How One Brand Plans For Unpredictable (Yet Inevitable) Disaster Response

After seeing disasters impact communities closely tied to their brand, Cruzan Rum needed a way to prepare and respond faster. Their disaster response strategy could help your company do the same.


In 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated St. Croix—the home of Beam Suntory’s Cruzan Rum brand in the US Virgin Islands—Cruzan Rum recognized the critical need to support long-term disaster relief and recovery efforts in the US and its territories. Cruzan Rum partnered with GlobalGiving to launch the Island Spirit Fund dedicated to supporting the community, recognizing the resiliency of the people of St. Croix, and ensuring no one weathers a storm alone.

Since the launch of the Island Spirit Fund, Cruzan Rum has supported disaster response, resiliency, and long-term recovery efforts of organizations working locally in the US Virgin Islands and communities in North Carolina, Texas, and Florida through annual funding commitments.

To date, more than $3.8 million has funded land reforestation, clean water access, solar job training, home reconstruction, and more. That includes developing eco-friendly farm stands for farmers on St. Croix who continue to rebuild after hurricanes Irma and Maria. The project, managed by the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, provides seven eligible farmers with upcycled steel shipping container farm stands, or “farm tiendas.” Equipped with solar panels, Wi-Fi, and potable water, these farm tiendas will help farmers stabilize and grow their businesses—and they’re hubs that will serve the community in the wake of future storms.

Developing a disaster response framework for flexibility and speed

As the climate crisis makes disasters around the world more frequent and more severe, these events hit close to home again and again for Cruzan Rum.

The Cruzan team realized they needed to be ready for the next disaster by creating a plan for nimble, rapid mobilization.

The Cruzan Rum brand team worked with GlobalGiving to develop a disaster response framework to evaluate a specific disaster event and its impact on Cruzan Rum, its employees, consumers, supply chain partners, and the communities in which they live.

Flexibility and speed are critical in the wake of a disaster, and the framework helps crystalize funding priorities and more targeted decision-making. Along with establishing key response criteria, Cruzan Rum allocated resources to a disaster contingency fund designated to support rapid response efforts.

Planning for the unpredictable but inevitable

Many brands, like Cruzan Rum, want to support their local communities in times of disaster. But with pressure from multiple groups and competing business needs, it can be difficult to decide when and where to respond, and how much to support. It’s increasingly challenging to plan for the unpredictable without clear priorities, strategic guidelines, and frameworks for decision-making.

“It’s so important that Cruzan Rum can respond rapidly to natural disasters in the communities that are core to our brand,” said Aaron Toussaint, Senior Brand Manager of Regional Brands at Beam Suntory. “We’ve made 10 rapid response grants to date, but we continue to hone our framework for decision-making to respond smarter and faster.”

Each disaster brings unique context and challenges. From hurricanes to earthquakes, the type of event and its severity will differ dramatically every time. Written processes and decision trees can be useful tools for making and executing disaster response decisions at various levels of engagement. They can help you think through key points including:

  • The disaster event. Determining in advance what type of disaster and where your company will respond to is key for rapid mobilization.
  • Needs assessment. Having a mechanism established to understand the local needs, the communities impacted, and to assess where your support can be most strategically targeted is critical.
  • Decision-making. Identifying in advance which internal and external groups are necessary to engage will support agile activation and enable strategic decision-making.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you can draft or update your company’s disaster response strategy to ensure the plan is aligned with strategic priorities, meets the needs of local communities, and follows best practices so your team is ready when the next disaster strikes.

See how GlobalGiving helps companies respond thoughtfully and strategically to disasters.


Featured Photo: Nonprofit Consortium of St. Croix (USVI) by St. Croix Foundation for Community Development

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