Corporate responsibility and crisis

Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis. All the recent disasters have me thinking about relationships and responsibilities—specifically, as an organization, what is your responsibility in a disaster or crisis?

Companies and other organizations would do well to follow the lead of the University of Alabama. The day after the tornadoes hit, the university kept posting updates to their website, answering questions they knew their students would have.

University of Alabama Weather Info page

I saw one at 1 pm, and the one I have here is from 4:45 pm, but they had more up earlier. In fact, they had a steady stream of important updates for students, staff and parents to get answers to their questions, before and after the tornado hit.

That next day, they had graduation rescheduled and had a plan for students and their final exams. Very impressive, especially considering the extent of the damage in the area and the number of people affected.

Even the student fraternities and sororities leapt into action, making hot meals for as many people as they could.

So why don’t more large companies and organizations follow the same practices?

We expect our customers to be loyal. But we have to be loyal AND responsible too. Individuals have far less ability to gather information and bear the burdens of disaster than large organizations do.

Every company should have a comprehensive disaster response plan in place. One that not only coordinates efforts to ensure the safety of their employees, but one that serves the community as well.

Include in your disaster plan

  • Names, contact info and assigned responsibilities of all the people who are trained to be the communicators and point people in case of emergency.
  • All communications plans—e-mail, mobile, website postings, phone calls, press releases, etc. Tell your employees and customers where to go for information before a crisis hits. And consider what you will do without electricity.
  • A list of goods or services you can readily donate if needed.
  • Community contacts or public officials that will help approve and coordinate your donations.

These are just four items on a long list of preparations all organizations should make, especially organizations people depend heavily on such as:

  • Universities
  • Public schools
  • Transportation systems
  • Banks
  • Food stores
  • Health insurance companies
  • Home improvement & supplies stores
  • Pharmacies and other medical supplies stores

The list could go on and on. The point is that companies must think about these things and be ready to respond.

Companies talk a lot these days about corporate responsibility. Too many seem to think simply donating to different organizations or announcing the hours their employees spend volunteering is enough.  It’s not.

Part of every company’s brand should be to be a (real) responsible citizen of their community. One that is quick to react in times of crisis to protect and meet the needs of their customers and their community. One that in times of crisis puts people, not profit, first.


If you want to help those affected by the recent tornadoes in the southern U.S., go to the University of Alabama’s Tornado Relief web page


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