CEOs: 'We have resilience tools, let's use them'

Resilient investment: Top business leaders from around Asia today discussed new metrics to strengthen private sector disaster risk management.
 
By Brigitte Leoni

MANILA, 22 November 2013 – More than 50 CEOs and top managers from the insurance, bank, airline, retail, real estate and other industries in Asia gathered today in Manila to consider incentives and benchmarking tools to make their corporations more resilient against disasters.

The meeting comes two weeks after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, which, according to latest official figures, killed 5,209 people and continues to affect more than 10 million Filipinos.

The host of the forum, Mr. Hans T. Sy, President of SM Prime Holdings Inc, the country’s largest mall operator, said: “The effect of climate change is coming sooner than expected. In the Philippines alone, we have experienced 104 significant typhoons and 72 floods since 2002.”

Mr Sy was hosting the forum titled ‘Incentives for resilient investment: Increasing private sector resilience through risk informed business practices and investment’, in conjunction with UNISDR.

“We all know that even businesses with mature disaster risk management strategies are challenged by the present set up of investments,” said Mr Sy, who is also a member of UNISDR’s Private Sector Advisory Group.

The CEO of Titan America Aris Papadopoulos set the tone for the discussion: “We need to build above the current codes and standards to encourage more resilient investments.”

The President and CEO from Globe Telecom, Mr Ernest Cu, reflected on the recent trauma of Typhoon Haiyan. “We were severely affected, we had over 700 of our sites down and over 80 towers that were folded up by the winds. This is despite the fact that we built above the normal code. Our towers were rated to cope with winds close to 300 km per hour but it was not enough,” he said.

The forum discussed how the private and public sector could better work together to share risks for the benefit of communities with a focus on resilient building rating systems, metrics and standards for business resilience, and ways to promote and communicate sustainability.

“At the moment governments absorb the cost year after year but many risks can be transferred and this can be done through a better collaboration between the public and private sector,” said Richard Sanders, Executive Director and Senior Catastrophe Risk analyst from Willis Re. Insurance premiums were discussed but reductions in cost seem unlikely at the moment.

Ms Sandra Wu Wen-Hsiu, Chairperson and CEO of Kokusai Kogyo Co. Ltd and Chair of the UNISDR Private Sector Advisory Group, stressed the need to work more on resilient investments to benefit employees, their families and their communities: “We have tools, expertise and instruments that can help in saving jobs and protecting communities so we need to use them and to work better with the public sector as well.”

Mr Kevin Snowdon, Executive Director of Willis Re, highlighted the need to seize the moment after catastrophes. “The post-disaster period is a golden period to work on long term resilience and to change the way we all work together. We have a great expertise in risk assessment and risk modelling to assess resilience that we can share with the public sector to build a sustainable resilience,” he said.

Philippines Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and a Champion for the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), emphazised the need to build safer schools a day after launching a new ‘How Safe Is Your School’ initiative to encourage pupils and teachers to assess the resilience and preparedness of their schools.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, who was also present at the gathering, said: “Our challenge is not nature as nature is there; our challenge is how to deal with it, how we plan our cities, how we make resilient investments. The question now is not only to build back better and to build stronger but build differently,” she said.

The day before the private sector summit, 20 top hotel managers discussed creating a ‘hotel ready certification’ modelled on the successful ‘tsunami ready’ initiative in Bali, Indonesia, which has already certified 60 hotels.

Hotel managers and certification experts will now work with UNISDR, the Pacific Asian Travel Association (PATA) and GIZ, the German international development cooperation agency, to propose a multi-hazard hotel certification at the next Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Bangkok, in June 2014.

“We will all meet again in Thailand and Myanmar and work together to have a good proposal to make the hotel and tourism industry more resilient to disasters,” said Bert Van Walbeek from PATA.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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