Letter to the Editor: corporate support for tsunami aid

The following letter was published in full by the Financial Times, with an excerpt printed in The Economist on Feb 3.

The following letter was published in full by the Financial Times, with an excerpt printed in The Economist on Feb 3.

Sir, While some cynical commentators at Davos question whether corporations can "buy a clean conscience" with big charitable donations, a handful of companies have been quietly moving mountains to reach the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis.

The very first food aid to arrive in Banda Aceh from the World Food Programme was trucked in by a corporate donor. TNT provided aircraft, delivery vans and drivers. Unilever lent its vast consumer products distribution network - including trains - to get food to survivors. Danone manufactured and donated high-energy biscuits. Citigroup immediately offered office space, desks and phones for the crack team of WFP logisticians that moved into Bangkok for this vast relief operation. And Boston Consulting Group employees lent their expertise.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, this kind of help is better than any money can buy and it gives WFP the edge in moving aid fast. Together, we can leverage corporate assets and involve employees, and the big winners are the people whose homes and families had been torn apart. All of this was possible because WFP has corporate partners, not just corporate donors. They understand our needs and know just what to offer and our way of doing business matches theirs.

I think that we could repeat this experience over and over again, to save the 6m children who die every year - off camera - from hunger and related diseases. If we can do it in tsunamis-ravaged communities, surely we can do it where the wave that is swallowing people up is hunger and poverty.

Now there is a challenge for Davos 2006.

James T. Morris, Executive Director, UN World Food Programme