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NEWS / Were the Thailand floods of 2011 a turning point for private sector attitudes to disaster risk?
Category: Agribusiness & Forestry, Defence & Security, Government & Policy, Health & Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing, Retail & Supply Chains, Transport & Communications


Image: "Flooding of Rojana Industrial Park, Ayutthaya, Thailand, October 2011" by U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert J. Maurer - Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System: III Marine Expeditionary Force / Marine Corps Installation Pacific. Licensed under Public Domain

The Chair of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNIDSR) Private Sector Advisory Group, Mr Aris Papadopoulos, has said the it is time for the private sector to move from ‘disaster reaction to resilience pro-action’.  

Speaking at the ‘Business and Private Sector: Investing in Resilient Infrastructure’ session at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place last month in Sendai, Japan, Mr Papadopoulos called for the private sector to drive a significant increase in the standards for urban planning and building codes in order to increase resilience to environmental hazards such as floods and storms.

Mr Papadopoulos, formerly CEO of cement and building materials giant Titan America, said that “The built environment is where we spend 95% of our lives, and it is in residential areas and commercial districts for SMEs [small-medium sized enterprises] where 80% of destruction from disasters occur.” 

Mr Papadopoulos was joined by the Deputy Secretary-General of Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board, Ms. Ladawan Kumpa, to present a vision for more resilience urban development. The vision is made up of five elements: strong public private partnerships; resilience in the built environment; risk-sensitive investments and accounting; positive cycle of reinforcement for a resilient society; and private sector risk disclosure. 


Turning point

When presenting the vision Ms. Ladawan Kumpa, recalled the US$47.5 billion direct economic cost of floods that hit Thailand in 2011. The disaster, in many ways, highlighted why such a private sector vision for the future is needed. 

“During the floods, the business’ logistics systems did not work, material could not be delivered, products could not be distributed, employees could not get to work,” Ms Kumpa said. 

“We recognized the problem as a lack of knowledge, expertise and experience to do business continuity planning as well as a lack of common standards and practical principles.” 

However, she went on to say that the flooding, which affected companies around the world, had acted as a turning point for business attitudes to climate risk management and disaster risk reduction.

The Chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Mr. Toshiyuki Shiga, said that Thailand’s response to risk management after the floods had meant that the country remained a very important location for production and operations for Japanese business. 

The floods had a huge impact on businesses in Thailand, but the impacts of the flooding were felt around the world. Global supply chains were badly disrupted causing significant losses for companies, especially in the automotive and technology sectors.

Click the infographic below to see some of the impacts of the floods: