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Hurricanes and Conscious Capitalism

by on September 17, 2017 5:00 AM

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey took a brutal toll on many countries, states, counties and cities.

A friend in Naples, Fla., who just returned to no electricity, described power trucks from different states traveling south in caravans to help restore power in Florida. Initially, 48 percent of Florida’s energy users were without power and the west coast is not expected to get full power restoration until as late as Sept. 22.  

Harvey flooded Houston, which is the fourth most populous city in the United States. Homes and lives were lost. In the midst of the tragedy, I was heartened by people and even companies looking out citizens. Since many have focused on the destruction, my objective here is to spotlight the positive.

I refer to the idea of “Conscious Capitalism,” which was coined by Muhammad Yunus in a 1995 article in the Atlantic Monthly and became a formal organization in 2010. The credo of Conscious Capitalism is:

“We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived…. Conscious business will help evolve the world so that billions of people flourish…”  For further information, visit their website at www.consciouscapitalism.org/

When many people talk about socially responsible companies, they look for this type of company, which is a business that looks out for its employees, shareholders and citizens.

I saw many examples of companies ignoring the bottom line to help citizens survive, escape or rebuild. This is socially responsible capitalism at its best.

Many executive officers and corporations gave money directly to Hand in Hand, which helps with Harvey and Irma relief, and to the Red Cross. Apple (AAPL) donated $3 million to the Red Cross and $5 million to Hand in Hand. Home Depot (HD) pledged $ 2 million dollars, IBM pledged $4 million in relief and Discover (DFS) pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross.

Companies didn’t only offer cash. FedEx (FDX) committed $1 million in “cash and transportation support to deliver critical medical aid and supplies” to Irma victims. Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) pledged $5.5 million -- $3.5 million in clothing and footwear plus $2 million “to rebuild and refurbish youth sports programs and facilities.” Verizon Wireless (VZ), AT & T (T), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile are relieving talk, text and data charges from Sept. 9 to Sept. 15 for customers impacted by Irma. To help people more easily evacuate, JetBlue (JBLU), American Airlines (AAL) and Delta (DAL) lowered the prices on flights to and from Florida.   

It’s not only the big companies that helped when needed. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who owns the Gallery Furniture Stores in Houston, used his sprawling store as a storm shelter. Or, as Mattress Mack called it, “think slumber party on steroids.” He took in entire families, including pets, and let them sleep on his mattresses, beds and couches. He even sent his furniture trucks out to rescue them.

Restaurants in South Beach provided residents free ice and water and places to charge electronic devices. DeliverLean, a healthy meal plan service in Oakland Park, Fla., delivered meals to first responders in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In Fort Myers, Fla., sports bar Lee Roy Selmon’s is cooking up its entire inventory and giving it away to the public.  

Social media and apps helped in other ways as people tracked their loved ones, friends and properties during the storms. GasBuddy became important in finding gas for travel as it became (and still is) scarce. NextDoor permitted people in affected communities to communicate about leaks, gas, stores and electricity. Complete strangers helped calm fears of neighbor homeowners about mold, tree damage and where to find their next meal.

While the destruction and loss of life is terrible, I hope the overall attitude of generosity, help and camaraderie that brought people together won’t soon be forgotten. We are in this together.


***Nothing contained in this article should be interpreted as a promise or guarantee of earnings or investment results nor a recommendation for the purchase or sale of any security or sector



 



Judy Loy, ChFCâ, is a Registered Investment Advisor and CEO at Nestlerode & Loy Investment Advisors, State College, Pa. A graduate of Penn State University, Loy has been with the firm since 1992, assisting clients with retirement planning, brokerage services and investment advice. She can be reached at jloy@nestlerode.com.
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