Reflecting on the Role of the Private Sector to Build Forward Better

Connecting Business initiative Secretariat • 12 October 2020

Extreme weather events have risen by 80% over the last twenty years, according to the Emergency Events Database maintained by CRED, and over 90% of the people affected by disasters in the past year were affected by climate-related events including extreme weather. What’s more, the July update of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan aimed to provide aid to 250 million people in 63 countries, over twice the number initially targeted for humanitarian aid at the beginning of the year. 

What this year has made clearer than ever is that disasters don’t discriminate, but their impact does. Several studies show that women are disproportionately affected, often in significant numbers. In today’s context, with unprecedented needs and greater resource constraints, it is critical to invest in anticipatory, local and collaborative action. We need to avoid creating new risks while systematically reducing existing ones.  

October 13 marks the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has defined the theme “It’s all about governance”. 

At the Connecting Business initiative (CBi), we work with local private sector networks to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration – with business a value-adding partner alongside governments, the United Nations, and civil society organisations – with a focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR). 

Why does disaster risk reduction matter? 

DRR can be defined as a systematic approach to identifying, assessing and reducing the risks of disaster. It aims to reduce socio-economic vulnerabilities to disaster as well as dealing with the environmental and other hazards that trigger them. 

There are growing number of natural hazards, from earthquakes to floods and hurricanes. These often occur in contexts that are already fragile or vulnerable and can in some cases be an additional layer of crisis to conflict, or – as this year demonstrated all too well – a global pandemic. 

Preparedness, response, and recovery are all part of disaster response management. Reducing the risk of disasters through an anticipatory approach can play a key role in both saving lives and livelihoods. 

What’s in it for the private sector to engage? 

The local private sector is intrinsically linked to the community: employees, customers and suppliers are a part of it, making the companies that work with them a part of it too. That’s why it is crucial for companies to ensure that disaster risk is reduced not only for the business but also for the community. Taking an anticipatory approach to DRR is essential for business continuity planning, and in the case of micro-, small- and medium enterprises (MSMEs), this contributes to not only keeping people safe and fed, but is the backbone of the economy. 

Present across industries, from transport to food to healthcare, the private sector also has an integral role to play in every aspect of disaster risk reduction – again, both for the sake of the community and business continuity. 

A local private sector active in DRR can be key to community resilience, and vice versa.  

What are some concrete examples of how local private sector networks work on DRR?  

A lot of the CBi Member Network activities represent a combination of capacity building and trainings to raise awareness around business continuity planning and DRR. In some cases, the work contributes to DRR by addressing underlying social and economic inequalities. 

A few specific examples include: 

  • The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) has been part of the review and updating of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Plan in 2019. 

  • The Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (VBRC) has put together the “Climate Change-Based Business Resilience Guidebook” that goes hand in hand with a series of training sessions around implementation. 

  • In Turkey, the Business for Goals local private sector network has rolled out surveys on COVID-19 impact which shows women are more affected, and run webinar capacity building series including one session focused on equal access to funding for women and discussions around gender-based violence. The network is also using the results of their surveys for MSMEs in policy dialogues and are strengthening SMEs for the future through digital literacy and risk management capacity building. 

  • The Alliance pour la Gestion des Risques et la Continuité des Activités (AGERCA) in Haiti ran a DRR training for around 100 youth. 

In addition, the organisations leading the CBi work in Haiti, Kenya, and Mexico are also the host organisations for ARISE, the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies. 

If one silver lining can be teased from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the alignment of priorities and greater political will to invest in community resilience. And the understanding that we can “Build Forward Better” and also tracking results in order to scale up successful interventions so that together, we can achieve a lot more.