Disaster Risk Reduction: An Interview with Leonard Chan, Pacific Business Resilience Network

Connecting Business initiative Secretariat • 12 October 2020
Blog in group Pacific

In the context of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, we invited CBi Member Networks to share why disaster risk reduction (DRR) matters now more than ever and why it is relevant for the private sector to engage. Below is the interview with Leonard Chan, Chair of the Pacific Business Resilience Network (PBRN). 


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Why does disaster risk reduction (DRR) matter? 

It is important to understand what DRR stands for. From our perspective, we refer to disaster risk reduction meaning the safeguard of livelihoods, assets of individuals and communities from the impact of hazards. As for hazards, they could be either natural or manmade. Some examples that we see here in Fiji and the Pacific are cyclones, droughts, earthquakes and currently the COVID 19 pandemic that's happening globally. 

When we say why DRR matters, it matters because as the private sector, we see that DRR aims to reduce the impact of hazards and build the capacity of people to be resilient and to recover in a very short span of time. 

DRR also matters because in a challenging in context, it is a matter of survival for the business communities and the livelihoods of everyone. 

Why is it relevant for the private sector to engage? 

DRR adds value to the private sector because it ensures the continuity of businesses and sustainability. We look at it from through three elements or concepts:  

  1. Providing for a stable environment 

  1. Protecting employees and the communities plus our supply chain  

  1. Safeguarding our long-term investment 

When it comes to providing a stable environment, we look at how the private sector has a key role to play in helping reduce the risk of disasters. It is a key stakeholder in these disaster events. The private sector covers a very vast segment of businesses, so we can help across sectors and see how to protect natural resources. 

The private sector aims to reduce social and economic vulnerabilities and protecting the critical infrastructures of the various economies that we represent such as the Pacific.  

In terms of protecting employees and their community, the private sector strives to mitigate the impact of disasters, reducing the health and safety issues of the employees, reducing the vulnerability of the communities that we operate in, and seeing how we can protect the livelihoods of both our employees and their families as well as protecting their properties and assets also. 

In the third context of safeguarding long-term investments, our goal is to see how best to protect the different industries’ sites. For example, in the case of manufacturing industries, if they have a site that we need to look at, part of what we will do is consider how best to protect the company offices, and company records. 

Furthermore, the private sector can contribute us immensely to disaster risk reduction and management by developing business continuity plans through innovative technology, which could help mitigating the impact of disasters or working towards early warning systems  while providing and sharing technical knowledge, skills and resources in the field of disaster preparedness. 

We also see that the private sector plays a critical role to strengthen DRR capacity and as such, we feel that it is crucial to involve the private sector as a major actor in DRR. 

What are PIPSO and PBRN? 

PBRM is known as the Pacific Business Resilience network. It was incorporated under PIPSO, the Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation and it works towards supporting the NPSOs, the national private sector organisations. 

To support businesses to build resilience to climate change and disasters, including the engagement, emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts, PBRN provides coordination and provides a clear entry point for private sector partners such as the government, the development partners that we work with such as UNDP or the ILO.  

One of the objectives of PIPSO is to operate as a national coordination architecture and a clear entry point for the private sector to go through the resilience building, which includes risk reduction preparedness, response and recovery activities and also to connect businesses, the government international organisations, civil society organisations, and other actors to identify and match the needs before, during, and after emergencies. 

Through PBRM we have launched a resilience network in Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (also a CBi Member Network). 

Now, we are looking at working with CBi to assist in rolling it out into the other regional countries such as Tonga and Samua.  

What does your network do with regards to DRR? 

We are rolling out business continuity planning (BCP) trainings; we do that on a very regular basis. We have conducted trainings for the private sectors and those in the communities starting in 2016, following the effects of Tropical Cyclone Winston.  

At that time, we saw that the resilience in communities and businesses was very low. So, after going through various surveys and analyses, we felt that BCP was quite an important tool to roll out to create that awareness and get businesses to understand how to mitigate the effects of disasters.  

We also work with the private sector on a lot of humanitarian areas, to resolve issues before, during and after the cyclone or in a disaster. Short of going out into the field, we coordinate activities. For example, if there's a logistical issue, we liaise with the transportation sector and try to see how we can reach the vulnerable communities, how can we use available transportation to deliver the rations or the goods that we need to provide? 

If these things weren’t well coordinated, some vulnerable communities could miss out on receiving the support they need and that might be available.  

We have also been involved with the “large corporate” private sector as they have technical expertise and can provide some technological support in terms of IT software to see how they can help businesses go online, everything down to how to backup data and business records so they are safe from any disaster. 

  Recently, throughout Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, there was there was a launch of a PRP, known as the Pacific Resilient Partnership Task Force. So, PIPSO and PBRN have been engaged in this task force in various categories working at a regional level to create a level of awareness of resilient communities and businesses. 

How CBi has supported your work? 

CBI for us has been a crucial key stakeholder. Ever since we became part of CBi, we learned a lot from conferences, workshops, webinars, especially lessons learned and best practices from other Member Networks such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka. 

CBi has been a great supporter of ours, and two projects that we want to undertake are to continue resiliency building which includes BCP training on an ongoing basis, and to do a resource mapping and mobilization out in one of the districts in in Fiji. 

Photo credit:UNOCHA/Mark Garten