Help for Disaster | In the wake of natural disasters such as the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or Big EarthQuake in Turkey on Feb 6, 2023 emergency responses eventually gave way to long-term recovery. As Japanese leaders and citizens prepare to move into this phase, donors from all over the world have continued to offer aid. Making cash assistance to reputable organizations that work in the field, have staff and volunteers can make an immediate difference. But donating money during bailouts and rebuilds isn’t the most leveraged way businesses can contribute.
Company leaders need to look beyond traditional philanthropy and think about how they can use non-financial assets to create more significant change to help for disaster. According to me on leading businesses and corporate foundations around the world for our book Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, we learned that companies can enhance their knowledge, social networks, business networks, and even core business models to make a bigger difference.
Leverage your competencies Help for Disaster!
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, killing more than 250,000 people and injuring countless others, donors and governments sent billions of dollars in aid and in kind. Thanks to this aid, the lives of many people were saved and their suffering was alleviated.
A few hours after the quake, Thomson Reuters Foundation, sent a team of journalists to Port-au-Prince to set up an Emergency Information Service (ADBS) for the affected population, disseminating verified, actionable information via Creole text messages. ADBS provided critical information on how to contact search and rescue teams, where to get food and water, and how to register missing persons. (Disclosure: The Thomson Reuters Foundation is an FSG customer; this data was compiled from interviews with foundation staff.)
In addition, after the immediate crisis and disaster situation subsided, the Thomson Reuters Foundation provided lawyers and legal resources to NGOs free of charge through two programs, Trustlaw and Trustlaw Connect. For example, local people in Haiti have struggled with a tragic increase in rape and other incidents of violence against women. Rape was banned in Haiti in 2005, and after the earthquake (in 2011), hundreds of thousands of people were still sheltering in unsafe tent and container cities. As a result, the foundation has reached out to the global network of TrustLaw lawyers and provided gratuitous assistance to local Haitian leaders to establish and enforce the rule of law on these issues.
Use Your Network
Business leaders have unique networks. Companies that want to do more than donate can take advantage of these networks to advance their relief efforts and solve problems. Thomson Reuters Foundation staff noticed firsthand a major problem as they tracked and responded to disasters around the world: Hundreds of international NGOs would flock to the region to distribute aid such as water, food, blankets and medical care. But because aid workers lacked reliable channels of information and communication, their activities were disconnected and sometimes inefficient. So the foundation brought together the leaders of charities and asked how they could help. In 1997, he founded AlertNet, which was originally designed as a private channel for aid workers and later evolved into the first global humanitarian news and information portal.
Through these programs, the Foundation has deployed reporters for the crisis around the world and provided fast, accurate and unbiased information for aid workers on the ground, as well as journalists, donors and the public looking for ways to help.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation realized that instead of donating to charities like a traditional corporate foundation, it could make a greater impact by bringing together and helping a global network of NGOs working to provide humanitarian aid on the ground.
Leverage your business model, Help for Disaster!
So far, we’ve talked about what businesses can do to accelerate change by going beyond traditional corporate philanthropy. On the other hand, business leaders aren’t content with foundations, they can examine the company’s core operations to discover ways to make a difference while still making a profit. We call this approach creating shared value (my co-author, Mark Kramer, and FSG co-founder Michael Porter wrote about it in the Harvard Business Review). Unlike traditional social responsibility programs, which are not usually directly related to a company’s core operations, this approach requires redesigning a company’s product and markets, rebuilding its value chain, and strengthening the productivity of the communities in which it operates.
Take Cisco. The company’s leading executives realized that the worldwide shortage of talented network administrators trained in information and communication technology was a slowing factor in the firm’s growth and success. Cisco, meanwhile, was donating to education and youth development organizations to help underserved students through corporate philanthropy. Seeing an opportunity to combine business and public interest goals, Cisco has established a networking academy to address this important business issue. Since then, nearly one million networking academy students have acquired the important skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their digital-age careers in the 21st century. Many graduates have joined Cisco as employees, contributing to the company’s profitability. Since the 1997 pilot, more than 9,000 academies have reached 165 countries and trained nearly one million students.
Using these approaches, businesses can address today’s complex societal problems, whether through immediate responses to disasters or unique methods of addressing slower but equally disruptive problems, such as poor governance and legal protections in the developing world or poorly-performing schools in the United States. Thanks all companies due to help for disaster, God Job!