MARKETING AND COMMS
Sustainable Brands Issue in Focus
CHANNELS    |    Behavior Change      Leadership      Products & Design      Supply Chain      Marketing & Comms      New Metrics    |    MORE

Consumers Now Expect Companies to Step Up During Disaster Relief Efforts

Chevrolet donated 50 full-sized Silverado pick-up trucks and Express cargo vans to the Red Cross during relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

As communities around the world continue to recover from natural disasters on epic scales, citizens will and are looking to companies — not just governments or aid organizations — to provide critical relief assistance. According to the 2013 Cone Communications Disaster Relief Trend Tracker, 87% of global consumers believe companies must play a role in natural disaster response — in part because the majority (69%) thinks corporations are better able to effectively respond.

“It can’t be a case of ‘if’ companies contribute to natural disaster recovery efforts; it must be a question of ‘how,’” says Craig Bida, executive vice president of social impact, Cone Communications. “Regardless of geography, citizens are looking to companies — even more so than government agencies — to create and implement real, on-the-ground solutions to acute and urgent needs. Consumers in communities have been burned by slow reaction times or inadequate resources in past relief efforts. What our research has documented is a citizen call for help that corporations simply cannot ignore.”

Providing Aid Beyond the Check

Surveying more than 10,000 citizens throughout the U.S., Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan, the 2013 Disaster Relief Trend Tracker reveals a near-universal demand for meaningful corporate aid beyond providing funds:

  • 89% of global citizens think companies should leverage their unique assets to lend support to affected communities (such as mobile response units, in-kind donations and employee volunteers)
  • 87% wants companies to play a longer-term role in relief efforts, not just immediate recovery

    Consumers stand ready to work alongside companies toward relief efforts and will reward those caring companies with a strong brand halo. More than half (54%) of global citizens say they have already joined corporate disaster relief efforts, while nine-in-10 global citizens have a more favorable impression of a company after learning that it supports disaster recovery.

Country-Specific Insights

Corporate participation in disaster relief efforts is particularly critical in China, one of the most disaster plagued areas in the world. Chinese citizens express a near-unanimous desire for company involvement in relief efforts (96% vs. 87% global average). They are also exceptionally primed for participation efforts, with more than three-quarters reporting they have already contributed to corporate disaster relief activities (78% vs. 54% global average).

Similarly, citizens in both India and Japan are still recovering from recent natural disasters, such as flooding in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand and the massive Fukushima earthquake in Japan. Citizens in these countries were significantly more likely to perceive companies as better equipped than government to respond to disasters (85% and 80%, respectively, vs. 69% global average).

As companies work to develop both immediate and long-term relief programs, Cone Communications offers the following five tips to best support efforts:

  1. Look beyond the check: Although cash donations can give disaster nonprofits a much-needed monetary injection to meet urgent needs, the most effective relief efforts don’t always come in the form of dollar contributions. Companies that leverage unique assets — such as products, technology or networks — can often make significant impact when it comes to recovery and restoration efforts. Companies can partner with NGOs to ensure relief supplies can be quickly delivered across the globe.
  2. Do your due diligence: In the age of crowd-sourced donations and online giving, it’s even more vital to choose nonprofit partners wisely. When initially selecting a partner, make sure the nonprofit can also make a long-term commitment to relief and rebuilding efforts and that the organization is prepared to report and communicate on the progress and impact of programs.
  3. Engage your stakeholders: Company stakeholders, including employees and consumers, often want to take part in corporate relief efforts. Companies should not only provide channels for stakeholders to donate to relief efforts, but also make short- and long-term volunteer and giving opportunities available as appropriate.
  4. Communicate efforts externally and appropriately — and don’t forget to be social: No company wants to appear exploitative during a disaster. At the same time, companies that fail to communicate may be criticized for neglecting to contribute. To ensure transparency, companies should issue brief, facts-only news releases and leverage social media as a way to disperse critical fundraising and relief information during disasters.
  5. Don’t give and run: Just because a disaster is no longer in the headlines doesn’t mean recovery is over. Although immediate relief needs are real and pressing, long-term rebuilding is a critical component of disaster efforts. Companies should be prepared to be involved for the long-haul, offering essential support for reconstruction.

In keeping with consumers’ expectations that companies do their part to aid in disaster relief is the expectation that they be an active participant — if not a driving force — in solving our most pressing social and environmental issues, according to the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, released earlier this year.


Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]


  Sign up for SB Newsletters
Get the latest personalized news, tools, and virtual media on a wide range of sustainable business topics in your inbox.

 

User login

GET THE LATEST NEWS SENT TO YOUR INBOX