Support to SMES moves forward the private sector in Trinidad and Tobago

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean
Port of Spain

The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), through the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilience Societies (ARISE) initiative, is engaging the private sector to create more risk-resilient enterprises so that business can resist, cope and recover quickly during times of sudden shocks, emergencies and disasters. AMCHAM T&T, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) has launched a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) workshop to support small and medium enterprises that do not have dedicated departments to address BCP measures within their organizations.

The BCP workshop provides a framework for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to start identifying and addressing the exposure to risks of their businesses, and to prioritize areas for prevention action. It also seeks to raise awareness of inherent business risks and to be a catalyst for developing risk informed strategies in MSMEs.

At the launch of the workshop, Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T highlighted the Caribbean region’s vulnerability as an important indicator for businesses to have BCP in their operations. “This vulnerability is multi-dimensional - it includes economic, social and environmental factors. The frequency of disasters in this region means that recovery can take years. We know that our region will almost always be susceptible to sudden and quick changes affecting both our lives and business. If it’s not COVID-19, it’s going to be the impact of climate change. The point is, if we are going to survive, we must make business continuity planning part of our long-term company’s strategic vision.”

In this context, AMCHAM T&T believes the support to the private sector (particularly MSMEs) in areas of understanding of risk, business continuity and disaster risk reduction is considered vital to ensuring a quick and resilient economic and social recovery after sudden adverse events.

Despite the region’s exposure to multiple hazards, AMCHAM T&T recognizes that the private sector has the capacity to serve as a catalyst for bringing disaster risk information to other social sectors, supporting risk-informed governance, and helping the government to fulfil its 2030 Agenda obligations, most notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction; and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Against this backdrop, the business continuity planning (BCP) workshop will support the ARISE initiative, which looks at engaging the private sector on these important matters.

“The private sector plays a critical role in national development and is an essential partner with the public sector in the national response and recovery plans during times of national disasters and other sudden shocks and emergencies,” Ghany said. “Therefore, AMCHAM T&T believes it is necessary for MSMEs to become more risk-resilient so that they can recover quickly and contribute more towards ensuring social change, economic diversity, reducing poverty and achieving greater gender inclusion.”

Meanwhile, Major General (Retired) Rodney Smart, CEO of the ODPM said the Business Continuity Management (BCM) strategy for the public service in T&T is aligned with the Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy Framework for Trinidad and Tobago and the National Response Framework, the latter which applies a 3-level response system. The policy acknowledges that a major disruption can potentially lead to a country-wide disaster, the response to which may have to be coordinated by the ODPM. “The purpose of the strategy is to ensure timely and effective business continuity, disaster preparedness, response and total business recovery, should a major interruption occur in Trinidad and Tobago,” Smart said.

He says the BCM Policy and other business continuity processes are directly linked to the ODPM’s strategy for the implementation of Comprehensive Disaster Management which is the Regional Framework espoused by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and is reflected through 4 pillars:

  • Mitigation – Risk Identification, Assessment and Reduction
  • Preparedness – Risk Control, Early Warning Systems
  • Response – Emergency Response Plans, Business Continuity Plans
  • Rehabilitation/Recovery – Recovery Plans and “Build Back Better”.

The ODPM is currently working in collaboration with other national, regional and international agencies such as the CDEMA, the UNDP and UNDRR, the Red Cross, Ministries and local bodies like AMCHAM T&T on the development of it National Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction, known as Country Work Programmes. 

“The Caribbean is the most vulnerable region to hydrometeorological events in the world. Yet, these risks are systemic and have cascading effects affecting the private sector, especially SMEs”, said Nahuel Arenas, deputy chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean. “The Sendai framework, our global footprint on DRR provides clear recommendations on how to address disaster risks. On its basis, the recommendations aim at sharing value with the business sector. Thus, the Sendai Framework recommends that the private sector must move from a narrow vision of preparedness and response, to integrate prevention and risk reduction into business practices. This is possible by better understanding risks, better quantifying losses and damages and by improving cost benefits analysis”. 

Arenas added that the private sector needs to invest in disaster resilience, integrate risk-information in decision making and work together with the public sector to strengthen disaster risk reduction and resilience policies at national and local levels. “Investing in resilience, means directly investing in your own business. It is a business opportunity”.

The private sector will play a key role in returning to a new normality, as they are bridges connecting actors along value chains from customers, suppliers and investors. Increased cooperation and peer-to-peer support, as evidenced so far, will help companies, particularly SMEs, to bounce back, while establishing prevention strategies to better protect their employees and operations against COVID-19 and future disasters.

Companies participating in this workshop will learn the importance of BCP as a methodology to:

  • resist shocks and disasters (minimize disruption, revenue loss, customers/clients and investors) impact, cope with (adapt quickly, protect management & staff, resources, customers/clients etc.) and recover quickly (resume operations, improve); achieve business resilience.
  • Be able to identify the fundamental concepts of BCP and 
  • Demonstrate how to apply these concepts to improve their organizations’ resilience.

The Business Continuity Planning Workshop was coordinated by AMCHAM T&T’s ARISE committee. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our Sponsor Guardian Life for their support to host this Workshop and our two main partners: The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) for supporting this important initiative. The BCP workshop is another example of AMCHAM T&T’s strong commitment to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on their behalf through these challenging times.

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