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Philippines Typhoon: What should be an appropriate corporate response?

Very much a human tragedy

The terrible events that have unfolded in the Philippines gives us all pause for thought.

I’m not sure we can connect this event with global warming, yet, but some may argue so.

The science clearly shows that the future may contain many more events like this as weather becomes more volatile.

With that in mind, but more importantly, the victims and their families in mind, I thought I’d flag up some of the companies who seem to have made significant commitments to help so far.

It’s hard for company managers to know what to do when disaster like this strikes a far away community or country.

Understandably, responses have varied enormously in the disasters we’ve covered in Ethical Corporation since the Asian Tsunami in 2004.

If you are a multi-national with products or logistics services that can help, quickly and can be donated in kind, that’s an easier decision.

But for companies that are not in logistics, pharmaceuticals, FMCG or food, what is an appropriate response if you don’t operate in that particular part of the world?

If you are in that area with offices, products, service and influence, the initial decision is easy. You do everything you can to help, without getting in the way, and then work out what your medium and long term response should be, which is harder.

For those businesses without that immediate link, what should an appropriate response be? I genuinely am not sure.

Often it depends on the personal impact such tragedies have on members of the board and management.

A well known example is the former Wal-Mart CEO, Lee Scott, who was famously so staggered by the terrible events of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans in 2005, he helped push the company down its well known greener path since then.

One simple solution being used by companies who lack a direct connection to disasters is to match employee contributions made to funds supporting victims.

The slight problem there is that if employee donations are slim in number, the company can look accidentally tight-fisted. I would be more in favour of offering a multiple of employee donations.

There are no real right or wrong answers, as far as I can tell. Here’s what a few companies are doing in response:

HSBC has announced a $1m (£630,000) cash donation to the relief effort.

Standard Chartered said it would match donations made by its employees. When the Asian tsunami devastated the region in 2004, the bank announced $5m (£3.1m) of donations to relief agencies.

The Prudential is matching employee donations.

Alliance Boots is providing medical supplies to relief agency International Health Partners.
(source: The Guardian)

Apple has created an option in the iTunes Store allowing iTunes customers to donate, and iTunes will transfer 100 percent of donations to the American Red Cross. Donor support will provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters.

Google has also launched a person finder.

AT&T and Verizon are offering free calls and texts to the Philippines for customers trying to contact friends and family there in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

– Mammoth Medical brought a team of surgeons, doctors and medical support volunteers to the Philippines. The group is equipped with three surgical teams and more than 30 parcels of medical supplies as well as a self-contained surgical tent.
(source: NBC News)

You can find a list of some of the aid agencies and NGOs working in the area here.

The DEC website for donations is here.


  1. Cash donations to vetted first responders are easiest and fastest, but they tend to dry up after news coverage move on to other issues.
    There's always demand for post-disaster needs, ranging from houses to residents' livelihood to local government capacity building, etc. Needs will be long, costly, resource-heavy, wide and deep, and may not merit headlines for corps.

  2. Helene Regnell

    Here is an example where a company uses it's core competencies to help out. Note that Maersk has approximately 3000 Phillippinos employed as seafarers.