Universities etch Disaster Risk into Business Studies

TORONTO, Canada, 29 March 2016 – Ensuring that companies understand and act on the risks posed by natural and man-made hazards is a vital step towards reducing disaster impacts. Business education offers a tool to achieve this.
A dozen universities from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and the United States have come together to develop and strengthen disaster risk management in business courses.
The Workshop on Disaster Risk Management in Business Education, hosted last week in Toronto by York University’s Schulich School of Business, gave participants an opportunity to showcase cutting-edge modules that bring the issue squarely into their programmes of study.
“Each of the universities brings new perspectives and ideas to the content and organization of disaster risk management in business courses,” said workshop coordinator Professor Juan-Pablo Sarmiento, whose own US-based institution, Florida International University, is a leader in an academic field that has been growing gradually since 2005.
Awards of US$10,000 each were presented to “Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management into Management Education”, by Lila Rao-Graham and Indianna D. Minto-Coy from the Mona School of Business and Management at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, for best new academic offering; and “Teaching Disaster Risk Management at the Rotman School of Management”, by the University of Toronto’s András Tilcsik, for best existing course and new opportunities on disaster risk management in business.
“From Hurricane Sandy to BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, numerous events in recent years have exposed the vulnerabilities of firms to catastrophic failure,” according to Mr. Tilcsik, who argues that students need to learn to recognise that disaster risk is an inherent threat to businesses.
The Toronto event is a core component of the UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE), a global grouping launched last November. Among ARISE’s goals is the strengthening of disaster risk management in MBA curricula, business school courses and professional training.‎
The business world and academia are important players for the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global blueprint adopted in March last year.
The Sendai Framework focuses on action by governments, local authorities, communities and organizations – including businesses, whose resilience to hazards is critical whether they are one-person firms or multinationals whose disrupted supply chains can cause global havoc.
The role of business is all the more important given that global economic losses in disasters are expected to increase from US$260 billion in 2015 to US$414 billion by 2030. Trillions of dollars of new private investment across all sectors are expected to pour into hazard-prone areas by then, dramatically increasing the value of assets at risk.
How disaster risk is factored into, and managed in, capital investments, supply chains and operations in general will have a decisive influence on whether risk can be reduced and the targets of the Sendai Framework achieved.
The outcomes of the Toronto workshop will include the publication of the participants’ papers, the implementation of new courses by business schools, the dissemination of good practices and support for an academic network to implement disaster risk management business courses.
Besides Florida International University, Toronto University and the University of the West Indies, the institutions taking part were Brazil’s FGV-EAESP Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo; Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business and York University’s School of Administrative Studies, both in Canada; the University of Chile; Colombia’s Universidad EAFIT; the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore; the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Gadjah Mada, Indonesia; the Business School, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico; and the ESAN Graduate School of Business, Peru.
The workshop, part of the UNISDR ARISE programme, was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).