How should your business respond to disasters?
Hurricanes, wildfires and other major disasters are now a business responsibility. The media reports which brands are contributing what, workers ask employers for ways to help and victims take note of which businesses are sensitive to their plight. Research from Cone Communications finds that 87 percent of surveyed citizens expect companies to play a role in disaster response.
What’s a business executive to do?
Your first responsibility is to your employees. How will you treat pay, leave and other issues affecting employees stricken by disasters? Do you want to support employees who have lost their homes with monetary assistance? Will these be loans or gifts? Have you considered the tax implications?
Your second responsibility is to your customers and business partners. Might customers affected by disasters benefit from a due-date extension? A dedicated support line? In-kind product? Do you have retailers or suppliers that need help re-establishing operations?
Your third responsibility is to victims other than employees, customers and business partners. This, however, also requires responding to many questions. What qualifies as a disaster? Does it need to be a presidentially declared? What if it’s in Mexico or Thailand? How will you assist victims? Which nonprofit organizations will you partner with?
Whatever you decide regarding your company’s disaster response, it’s recommended that you have practices and policies in place and avoid making ad-hoc decisions as homes burn or communities break apart. Examples of practices and policies include:
- To support employees, CVS Health has an employee relief fund. The company and employee payroll deductions fund short-term, immediate financial relief to employees who’ve suffered significant hardship as a result of a natural disaster, family death, medical emergency or other unforeseen designated events.
- To support customers, American, Jet Blue, United, Delta and other airlines cap fares and waive fees for residents evacuating from the path of hurricanes.
- To support all disaster victims, Tide’s staffed “Loads of Hope” mobile laundry trucks provide clean clothing to families in the midst of chaos because of floods or other natural disasters.
In summary, responding appropriately to disasters is now an expectation of business, yet there are many ways to proceed. You don’t want to be making decisions under the pressure of a live disaster. Your business, and disaster victims, will be best served by practices and policies crafted well before disaster strikes.