Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can Disaster Relief Contribute to a Longer Term CSR Focus

As the relief efforts continue to build for the disaster in Haiti, we can be impressed by the response of corporations as they respond with contributions of goods and money(Coca Cola – provides water and $1m, (www.thecoca-colacompany.com/.../viewpoints_haiti_earthquake_relief_efforts.html ) Safeway over $100,000 from Canada to the Red Cross (http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/January2010/15/c9018.html) and services. This response is outstanding example of how corporations can utilize their resources to contribute to the greater good.
As with any disaster, personal or private, the best responses from the community should happen in a timely fashion with assistance, comfort and supplies. Yet it is when the immediate danger has passed, when the trauma has just started to settle in, when the long term losses become so real, that those who have survived really need the support. Haiti will take years to rebuild and countless resources of time and finances – so two questions emerge. 1. Is it the role of corporations to continue to provide resources for this disaster? ; and 2. How does a corporation make its efforts in Haiti, or in any CSR endeavor truly sustainable?
Time has shown that during times of disaster and war there can be advancements made in science and health care…maybe the same can be said of our compassion? A recent Globe and Mail workplace poll of readers indicated that 51% of their companies were noted as contributing to the relief efforts in Haiti. Does that mean that those who are not contributing are not “good” companies? Are those who are contributing “better”? Are they doing so in a way that reflects their core competence? Are they doing so in a way that allows their contributions to be sustainable – both in terms of the needs to be met as well as their ability as a company to meet those needs? There is nothing wrong with giving something back via the contribution to relief efforts – these efforts speak to the notion of a “global community” – but in order to make a lasting change in the lives of Haitians and arguably the lives of employees or stakeholders – which companies are stepping up to be industry leaders or even world leaders and creating a sustainable and long-term commitment to Haiti? Contributions to disaster relief are to be encouraged, “give what you can” is a well worn and useful mantra. Given the resources of corporations however, the challenge resides in their ability to choose whether or not they can and should craft a responsible solution so that Haitians and the corporation can prosper over the long-term. To do so elevates the practice of CSR to be both a compassionate and strategic objective.

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