SALINE, Michigan — Business in the Community, an organization working to “shape a new contract between business and society,” held its annual Responsible Business Week earlier this year in April, bringing together major businesses from around the globe to discuss ways in which they are making a difference in their communities.
In their own words, Responsible Business Week “aims to inspire and equip businesses to do more to meet the world’s most pressing challenges. In doing so, they will unlock innovation and opportunity and demonstrate the positive impact of business in society.”
This year, many of the discussions were centered on finding ways to increase the involvement of businesses in disaster relief.
One of these panels focused on the challenges NGOs face when partnering with businesses during disasters. Businesses are often eager and willing to help but don’t offer their services until the moment a disaster strikes, which can be too late.
Working together with organizations for the long-term in preparation of future tragedies, however, will create successful partnerships, the panel found. This allows the proper time for businesses to create relationships with humanitarian organizations so that, when the time for help comes, neither side is scrambling to understand how the other works.
Because businesses and NGOs function very differently, figuring out how to work together to help people in need across the globe takes time. Therefore, long-term partnerships with humanitarian NGOs were seen as necessary for businesses to be successful in disaster relief.
Another panel discussed the need for businesses to diversify their assistance to maximize the benefits that recovering people receive. Often, high-profile businesses will react to disasters by donating large sums of money to humanitarian organizations. While these donations certainly do help, businesses have a much larger potential to help by offering applicable services.
For example, a construction business may be able help communities recovering from natural disasters by giving its employees the opportunity to travel to where disasters strike to help rebuild infrastructure. More likely than not, the most skilled construction workers will come from high-profile businesses rather than from NGOs whose pool of volunteers, while well-intentioned, often lack formal skills.
Businesses, in all different sectors, have employees with very valuable skills that could easily contribute to disaster relief. This kind of aid from businesses, however, is rare. The panel found a lack of communication to be behind this, and they called for disaster relief NGOs to be clearer about what kinds of aid from businesses would be most helpful rather than waiting for businesses to come to them.
This year’s Responsible Business Week created progress in the field of disaster relief. Participating businesses learned how to create successful relationships with humanitarian nonprofits as well as how they can best help during disasters.
The obstacles that businesses have faced in the disaster relief sector, the panels found, have often stemmed from a lack of proper communication between NGOs and businesses. Thankfully, these discussions are a step forward. Ideally, businesses will be able to take what they have learned from these sessions to work more harmoniously with nonprofits to aid communities struggling from the impacts of disasters.
– Emily Jablonski
Sources: BITC 1, BITC 2, Business Fights Poverty
Photo: Ace Show Biz