Monday, September 12, 2011

Businesses must take the initiative in dealing with disaster

Lord Ashdown in the PovertyMatters blog of the Guardian (UK): …As president of Unicef UK I have seen the shattering impact of emergencies, both man-made and natural, on the lives of children and communities. I have also seen the scale of response they require. In 2010, Unicef responded to 290 emergencies in 98 countries. Climate change is set to increase further the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

…So how should business respond to the growing need for support following slow onset disasters such as the crisis in the Horn of Africa, or dramatic, extreme weather events like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean? And, perhaps more importantly, why should they respond?

Currently, the business response to emergencies is almost always reactive, focused on immediate requests for cash or gifts in kind. While this support remains vital and is applauded by organisations like Unicef, there is also a longer-term, more strategic need: building resilience and preparedness. A recent study by the UK Trade and Investment department suggests that, globally, nine out of 10 businesses were significantly affected by extreme weather events. Even in the UK, a third of businesses were affected between 2007 and 2010.

Despite this massive risk, UK businesses, especially those with a global presence, or those reliant on supplies and resources from developing countries, are not taking action to adapt and build resilience. A recent report by the UK Committee on Climate Change showed that fewer than one in 15 companies, local authorities and other public bodies were taking action on resilience and adaptation.

Businesses that invest in risk reduction and resilience are not only supporting the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and wider emergency issues, but are investing in that country's business continuity. It makes both ethical and strategic sense for businesses to support companies and communities down their value chain….

A conveyor belt in Belsdorf, Germany, in 1949, from the Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

No comments: