In keeping with the paradigm shift on approach to disaster management recently brought about by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) coupled with the recurring phenomenon of natural disasters impacting all sectors of socio-economic life, including the corporate sector, and inflicting heavy economic losses, focused attention is being given to risk mitigation endeavours to systematically reduce the vulnerabilities.
The new approach stems from the premise that development in any sector, more so in the corporate world, cannot be sustainable and viable unless risk reduction and mitigation measures are built into the development processes and that investments in mitigation are much more cost-effective than expenditure on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Recognising the gargantuan proportions of the challenge posed by recurring incidence of flood in Nigeria, association and involvement of corporate sector with NEMA for initiating disaster risk management measures must be considered as integral to success of disaster management initiatives. The corporates in every country have always played a major role in post-disaster relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the affected regions. In other climes, the corporate sector have been in the forefront of providing much-needed succor to the affected populace for ameliorating their sufferings.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) permeates every aspect of the functioning of corporate sector. The organisations are always looking for ways and means to enhance the brand value of their company and their products. It is in this context that corporate social responsibility makes good business sense. It is a business strategy that works. Nowadays, the value and reputation of a company are increasingly being seen as its most valuable assets for retaining the loyalty and trust of the public to ensure a bright and sustainable future .
The business corporations, because of their high visibility, are being adjudged not merely on the basis of their bottom lines but also on their social behaviour. By integrating CSR into its business strategy as a core value, a corporation not only make a significant contribution to a better society but are also recognised for doing so. This has obvious benefits for the company. In fact, enormous rewards are there both for the business/industrial community as well as the society. The companies are motivated to achieve profitability, sustainable growth and human progress by placing corporate social responsibility in the mainstream of their business practice.
As part of their corporate social responsibility, the companies are encouraged to conduct business responsibly by contributing to the economic, health and development of communities in which they operate; create healthy, and safe working conditions to attract and retain a quality workforce; manage risk more efficiently and minimise the negative impact of its activities on the environment and its resources; be accountable to all stakeholders through dialogue and transparency regarding economic, social and environmental impacts of business activities; operate a good governance structure and uphold the highest standards: and ethics while conducting business.
The corporate sector is an integral part of the society. As a member of the community, it is its responsibility to contribute to sustainable development and to integrate social and environmental concerns in its business operations as well as in its interaction with other stakeholders. It can play a leading role in supporting and building the knowledge, capacity and skills of the community in comprehensive risk-based disaster management activities ranging from prevention, mitigation and preparedness to response and recovery. It can offer human and financial resources and can also be a precious source of technical know-how, as for example in the case of identification and research on technological solutions to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
In addition, the recovery of the community cannot be complete if the business community itself is seriously affected as disasters can have serious negative fall-out on the corporate sector. For them to acquire capacity in disaster risk management would also entail protection of their employees and dependents.
Corporate sectors' cooperation in reducing people's vulnerabilities to natural disasters would also help it in protecting its market catchment areas. In the aftermath of a catastrophe, the resources of the community are more likely to be utilized in protecting and rebuilding livelihoods rather in acquiring goods and services offered by the corporate sector. Thus, their involvement in minimizing the impact of a natural event or in facilitating speedy and sustainable recovery should be viewed as a form of investment in protecting and securing its own "sources of livelihood".
As an inalienable part of its CSR, the corporate sector can play an essential role in leading and supporting the community in comprehensive risk management activities and in mobilizing human and financial resources as well as materials for utilization during a disaster situation. In addition to this, the corporate sector can be a precious source of technical knowledge, as for example in the case of identification and research on technological solutions to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
On the whole, corporate sector has the potential for strengthening and promoting its own safety and protection against natural catastrophes as well as in assisting the community at large in reducing its vulnerability to disasters through direct partnership with NEMA.
Ndubueze, a disaster management expert writes from Abuja.