Companies say there is a clear rationale for helping people in need and for partnering with humanitarian organizations to do so.

There is certainly a case for changing the ways things have been done in the past if the needs of people affected by humanitarian crises are to be met. The old ways just cannot keep up. Humanitarian needs are constantly increasing and humanitarian organisations are overwhelmed. Governments are donating more and more – but the gap between supply and demand continues to increase.

The new Business Case Study launched today, produced in a collaboration between OCHA, Vantage Partners and Philanthropy Advisors, asks why companies get involved. What’s in it for them? It seems, from their perspective, that companies are engaging in humanitarian action because they are motivated by a sense of moral and ethical responsibility. They also say it can also create immediate business opportunities and long-term benefits.

The private sector is a fundamental component of communities affected by humanitarian crisis. It is there before, during and after an emergency. It employs staff, who have families and friends that could all be directly affected. It is dependent as much on the local social and political infrastructure as the economic, which are all affected by humanitarian crises when they occur. It is therefore an important stakeholder in effective emergency preparation and response. Those people interviewed say that partnerships with aid groups can open opportunities for accessing and testing new markets; reduce business risk and mitigating loss; build relationships and influence with other businesses, international organizations and governments; and improve business assets such as company reputation and staff skills. The faster and more effective the response, the better it is for business.

The Sustainable Development Goals, the Agenda for Humanity and the New Way of Working all recognize the value of private sector engagement on humanitarian challenges and encourage cross sector collaboration. They even go some way to recognizing that engagement needs to be sustainable – that businesses must get something out of it, and it seems they do.

But there is still much work to be done. More companies need to get involved, and humanitarian organisations must treat businesses as real partners. The understanding of the private sector by humanitarian organisations, and visa versa, also needs to improve. This qualitative study needs the balance that only a rigorous quantitative assessment of the return on investment can provide. Businesses may also benefit from simple tools to help them to engage and to collaborate in humanitarian action in a principled, efficient, and effective way. Any volunteers?

In the meantime, lets recognize business interest in addressing humanitarian challenges, and create ways for all sectors of society to collaborate in the interests of those people directly affected by humanitarian crises.

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