The private sector has long been a major contributor to humanitarian action and are increasingly at the forefront of humanitarian response, whether as a partner, donor or producer of goods and services for people in need.

This brief is based on the findings of a study on ‘Humanitarian crises, emergency preparedness and response: the roles of business and the private sector’, undertaken by the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King’s College London, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Vantage Partners.

The research has revealed that businesses that approach disasters and humanitarian crises as commercial opportunities can be more beneficial for people affected by crises than those who try to be charitable by giving money or running corporate social responsibility projects.

However, a range of barriers restricts the role of private sector companies in humanitarian action. The paper offers a range of recommendations to offer a way forward to expand opportunities for the private sector to engage in humanitarian responses in the future.