How Brands Are Changing the World Through Hurricane Relief Efforts

For many throughout Texas, Florida and surrounding areas, time has stood still these last few weeks. As catastrophic hurricanes Harvey and Irma crept their way up the Atlantic, millions of people fled their homes while others hunkered down and hoped for the best. As the biggest storms in over a decade rained down upon them, the world paid attention. And as the storms dissipated and the sky cleared, the devastation was made known and the world stepped up to help. Beyond the storyline of economic and infrastructural loss, of the hundreds of lives taken or the countless lives upended, there is a narrative of those who are able, seeking to leave the world a better place than they found it.  Millions across the United States have donated to relief causes and many have even driven down to Texas and Florida to help with rescue efforts. America has shown yet again that in the face of tragedy, we take our responsibility to help each other seriously.

Brands: Doing Well By Doing Good

And while there are countless stories of individual heroes who have put their best interests aside to help others, we will focus on the unlikely hero – the corporations who are championing the relief efforts.
Because all brands sell products and services, sure – but the most successful brands (both in profit and in people) also produce and serve a higher purpose.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen that when brands aren’t trying to impact our purchasing behavior, they can be positively impacting our lives. Brands have the power to shape and change the world. During this disaster, powerful brands have banded together to lend a helping hand and serve America when we need it the most. Let’s look at some inspiring ways this is happening across the nation:

How Brands Are Helping the Hurricane Relief Efforts

Besides substantial monetary efforts like matching donations or injecting funds into specific causes, so many brands are doing what they do best – all in the name of helping others. After working diligently to remove customers and employees from harms way, airlines like United, Spirit, American, Southwest, Delta and Alaska are flying relief workers and humanitarian supplies to where they’re needed most. Human victims aren’t the only ones receiving help: Southwest Airlines rescued over 60 cats and dogs stranded due to Harvey and flew them to San Diego where adoption centers had the capacity to hold and shelter them until they are adopted. Speaking of pets, PetSmart’s 501(c)3 organization called PetSmart Charities is giving $1 million dollars to animal welfare agencies that have been working to rescue and relocate homeless pets in the storm-ravaged areas. Restaurants are also participating in charity by donating meals through the app TangoTab. Here’s how it works: When you go to a Jimmy John’s restaurant, for example, you open the app, select the restaurant you are dining in, and Jimmy John’s donates a meal to hurricane victims. Brands Like Sam’s Club and Fed-Ex even teamed up to donate and export food to those in Texas. Sam’s is also waving their membership club fee for victims. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation pledged $2 million to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner with additional plans to match their customer donations on a 2 to 1 basis. This will total up to another $10 million in support that will go to the Red Cross. Add to that the $10 million in products already on its way to organizations like Salvation Army, Feeding America, Convoy of Hope and Team Rubicon. Anheuser-Busch put their production on hold to produce, package, and ship 155,000 cans of water to victims. Comcast NBCUniversal is using their cable channels to get the word out. Along with $500,000 to the Houston Mayors’ Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the Red Cross, Comcast is donating advertising time on its networks to these charities to run public service announcements about how to help with flood relief efforts. Cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are playing a big role in using their ships for humanitarian efforts. Carnival Cruise Line donated $1,000,000 to relief efforts and their chairman, Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine are also contributing $1 million from their foundation. They are also working in their itineraries to make stops where food donations are needed to deliver supplies across the world. Samsung is also donating over half a million in technology supplies such as washers, dryers, laptops, phones, and tablets to non-profits.

Along with spreading $1 million across various organizations like Team Rubicon, Operation Blessing, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army, Home Depot is sending its Team Depot volunteers to assist with the cleanup effort and deliver supplies that customers and the stores have collected.

Bass Pro Shop donated $40,000 worth of supplies needed for rescue efforts to The American Red Cross, including 100 boats to help with relief efforts. In the same vein, Camping World not only donated funds, but is taking clothing and supply donations at their locations for victims. General Mills donated more than half a million dollars worth of food for victims. Brands such as Nature Valley and Yoplait Yogurt were among the donations. Walgreens is giving the American Red Cross some much needed food, medical equipment and first aid supplies. Plus, they’re gathering monetary donations and organizing customer donations in store. IBM donated funds but also technology services to help the city get up and running much more quickly. Dell CEO and Texas native, Michael Dell, pledged $36 million through the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation’s “Rebuild Texas Fund.”
For some brands, the goal is to donate time and finances while urging their customers and employees to do the same.
Brands like Ulta Beauty and Whataburger are donating funds while also looking after their employees who are in affected areas and facing unforeseen financial hardships. Starbucks chipped in a quarter million dollars and is matching employee donations as well.

ExxonMobile split their million dollar donation across American Red Cross and the United Way of Greater Houston.

Bank of America has earmarked a quarter million for the Red Cross with plans to disperse another $750K once more recovery needs are identified. They also will match employee donations.

AT&T offered $350,000 to help with relief, dispersed through Red Cross, Team Rubicon and the Coastal Bend Community Foundation in South Texas. Employee donations will be matched as well.

Brands like Monsanto, Nationwide, Target, General Mills, Lowe’s and Kohl’s Department Stores donated $500,000 each to relief efforts. Facebook has used their platform to raise over $10 million so far with other social entities like PayPal and GoFundMe donating funds and resources as well. Boeing, McDonald’s and Enterprise-Rent-a-Car chipped in a $1,000,000 each to charity. Amazon and Whole Foods matched $1 million in donations to the Red Cross. Apple donated $2,000,000 and is matching their employee donations 2 to 1. So many other brands are donating time, money and resources to help. Through this entire month we have seen the way brands are molded into our lives. Not only in good, but also in the bad.

With Great Brands Come Great Responsibility

We’re living in a culture where customers look to brands to help during disaster relief. Brands have become such an intricate part of our lives in this century, consumers don’t expect anything less. Where does this come from? Well, to start, it’s how you get people to work for you, and to stick around. People want to be connected to purpose and this goes beyond a brand-consumer relationship and permeates the employee lifecycle.
Employees want to be a part of the positive change that brands have the power to create and sustain.
Branding is taking a new turn. Customers no longer expect only a quality product, they expect a brand to have an identity, humanity, and a purpose in society. Brands have a corporate responsibility to positively impact society. When they look beyond profit and consumerism, corporations create dedicated customers by showing the brand is dedicated to them. Know any other amazing brand stories emerging from the recent relief efforts? Share them in the comments! Also, please visit Charity Navigator to learn how you can help with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma Relief.