Business engagement in humanitarian relief: key trends and policy implications

Business engagement in humanitarian relief: key trends and policy implications

Business engagement in humanitarian relief: key trends and policy implications

This paper explores the new roles that companies are playing in humanitarian action. It examines the various forms corporate engagement, with a particular focus on partnerships, and explores the underlying motivations behind this involvement. The authors also discuss whether these new forms of corporate engagement - along with new donor funding patterns - represent potential competition to humanitarian ctors, and how they could potentially impact humanitarian principles.

The paper finds that business engagement in humanitarian relief has expanded in scope and size in recent years, in both voluntary and commercial ways. This increased humanitarian involvement is attributed to a range of factors, with the most prominent rationale being that such activities of contribute to positive branding and motivate staff.

The paper also finds that:

  • companies engaged in humanitarian work tend to prefer in-kind assistance to cash aid
  • the vast majority of engagement relates to natural disaster relief, with the financial value of such engagement remaining very small
  • commercial engagement in humanitarian relief is based largely on effective public relations/brand management campaigns by companies involved in this field
  • the perception that companies increasingly compete on a commercial basis with traditional humanitarian actors seems overstated and may be influenced by the highly publicised instances of corporations receiving large USAID contracts during the Afghan and Iraq wars
  • commercial business engagement seems to be largely limited to reconstruction and long-term development
  • partnerships with businesses can bring needed technical expertise and added capacity.

The report recommends that:

  • partner selection should be based on a match between identified gaps, the skills and capacities on offer and the ability of the agency to manage the partnership
  • companies should seek not to limit themselves to natural disasters or high-profile cases
  • companies should be more transparent about the contributions they make to humanitarian relief.