When Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines’ deadliest on record, struck the island of Samar in 2013, businesses operating in the area were quick to decide they had a responsibility to help the recovery effort.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) took a leading role, helping to establish a model of disaster recovery that put the private sector on the front line. The telecoms company has won this year’s UPS International Disaster Relief Award for its work.
After the typhoon struck, PLDT resurrected the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), a group of businesses that had worked together in 2009 to cope with severe floods in Manila. They provided food, shelter and medical help to survivors of the storm and established a platform for communication between companies, government bodies and overseas agencies.
Crucially, the company restored the area’s telephone networks, enabling survivors to reassure relatives they were alive. “For some, communication was more important than food,” says Rene “Butch” Meily, president of the PDRF.
Since Haiyan, the business group has established a permanent role for the private sector in disaster recovery. It co-ordinates work among 66 member companies to help communities to prepare for natural disasters.
The telecoms company has invested almost £2m in PDRF through direct funding, seconded staff salaries and back-office services, and is one of several companies to take a growing role in disaster relief. Another is InterContinental Hotels Group, a Responsible Business awards finalist, whose hotels last year provided shelter, water, food and sanitation in the wake of both the Nepal earthquake and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.
Mr Meily says companies are increasingly aware that in a crisis, their role should go beyond financial donations. “We learnt after Haiyan that the private sector is an important player as a participant, using its core expertise,” he says.
“Without a community to serve, we have no business. So it makes business sense to do good.”