Ukraine Crisis – Business Response Hub

As the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, Business in the Community Northern Ireland (BITCNI) is committed to convening our members who can share the actions they are taking. Working together aids our understanding and the effectiveness of any business response of a crisis that will not be resolved quickly. This Business Resource Hub provides a mechanism for sharing best practice, guidance and support on how companies might respond, along with understanding the impact on business and wider society.

Kieran Harding, Managing Director said:

The business community in Northern Ireland has been shocked, saddened and appalled at the crisis that is unfolding in Ukraine. The humanitarian needs are escalating, civilian casualties are increasing, essential services are at best being disrupted and at worst non-existent, and thousands of people are being forced to flee their homes.

“Our businesses and their employees are increasingly asking us how they can help the people of Ukraine. As we seek to show our solidarity and support for those who have and will suffer immeasurably, we would encourage companies to respond to the local, national and international efforts through secure organisations such as the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal.”

“We must do what we can as soon as we can to help the innocent victims of Ukraine, and bolster the work of people on the ground in neighbouring countries who are providing much-needed refuge.”

Business Response Forum series

The forums, made up of our member organisations, are safe spaces under Chatham House Rule to learn from others and share your own experiences.

The sessions are designed to help businesses understand the challenges faced by business/employers and how they are responding, gain a deeper understanding across themes such as the refugee crisis and how they will be supported in Northern Ireland, the types of donations needed and where best to connect, along with examples of employee policies and exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Please click on the buttons above to register, or email helen.bowman@bitcni.org.uk.

How members are taking action

Action is necessary, however, complex legal, operational and ethical factors can vary from one organisation to another. Purpose-led businesses have acted faster and with clearer intent.

We’ve identified four key areas that our members are working on to respond to the crisis:

  • Donations: cash and basic essentials
  • Supporting employees
  • Aiding refugees
  • Sanctions and reviewing operations

1. Donations

Visit the DEC website to donate to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal to donate or to find out how DEC brings together 15 leading UK aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently.

Business approaches for so far

  • Cash: businesses are raising funds for various charities through employee fundraising, corporate donations, giving as you earn through payroll and matching staff contributions. Companies with rewards schemes are also encouraging customers to donate their rewards to aid the crisis response.
  • Bulk products: Suitable bulk products have been donated through organisations that have redistribution routes.
  • Ad-hoc donations: we recommend that businesses discourage colleagues from donating unwanted or ad-hoc products and encourage financial donations first. Previous crises have shown that these products become unusable, mainly due to logistical issues, and subsequently end up in landfill.

2. Supporting employees

For those organisations with colleagues in Ukraine, there is a clear need to support as much as possible.

Wellbeing of employees

  • Businesses should ensure staff have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Many organisations are extending this service to the families of any Ukrainian/Russian employees who are impacted by the crisis.
  • Stories are powerful. Businesses can share Ukrainian and Russian colleagues’ stories as well as colleagues affected by conflict/wars in other countries and provide safe spaces for people to discuss the crisis and how it has been affecting them.
  • Support colleagues who may have suffered a bereavement due to the war, or those experiencing a hate crime due to their nationality. Signpost those affected to Victim Support.
  • Cyber Security: Employees and businesses should be vigilant around cyber security. Learn more at National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Aware.

Volunteering

BITC has seen that companies are not actively encouraging employees to go to the front lines to volunteer, due to the health and safety concerns that this entails (this of course will be different if employees have been conscripted to fight). Companies can, however, encourage staff to use volunteering hours in other ways.

  • Skilled volunteering: this can include pro bono support for refugees, fact checking by marcomms colleagues or providing skills to support the charities helping those most in need.
  • Non-skilled volunteering: this can be encouraged by supporting colleagues who want to take practical action (e.g. to arrange fundraising challenges).
  • Increasing volunteering hours: we’ve seen many companies giving employees additional paid leave to volunteer to respond to the crisis or to help refugees settle into their homes.

3. Aiding the refugee crisis

The combination of refugees already in the UK from previous crises and new refugees coming in from Ukraine, provide many opportunities for businesses to help those in need, both in the short and longer term.

Make your colleagues aware of their local Community Sponsorship Scheme, which may be more suitable for those unable to sponsor a refugee. Refugees Welcome and Homes for Ukraine: record your interest – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Short-term

  • Products and services: for businesses in key sectors, from healthcare manufacturing to telecommunications, there are short-term opportunities to help through free products and services for those in need, or by adapting business models to produce much needed supplies.
  • Displaced people: businesses can also think about providing accommodation for refugees through their asset portfolio, and should consider how to provide job security for any colleagues displaced by war.
  • Supporting employees taking part in government schemes: review how to support any employees who are considering offering their homes, such as through mental health support provision, safe spaces for conversations, flexible time off and financial support.

Long-term

  • In the longer term, businesses can think about how to support refugees as they settle in the UK, particularly around flexible employment that includes long-term options. This could be through:
  • a simplified job application for all refugees
  • finding ways to recognise qualifications and experience gained outside the UK through recruitment processes
  • providing refugees with support in language development and translation
  • mental health provisions
  • resettlement support

4. Sanctions and reviewing operations

More and more organisations are reviewing their operations against the risks associated with regulation, reputation and most recently the ethics of doing business in different ways.

The right path will vary depending on sector, organisation and size, the swift divestment of assets, pause on production and discontinuation of operations in response to the Ukraine crisis marks a changing point in how quickly organisations can do this and the ability and agility of business to act responsibly.

The Business in the Community Network

See the three sites below for business examples:

Engaging with the NI government

  • Households in Northern Ireland will be offered £350 a month to open their homes to people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
  • Support for Ukraine | nidirect

Media Articles for reference