Islamic Relief’s Head of Humanitarian Department, Imran Madden, discusses our event on the private sector in disaster reduction. Held at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction this week, the side event increased pressure on businesses to do more to protect communities and for improved collaboration.

Here in Sendai, Japan, world governments are thrashing out the detail of the latest draft framework for disaster reduction. Islamic Relief is using the conference to share the lessons learned from our extensive disaster risk reduction work across the globe, and highlight opportunities to increase impact. One of the biggest opportunities lies in the role of the private sector.

Profitability and social responsibility

Imran Madden speaking at the Islamic Relief side event.

Imran Madden speaking at the Islamic Relief side event.

Most of us associate terms like profitability, competitiveness and environmental degradation with the private sector – rather than social justice and social responsibility. So, can we trust businesses? Can the private sector demonstrate that its response to risk goes beyond self-interest? Will this extend to communities that surround production plants and factories?

I have attended numerous side events at Sendai, in which big business talked about measures taken to protect its supply chain at the time of an earthquake. I waited, pen in hand, to note down how they worked with local communities to protect them as well. But not a word was said.

Doing well by doing good

Islamic Relief – particularly through our platform at the World Economic Forum – has called for civil society, governments and the private sector to work together to tackle key issues facing the world today. We believe that everyone has a role to play in protecting vulnerable communities – including the private sector.

There is no choice to make between profits and ethics. It is possible to do well by doing good, as many businesses are demonstrating with disaster-resilient construction and agricultural improvements, which are supporting disaster risk management.

In an Islamic Relief side event, we explored what the private sector can do to help communities to cope with disasters that are increasing in frequency and impact. A fantastic line-up of speakers from government and civil society provided examples of successful engagement with the private sector – particularly in the Philippines, a country which is working to recover from the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and Typhoon Hagupit a year later.

Efforts to rebuild and protect communities in the archipelago underline potential impact that cross-sector collaboration can achieve. Where businesses are making a positive impact on vulnerable communities, we need to recognise this and work with them to increase the outcomes.

If we are to successfully respond to climate change and improve disaster reduction, it is vital that all sectors work together to build a safer world for everyone.