As I worked with my client this semester to develop an understanding of what best practices exist in CSR and disaster relief programs, I came across an interesting quote that truly redefined the way that I thought about CSR.

Some experts believe that disasters are neither natural or inevitable but are the result of social, political and economic (i.e., man-made) factors that cause certain populations – usually impoverished and politically marginalized minorities, especially the elderly, women and children – to live in circumstances that render them especially vulnerable to the impact of hazards like floods, earthquakes, typhoons, drought or conflict. Programs that aim to reduce people’s vulnerability to these hazards lie at the heart of good disaster management.”
—Council on Foundations, Disaster Grantmaking

I believe this points out an issue that is hugely important in that it addresses the way that we think about CSR and allows us to realize the full potential of corporate programs.

  • Many current CSR programs only focus on the surface of the issueWhile programs that are centered around issues such as disaster response are important and useful, these only address the consequences of various issues. Whether these issues are the poor local economy which results in poor quality of construction, or some other key problem; merely helping an economy recover from disaster will not create sustainable impact in the long-run.
  • CSR is often reactionary, and therefore less effectiveIf a program is heavily focused on disaster response, the very nature of disaster response forces it to be extremely reactionary. One of the issues that we found this to cause while working with our client, was the fact that this reactionary nature of the program and the time pressure that it places on the people involved, directly affects the ability of the company to muster the needed people and resources to be able to create a truly effective and sustainable program.

In order to solve these issues and create programs that will truly drive and sustain change, corporations must take the advice in this quote and look at ways to improve the economy and local community.

This will not only improve the quality of life but can also at times be a preventative measure against future disasters. Corporations should never be satisfied with merely helping a community get back on its feet; they should instead look for ways to advance it beyond anything it has ever known – whether this be through technology or education.

Through this focus on the local economy and community, corporations also may be able to create positive business opportunities. By improving the community, they are improving their current and future clients as well as developing contacts and networks within a potential market segment. This is especially true given that most companies focus their CSR programs on areas in which they have clients and employees.

The key takeaway from this project and quote? I would recommend that corporations look for tangible ways to reduce the reactionary nature of their CSR programs and find ways to create programs that focus on improving the overall well being of a community and in the long term, create business opportunities.


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