Expert of the Week   for  02 - 08 Mar 2015

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Cristóbal Mena

Safety and Risk Manager

Metrogas Expertise:  National Law for Disaster Risk Reduction, Corporate Social Responsibility, Raising Awareness of Disaster Risk Reduction, Emergency Management, and Public Policies.

Cristóbal is a Chilean political scientist holding two post-graduate diplomas for Disaster Risk Management and Planning; also JICA alumni with more than 10 years of progressive experience in risk and emergency management, working in areas such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public policies. Currently he is working as Safety and Risk Manager in Metrogas -a major natural gas company in his country- and has been summoned by the Chilean Senate to give advice about the law bill to create a new national system for disaster risk management. He is currently implementing a CSR program in Metrogas regarding risk awareness and management with a strong focus on communities. He has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 11 years in the Santiago Fire Brigade where has held officer posts such as Training Officer and Second Lieutenant. In addition, he was a member of the Chilean USAR Team that responded to the Haiti and Chile earthquakes of 2010.

Corporate Social Responsibility, an opportunity to reduce disaster risk

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QQuestion by Mr Roberto BRUTUS

Considering the line of reasoning behind the crucial importance of Corporate Social Responsibility for public and private corporations , especially multinationals that operate their big businesses in South America in countries like Chile , Brazil, Argentina, etc.
In Chile itself companies are not really accountable for many issues related to DRR in the regions. What can you propose?


APosted on 08 Mar 2015

Thanks for asking such an interesting question Roberto. Let me use as an example Chile, and particularly the earthquake occurred the 27th of February 2010.

Before this natural event, risk management in private corporations and government, was understood in Chile mainly in two ways: risk transfer and corrective disaster risk management (UNISDR, 2009). Chief Financial Officers where the key actors in transferring risk at a commercial and industrial level through the insurance market, primarily because risk was understood as financial loss and; on a more radical view, biased by the idea that disasters where unavoidable reflected in the use of the term natural disaster –disasters aren’t natural but socio-natural-. Strict constructive standards, influenced by the recurrent seismic activity in Chile, it’s still a stronghold of the way disaster risk is corrected in the country, setting an example that has raised the attention of other earthquake prone nations.

Unfortunately, disaster risk management based on these two pillars, proved insufficient to cope with an event such as the “27F earthquake”; as Chileans name it. Reasons for the former abound and somehow are diffused, I dare to presume this can be explained by the fact that risk management, besides financial risk management, hasn’t been treated in formal study programmes. We need globally, more Chief Risk Officers that can assume the responsibility of managing risks and have a proactive tendency towards accountability and transparency. For this purpose, it’s imperative to develop and implement formal studies to manage and raise awareness of risk management.

I’ve always believed you should lead by example. Under this premise, something that became evident after 27F, and hasn´t been tackled, is the lack of Business and Government Continuity Plans particularly in public owned companies. There´s a huge space for improvement in this topic, therefore I believe the government should act decidedly to adopt and implement BCP’s for their companies, leading by example on this critic issue.

Finally, the most important lesson to learn from this experience is the need for better public-private cooperation and synergy in risk management topics. There’s a lot of experience and resources –physical and intellectual- allocated on the private sector that, without doubt, could improve the way the government and vice-versa could reduce risk and vulnerabilities, hence the need to develop better institutional frameworks on DRR that consider accountability and transparency to be key actions when companies are requested to implement measures to manage risk.

QQuestion by Mr Rodrigo Mena

How necessary do you think it is to increase public–private partnership to increase risk reduction program's effectiveness?

Many times CSR projects are not in line with government initiatives, resulting in an inefficient use of resources. Thus, it seems that PPP initiatives can lead to bridge the gap between private and public sectors towards a common and greater good in terms of risk reduction.

Mr Rodrigo Mena Environmental Social Scientist and Researcher | Private

APosted on 03 Mar 2015

Thanks for that question Rodrigo, which goes to the marrow of the topic.

It seems that for years a great number of societies conceived the relation of State and Private Company as antagonists, hence the emergence of public companies and other measures that tended to separate both development areas.

Fortunately, nowadays we can a see a shift towards understanding that the public and private sectors are equal actors on the society, therefore the need to align their objectives as you stated. However, I also believe that part of the benefits we can obtain of a healthy public-private partnership, is to obtain other points of view for tackling Disaster Risk Reduction.

We must remember that in most of the countries, their Constitutions or Magna Carta state clearly the responsibility towards safety of the public sector. Therefore, it is vital that governments pave the road towards DRR but as all the members of society transit the road, it’s important to develop clear and robust institutional frameworks that consider and incentive the participation of the private sector, bridging the –hopefully- old gap.