Partnerships with the private sector


The Red Cross, the environment and business

Information from the International Committee of the Red Cross

Business and IHL

International humanitarian law only expressly addresses the protection of the environment in times of armed conflict in two articles of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. Though the humanitarian ideal aims to protecting whatever is essential for the survival of the civilian population rather than the environment in itself, the environment enters into many of the challenges the Red Cross faces in the modern world, whether war, violence, natural disaster, disease or famine.

The ICRC elaborated guidelines regarding the impact of its field operations on environment in 1997 after a series of reports and articles on the environmental implications of conflict, including those over water. Even though distributed worldwide, these internal guidelines remained relatively unknown and during the last 10 years the ICRC's environmental approach has been mainly based on standards published by a variety of authoritative organizations. Today, in addition to these standards, the need to define its own policy is felt and a working group has been constituted within the organization to tackle these issues concretely.

The ICRC also sees business as a major stakeholder in its work. Since 2000, the ICRC has been engaging with business enterprises on humanitarian issues, mainly with the aim of helping them understand their rights and meet their obligations under international humanitarian law. In December 2006 it published a special guide entitled Business and International Humanitarian Law and intended for country managers and security managers who face the daily challenge of running business operations in conflict environments. It also provides a reference tool for financial, insurance and trading companies that indirectly operate in conflict zones through their clients and suppliers.

In a similar move, the ICRC and a group of selected Swiss companies set up a Corporate Support Group in 2005, establishing an innovative and long-term partnership. The ICRC's corporate partners were selected according to ethical guidelines designed to ensure that the companies had neither policies nor activities that would in any way compromise the ICRC's image or hinder its work. At the first plenary meeting of the Corporate Support Group, held in November 2006, the ICRC coached specialists from the companies in a simulation workshop to deal with a conflict-related emergency triggered by a massive population displacement. They tackled the issues of operational management, security, human resources, communication and logistics.

Members of the Corporate Support Group provide additional sources of funding for the ICRC, thereby increasing the private-sector component of ICRC financing. Their substantial contributions support either the operational activities of the ICRC or are used to train the institution's most precious asset, its staff.