CSR’s Role in Disaster Relief/Recovery (Aug. 18, 2011)

The latest bi-weekly CSR Chat featured a record number of tweets and participants as the subject “CSR’s role in Disaster Relief/Recovery,” led many to respond passionately.  Representatives from Microsoft, Dell, Discovery Channel and Blackbaud, joined a vibrant community of consultants and sustainability practitioners. @Murnpost tweeted, “Great topic, and very sorely needed, as it’s the immediate crises that count, and they’re not going to go away. It’s The New Normal.” Given the disasters we have witnessed in the last couple of years (Haiti, Joplin, Japan and now Somalia and the Horn of Africa), relief and recovery are now on the table for discussion in corporate responsibility departments around the world.

During the chat, consensus centered around the following:

  • Planning ahead is the most crucial tact to take if you are a business. (@tpemurphy: “Corporate Disaster Response doesn’t happen when the disaster hits, it’s a strategic commitment that takes time and resources.”)
  • Companies, large and small, do have a responsibility to help in the communities in which they operate.
  • It’s vital to partner with reputable NGO partners who can provide expertise and guidance. (@CelesaHorvath: “Collaborate with NGOs to identify at-risk areas, priorities and needs. Identify corporate strengths, capacities.”)

Additional thoughts were provided:

  • @couillardf:  “We shouldn’t try to outguess relief agencies- work with them. Start collaborating way before disasters hit.”
  • @DebatDell mentioned that Nethope is a great partner for quickly getting needed technology and communications into the hands of NGOs following a disaster.

With regards to providing in-kind donations as opposed to direct funding, the majority of participants felt strongly that funds are preferred and far more useful for international aid agencies and NGOs. (@Good360org: “There is a critical deficiency in properly coordinating in-kind donations for disasters.”)

Resources and ideas were shared:

  • @chamberbclc: Provides list of resources & corp efforts in disasters bit.ly/gnmwta
  • @RootCapital: Root Capital Founder Willy Foote on African #famine http://ow.ly/63jWd
  • Companies can also set up employee engagement and donation programs and often do so around disaster recovery.  Wal-Mart, Dell, FedEx, UPS, Timberland and Microsoft were cited for their leadership in the area.

In closing, @JohnFriedman so brilliantly stated: “If we could harness the energy in the bi-weekly #CSRchats, we could power a small country!”  Look forward to “meeting” with you all in two weeks.