When disaster strikes, corporations step up.

Author:Sutter, Mary

FedEx Express is known for overnight delivery, and that business skill was literally a lifesaver when a catastrophic earthquake rocked Haiti earlier this year.

The first flight to touch down after the quake was a FedEx Express plane bulging with blankets, medicine, tarpaulins and other desperately needed supplies. It was part of $1.8 million worth of earthquake assistance FedEx Express provided. That sum was on top of the innumerable volunteer hours of its employees.

"I've been with the company for 25 years and I think that is part of the FedEx DNA," said Cliff Deeds, a managing director of Latin America-Caribbean for the company. It's also part and parcel of operations. "Our budget includes four million pounds of relief efforts built into our business model," he said.

FedEx isn't alone. Although much attention is focused on the role NGOs and governmental aid play in catastrophes, a significant amount of the effort comes from the corporate sector, which takes this social responsibility quite seriously.

Deeds is a founding partner and current chairman of America's Relief Team, a Florida-based nonprofit. Formed in 2004, it has primarily provided immediate post-hurricane support in Latin America and the Caribbean. By having disaster-relief infrastructure in place, it was able to lend a much-needed hand after the Haitian earthquake as well.

It is just one example of corporations formally organizing their response to natural disasters. In Haiti, for instance, the Coca-Cola Company has teamed with nonprofit TechnoServe and the Inter-American Development Bank on a $7.5 million, five-year project to modernize mango cultivation to create a sustainable industry for small farmers in the devastated nation.

After Chile's earthquake, mining companies were among the many private-sector corporations to offer cash and equipment to assist in the clean...

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