Corporate Citizenship During a Geopolitical Crisis (Part 4 of 5)

How Companies Can Help the Displaced and Trapped Inside Ukraine, co-authored with Paul Washington, Executive Director, ESG Center, The Conference Board
Corporate Citizenship During a Geopolitical Crisis (Part 4 of 5)
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How Companies Can Help the Displaced and Trapped Inside Ukraine 

In our most recent essay, we focused on ways that companies can assist the more than 5 million refugees who have fled Ukraine (over 10 percent of the population). We noted that the refugees are part of a broader picture of 7.1 million who are displaced internally and another several million who are effectively trapped in place. In this essay, we offer five concrete steps that companies can take to help these vulnerable Ukrainians inside the country. 

  • First, if you haven’t already, it’s time to revise your overall Ukraine relief plan. In the first weeks of the war, companies addressed immediate needs, with a particular focus on refugees. This was based on the premise that Russian forces would quickly overtake territory and it would be difficult to provide relief in a war zone. Yet given the resistance and resilience of the Ukrainian people, the dynamic has changed. There is both a greater need—and opportunity—to provide assistance to those who remain Ukraine. Support now needs to be viewed as a long-term proposition. 
  • Second, be flexible in addressing critical needs as they emerge. For example, the number of verified attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine has risen to more than 100. Consider how you can help provide trauma and surgical supplies, essential medicines, backup generators and fuel, as well as support emergency medical teams (EMTs) that are being sent to Ukraine. There is also an ongoing need for goods, such as food, water, and shelter; for communications services to reduce the reliance on the national communications infrastructure; and specialized support for people with disabilities and/or serious medical conditions, as well as older people and minority groups increasingly facing barriers in accessing the services they need. 
  • Third, consider providing aid to farmers. We are facing the prospect of a global food crisis; Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of wheat and barley, as well as fertilizer. While agribusiness adjusts their global supply chains, we should not lose sight of the farmers in Ukraine. According to the Food Security Cluster, which coordinates food security responses during a humanitarian crisis, farmers urgently require support with food for young animals (cattle, goats, sheep, etc.) and agricultural inputs, including seeds, livestock fodder, and fuel. The focus on farmers can extend to rural communities. Roughly a third of the country’s population, around 12.6 million, live in rural communities. Population displacement and damage to agricultural infrastructure and land will likely have significant short- and longer-term impacts on food security. 
  • Fourth, when evaluating which organizations to support, look at the run-rate of the relief they provide. While it may appear that certain organizations are awash in resources, those effectively deploying their resources may often have just days or weeks of cushion to continue their work. 
  • Finally, consider what form long-term investment in Ukraine might take. While we’ve noted the many ways in which providing assistance during a war is unique, established frameworks for natural disasters can provide a model. As with a natural disaster, much of the focus—including in the suggestions above—is on providing immediate relief. Yet while much of the long-term work of recovery and rebuilding are the responsibilities of government, corporations have a role to play. They can not only rebuild their own operations, but also lend their expertise by working closely with governments to help rebuild infrastructures needed for commerce to return. And, of course, there will be much humanitarian work to be done tending to the mental and physical health of employees and extending that to others in supply chains. 

It’s important to think about not just how to help Ukraine, but what we can learn from Ukraine and Ukrainians. We’re learning more about how to respond with greater flexibility in a crisis—simultaneously focusing on immediate relief, preparedness, and longer-term recovery. Most of all, we have seen how people can come together against all odds. Ukrainians have demonstrated selflessness, resilience, a sense of unity and purpose, and an extraordinary sense of volunteerism. It is an inspiration to us all.

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