NEW YORK – The killer tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes of the past year have led to more aid from U.S. companies, which are increasingly reaching out to donate money and supplies and provide expertise, training and services. Awash in cash as a result of the high-flying economy, corporations and executives’ private foundations can now respond faster, helped by the overseas presence of many U.S. businesses which often see an opportunity to advance their strategic interests. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, triggered the largest corporate aid effort for an international disaster and is second only to the $750 million collected after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Humanitarian relief experts say the new shifts in philanthropy reflect the reality of a smaller world, where globalization, better communications and large-scale migration are cooperating to boost the profile of natural disasters and humanitarian crises wherever they occur. And giving can play a significant role on a company’s competitive position in the marketplace. “The private sector is uniquely qualified to raise funds, coordinate rapid response, and leverage resources around the world,” said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Citigroup Inc., in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. Citigroup is donating $7 million cash, including $1 million through an employee matching program, to a relief fund for the victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake in northwestern Pakistan. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake “U.S. companies are committed to humanitarian relief and do care as well about improving their image abroad – especially given the anti-American climate,” said Maria Schneider of Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading corporations. From big oil firms to retailers to pharmaceuticals, technology and financial concerns, companies are becoming more sophisticated in their giving. “During this year of disasters – here and abroad – the U.S. private sector has not only been generous financially, but has also provided its expertise and diverse resources to support the outstanding work of relief agencies on the ground,” said John J. Castellani, president of Business Roundtable. “Donated medicines, water purification systems, vehicles, satellite phones and logistics and technology know-how have undoubtedly saved lives.” In response to the tsunami, which killed at least 200,000 people in 12 countries, nearly 600 U.S. companies have generated more than $565 million in aid – cash, products and services – for the reconstruction efforts in Southeast Asia, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Corporate Citizenship. In much the same way, the corporate sector played a crucial role during Hurricane Katrina which ravaged the Gulf Coast in August. Over 390 companies have given $409 million and collected $138 million in contributions from donors so far, for a total of $547 million – which could eventually reach $1 billion, said the Center. “Corporate philanthropy has become part of a bigger picture as companies realize the social benefits for global communities,” said Cari Parsons of the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, a New York-based international forum of business CEOs. Businesses are also getting more involved in global crises outside the scope of their usual cash donations. “This year U.S. companies have contributed not only more money but also services, supplies, technical expertise, volunteers and training. They are sending doctors to care for the victims,” Parsons, the committee’s director of operations, said. In October, five U.S. private sector executives established the South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund to help the victims of the killer earthquake in which at least 87,000 people died and an additional 3.5 million were left homeless, most of them in northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir. The fund was formed by the CEOs of Citigroup, General Electric Co., Pfizer Inc, UPS and Xerox Corp. with the aim of raising $100 million by Jan. 31 to meet “the desperate need for food, medical treatment and supplies” of the quake survivors. It will complement the overall U.S. government relief and reconstruction commitment – over $500 million. “This natural disaster is unlike any earthquake seen in modern history,” said Henry A. McKinnell, Jr., Pfizer chairman and CEO. “Looking at this tragedy, you feel that very strong part of the American culture and tradition – that is when your neighbor needs help, you try to help.” He said drugmaker Pfizer has doubled its initial quake disaster relief contribution to $2 million in cash and $10 million in medicine and health care products. “Pakistan is a very good friend of the United States in the war against terror, and the U.S. wants to help,” said McKinnell, who toured the devastated area with other executives in November. “Once the weather clears, we will work to start rebuilding health clinics and hospitals and schools that were destroyed by this devastating earthquake.” Pfizer also gave more than $52 million in cash and medicines to relief charities for the Asian tsunami tragedy. Among other generous donors to the Pakistani quake victims, General Electric donated $6 million cash and $5 million worth of medical, power and water purification equipment; and Boeing Co. and Xerox gave $1 million cash each. For one thing, global warming is likely to keep corporate America busy in its humanitarian relief work in the years to come, as deadly hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and floods continue – if not get even worse. Including the Dec. 26 tsunami, at least 300,000 people died from natural disasters over the last 12 months, the highest total ever in that time frame, the World Meteorological Organization said last week.Major U.S. donors in recent natural disasters (total contribution, including cash and noncash): For Southeast Asia Tsunami Pfizer Inc.: $52,100,000 Coca-Cola Co.: $20,038,981 General Electric: $16,100,000 Chevron: $12,240,000 Citigroup, Inc.: $12 million Merck & Co.: $10,943,159 GlaxoSmithKline, PLC: $10,230,000 For Hurricane Katrina Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: $29,265,000 General Electric Co.: $20,750,000 Citigroup Inc.: $11.2 million Merck & Co. Inc: $10,800,000 GlaxoSmithKline, PLC: $10,000,000 Toyota Motor, North America Inc: $7,500,000 Johnson & Johnson: $7,470,000 For South Asia Earthquake Pfizer Inc.: $12,000,000 General Electric Co.: $11,000,000 Citigroup Inc.: $7,000,000 Coca-Cola Co: $2,000,000 BP America Inc.: $1,200,000 Boeing Co.: $1,000,000 Xerox Corp.: $1,000,000 (Source: Business Roundtable, Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, Citigroup)160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!