities" into the country to help cyclone survivors.
As of May 23, Chinese officials said donations from domestic and international fronts had totaled $3.6 billion, CNN reported. And although cash remains the preferred form of contribution, humanitarian groups realize that businesses have far more to offer, including state-of-the-art technology and management expertise, the Conference Board report states.
The benefits to aiding humanitarian efforts go far beyond doing the right thing. Not only can companies improve their reputations, they can also increase employee satisfaction and appeal to their clients and prospective employees. Relief associations can benefit, too, by enhancing their ability to respond to disasters, gaining new resources and technology, and diversifying their list of contributors.
“The corporate community has come to recognize it (CSR) as a key nonfinancial performance indicator that has the potential to affect a company’s reputation value as well as its equity value,” the report notes.
“Corporate-humanitarian partnerships that include the transfer of expertise can be a great source of learning across both sectors and can be instrumental in improving the preparedness of humanitarian organizations to cope when a disaster arises.”
The report is based on ongoing research by The Conference Board and the INSEAD Humanitarian Research Group, interviews with its members, and knowledge shared during Conference Board research working group meetings.
Aliah D. Wright is manager of SHRM Online’s Ethics and Sustainability Focus Area.