HomeResearch and policyPublicationsFor profit and progress: Rethinking the role of the private sector in humanitarian action

Key global frameworks and guiding strategies including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 highlight the value of the private sector in the fields of humanitarian action and disaster risk management (DRM). The increasingly prominent role that the private sector is playing in humanitarian action has challenged collective assumptions about which organisations can make meaningful contributions to the overall humanitarian system. Nonetheless, the fundamental ‘business case’ for commercial enterprises to be actively engaged in DRM and addressing humanitarian crises needs further consideration.  

There is still a need to determine a definitive business case for the private sector to be a stakeholder in DRM, which is still predominantly seen as the primary responsibility of governments and development partners.

This paper provides a conceptual overview of the shift in the private sector’s engagement in humanitarian action and DRM. It also considers how such engagement with the private sector has corresponded with a heightened recognition for commercial enterprises to safeguard their own business operations from disaster events while implementing development interventions that address the needs of populations affected by disasters. Finally, this paper serves as a call to action for those business leaders who will be required to play an important role to advocate the value of businesses alongside traditional humanitarian stakeholders. 

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