Private sector pioneers take on resilience challenge

 
By Andrew McElroy

GENEVA, 21 May 2013 - Leading figures from the private sector said today they were ready to "come in from the cold" and play a stronger leading role to reduce disaster risk.

CEO of Titan America, Aris Papadopoulos, praised 'pioneer' business leaders who were championing the cause of resilience, on the opening day of the 4th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, but warned a long road lay ahead.

Mr Papadopoulos, who is also the Chair of UNISDR's Private Sector Advisory Group, said the private sector needed to be a central actor in building the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action, the HFA2, and help on implementation of the framework agreement for disaster risk reduction.

"There are three main action points to make this happen: first we need to increase awareness of DRR as a means to protect business as well as an avenue for value creation; second, in this era of rapid urbanisation we need to invest smartly in resilient 'city ecosystems'; and third, we need a clear division of labour between the public and private sectors and for each to concentrate on what they do best," Mr Papadopoulos said.

"We've seen both the problem and the solution - and it is us. If we make the right decisions then we can really build resilience. If we do not make the right decisions then the consequences could be catastrophic," he said and added that "we take the decisions that create disasters and we make the investments that create risk."

Although both public and private sector were more aware of the issues than in the past, said Sandra Wu, Chairperson and CEO, Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd., it was now time to “move on and set goals and find solutions”, as well as to develop further private-public sector initiatives. Getting involved was not a choice but necessary for survival.

Roger Sutton, the Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, spoke of his lessons from the disaster frontline in the wake of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand. The cost of recovery was over 20% of the country's GDP.

'Successful recovery crucially depends on speed, using the best experts possible so that you start on the right track, and finally, good institutions and government, which really count,' Mr Sutton said.

Business representatives welcomed the Disaster Risk Framework put together after extensive consultations with 14 global corporations ABB, ARUP, BG Group, Citigroup, General Electric, HCC Group, HIRCO Group, Hitachi Group, InterContinental Hotels Group, Nestlé, NTT East Corporation, Roche, Shapoorhi Pallonji&Co. Ltd., and Walmart in a joint initiative between UNISDR and PwC.

The Framework is driven by standard risk management processes -- identification, assessment, response, and mitigation -- and is structured in three sections.

Dr Paul Robertson, head of PwC's Crisis Leadership practice in London said "good crisis management creates value" and without it, firms could potentially be in "company killer territory".

Risk reduction expert Dr Satori Nishikawa, of Japan, said "just in time" global supply chains are premised on resilient networks yet the disasters of 2011 in Thailand (floods) and Japan (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency) exposed how vulnerable these networks really are to major interruption.

Dr Nishikawa highlighted the example of one Japanese medical waste processor that was only out of action briefly after the earthquake because of the robustness of its continuity planning.

Emiko Okuyama, Mayor of Sendai City, Japan, said that the city had worked with various sectors to increase its disaster risk capacity even before the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and had been recognized as a role model for disaster management by the United Nations.
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