Disaster Management– ESG integration in preparedness, response and recovery

Disaster management is the process of managing the impact of a disaster via mobilization, allocation of resources, and organization of responsibilities. In order to grow sustainably, it is important to control the impact that such disasters could have on society as a whole. Integration of ESG factors in practices and policies has grown into one of the major requirements to attain overall sustainability. ESG factors also play an important role in disaster management. In the following article we look at ESG integration across the three important phases of disaster management – preparedness, response and recovery.

Preparedness: Reducing the risks related to a certain calamity or disaster.

The risks related to disasters must be mitigated collectively with the help of environmental, social and governance measures. The use of appropriate environmental techniques could be one of the risk-mitigating factors. For example, during the monsoon of 2017, in the heavily flood-affected areas of South Asia, something as simple as planting of mangroves could have steadily reduced the risk posed by a tidal surge. Alternatively, in drought affected areas of Kenya, practices such as terracing, water retention and detention, reclamation of salt-affected soil could be crucial risk-mitigation measures. In the social context, it is most important to provide support to the vulnerable and ‘most likely to be affected’ communities so that the extent of damage to a particular community, or even the ecosystem as a whole, can be minimized. This is because ecosystem depletion is one of the factors which enhance the impact of a disaster. Mere relocation of the community would only re-expose the affected area.

For example, after the tsunami of 2004 that hit several coasts of South and Southeast Asia, lack of restoration of habitat along the affected coastlines would have only re-exposed the coastlines even more due to factors such as soil erosion, lack of biodiversity and overall ecological imbalance. The importance of governance factors in this process cannot be overlooked either. Effective governance systems are needed to monitor, integrate and co-ordinate the various risk-mitigation measures. Governance is very important from the point of view of applicable legislative and regulatory measures. In case of a disaster such as Irma, a governing body must also think in terms of efficient information sharing measures, so as to accelerate, co-ordinate and even modify the required preparation measures, if needed.

Response: Reacting to the occurrence of a calamity or disaster

Responding to a disaster post-impact or even during impact is as important as preparedness. Systematic and planned environmental restoration is one of the crucial factors that must be integrated into disaster management processes. Oregon’s forest fires have cost nearly US$340 million, scorching about 42,000 acres of state-protected lands. A well-planned reforestation process is crucial to restore ecological balance after a forest fire. If the reforestation is unplanned and random, the chances of a forest fire affecting a similar expanse of the forest are quite high. Lack of reforestation would have a harmful impact on the pre-existing ecological balance. From a social perspective, a natural disaster must be countered with adequate health and safety measures, in order to minimize the impact on victims. The lack of a sustainable fire organization to deal with Oregon’s problems even after repeated disasters has only worsened the effect of wildfires.

It is also important to efficiently relocate the community temporarily post-impact, in order to restore the habitat of the community. For example, the government temporarily relocated thousands in the state of Bihar, India to prevent further deaths as a result of the floods. As a governing body, in this stage of disaster management, it is wise to set up community groups within the affected areas to provide immediate relief measures. It is also important to have disposable workforce groups trained appropriately to manage the impact of a disaster. Such measures could have greatly helped the disaster management procedures in flood-affected areas of Bangladesh and Nepal. Overall, from the point of view of governance, it is of utmost importance to develop disaster-management infrastructure.

Recovery: Restoring stability after a disaster

Response is followed by recovery, which is one of the defining factors in post-impact disaster management. It is the phase in which efforts are directed towards overall social and ecological restoration. Environmentally, rehabilitation of the ecosystem in the form of reforestation, restoration of habitat relevant to existing forms of biodiversity and structural redevelopment of the overall environmental management system is crucial.

From a social perspective, it is important to openly disseminate knowledge relevant to the disaster management procedures. It is also important to sustainably redevelop the social capital, in order to protect long-term needs and interests of all stakeholders. For example, in the case of the drought in Kenya, the governing body should have ideally implemented measures such as promotion of sustainable redevelopment of social capital, through sustainable investments and legislative measures, to overlook future disaster management procedures. A sustainable governance structure is of utmost importance in order to effectively deal with disasters over the long term.

As highlighted above, the need for disaster management cannot be overlooked. The importance of integration of ESG factors in risk mitigation is an equally important message that must be understood and applied. Environmental, social and governance methods must work together in order to effectively manage the impact of a disaster. The efficacy of environmental factors is undermined if the corresponding social and governance measures are absent, and vice-versa. Application of ESG is important in order to establish sustainable risk-mitigation and redevelopment, so that new risks aren’t developed as a result of lack of sustainability.