Trio team up on disastersMarch 2008
Three logistics companies are to work alongside the United Nations on emergency responses to large-scale natural disasters.
Agility Logistics, TNT and UPS will collaborate with the UN Global Logistics Cluster, which co-ordinates humanitarian relief. They will provide warehouse managers and other specialist employees, plus equipment including trucks and forklifts, to strengthen relief efforts for the first three to six weeks after earthquakes, floods, storms and other events.
The companies will offer assistance in countries where they already operate, using their local knowledge in co-operation with specially created ‘logistics emergency teams’.
Peter Bakker, TNT’s chief executive, who initiated the programme, said the three had agreed to ‘put competition aside to contribute their core competencies to the humanitarian community’. He appealed for other logistics businesses to join them.
Agility Logistics, with more than 29,000 employees in 100 countries, has worked on humanitarian projects with the World Food Programme. TNT has been involved in more than 30 emergency responses through other programmes, and UPS is a long-time financial supporter of Care, a humanitarian group that runs an emergency response network.
The three companies, which have piloted their partnership in Ghana, Indonesia and Panama, announced their decision at the recent annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where guidelines were also agreed for companies and non-governmental organizations working on joint humanitarian relief projects. The Guiding Principles for Public-Private Collaboration for Humanitarian Action ask partners to:
look for ways to donate expertise, resources and manpower, not just money
allow local people to help themselves as much as possible, training them in new skills where necessary
monitor and report on the impact of their efforts
respect the ‘culture, customs and structures’ of affected communities
clearly separate their procurement activities from humanitarian relief
enter into long-term relationships where practical.
The principles were produced by the Davos forum and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs after a year of talks with the private sector and relief agencies.
They address the growing demand for companies to take a long term view in their relief efforts, following concerns that climate change is increasing the frequency of natural disasters. The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College warned in 2006 that corporate disaster relief tends to take the form of short term emergency measures while reconstruction is seen as a commercial activity (EP8, issue 7, p6).
The Humanitarian Policy Group, which is an arm of the UK-based Overseas Development Institute think-tank, concluded in 2007 that the main incentive for a business to become involved in disaster relief was to improve its standing with employees and the public. The positive benefits were greatest when companies provided assistance immediately after a natural disaster, but declined as memory of the disaster faded. In-kind assistance was thought most likely to generate media publicity.
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