Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Economy & Business

U.S. Corporations Join The Effort To Help Hurricane Harvey Victims


Local, state and federal agencies have mobilized to provide relief for victims of Harvey in east Texas and in the state of Louisiana. Now businesses are joining that effort. Here's NPR's John Ydstie.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Phil Caruso is a spokesperson for Walgreens, the big drugstore chain. He says his company, like many others, has emergency plans ready to execute during this kind of event. He says Walgreens had to close about 90 stores in the Houston area but managed to reopen a couple dozen with electrical generators it had pre-positioned in the region. But, he says, Walgreen's disaster planning goes beyond just reopening stores.

PHIL CARUSO: We have been in contact with Mayor Turner's office in Houston and the American Red Cross on how we can assist in relief efforts. And we're working to support the shelter that's been set up in the convention center in Houston with some food, health supplies and prescription needs.

YDSTIE: Walmart is responding too, says corporate spokesperson Lucas McDonald. In fact, the company has an employee assigned to the Texas emergency operations center to work directly with state officials. McDonald says trucking critical supplies to Houston's big convention center is what both the state and his company have been focused on.

LUCAS MCDONALD: So we've spent a lot of time working on routes. There are a lot of folks sitting at tables with big maps in front them, trying every different way. We think we may be close to a solution. But that's what's happened currently.

YDSTIE: Home Depot spokesperson Matt Harrigan says his company has a permanent hurricane distribution center located in Baytown in the Houston metro area.

MATT HARRIGAN: We've had about 500 truckloads that have been shipped down to that area since - really, since early last week. And we know that that number will increase quickly as we gain better access into Houston.

YDSTIE: Last week's deliveries before the hurricane were heavy on plywood. Tarps and cleaning supplies will be the big items in the coming days. Many large companies are also donating money to the cause. Both Walmart and Home Depot have announced they'll provide a million dollars for disaster assistance to organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Of course, both will also make a lot of money on the other side of this disaster selling crucial material for the cleanup and recovery. Mustafa Tameez, the managing director of the PR firm Outreach Strategists, which is based in Houston, says that's partly because of the growing number of millennials in the workforce.

MUSTAFA TAMEEZ: Millennials want their corporates to be more engaged. They want to see them be more socially responsible.

YDSTIE: And those employees make their wishes known on social media. But, Tameez says, corporations need to be careful not to appear overeager to publicize their good works.

TAMEEZ: The worst things are when you try to do it in a way that you want the publicity. And it's so transparent that everyone can see the only reason that you're doing it is to just to push out that press release or to get that photo-op.

YDSTIE: In the Twitter-Facebook age, he says, companies will quickly pay a price for that on social media. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington..

(SOUNDBITE OF JIZUE'S "SAIGO NO ASA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.