A Partnership that Works

BCLC - CDC VisitThe CDC Foundation was pleased to host a select group of business leaders who recently attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center’s 2012 conference in Atlanta – the nation’s leading forum on corporate social responsibility. Our guests joined us for behind-the-scenes tour of CDC’s Emergency Operations Center, heard briefings from CDC leaders and learned more about the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. Following the tour, David Ratcliffe, CDC Foundation board member and retired chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, participated in the conference plenary session, where he shared the value of partnering with the CDC Foundation to support CDC’s life-saving work. He also wrote a related guest column, A Partnership that Works, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A Partnership that Works
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
May 4, 2012
Guest Column by David Ratcliffe

During a business trip to Hong Kong, a woman picks up what is seemingly a cold. But within a few days, her condition worsens and she collapses, suffers severe seizures and dies. Then the same thing happens to her son.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the plot of the 2011 film “Contagion.” While the story is fiction, the threat is real. In “Contagion,” the effects rippled across the nation, closing businesses and schools and disrupting the economy. On a smaller and slightly less dramatic scale, everyday threats such as the flu, heart disease, contaminated food and cancer affect our businesses, our communities and our families.

In a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), corporate leaders identified health care among the top five issues affecting their businesses. However, the survey also found that health care is among the top five issues that corporate leaders feel they are least able to affect.

Public-private partnerships offer a solution for those in the business community looking to effect change through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. When they met recently in Atlanta, BCLC members learned, in part, about the partnerships forged by the CDC Foundation to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do more, and do it faster.

At their best, partnerships combine resources and expertise from business, government and nonprofit organizations, allowing business leaders and nonprofits to make a difference on the toughest challenges facing our country. In that spirit, the CDC Foundation brings outside corporations and foundations together with CDC to build innovative partnerships that advance CDC’s lifesaving work to protect us all.

CDC has a single mission — to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and domestic. The CDC Foundation serves as a bridge, connecting corporations and foundations to CDC. From a business perspective, partnerships through the CDC Foundation offer a unique opportunity to empower meaningful change on the daunting issues that affect the health, safety and security of their employees and customers.

Southern Company has worked closely with CDC on a number of health threats, including protecting our employees and communities during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. In 2009, when I was CEO of Southern Company, we worked with the CDC Foundation to fund the Coastal Georgia Meta-Leadership Summit for Preparedness.

The Coastal Georgia Summit was one of 36 summits held across the nation that trained 5,000 community leaders and impacted more than a million Americans. Since hurricanes are a big threat for coastal Georgia, CDC helped us reconvene leaders across a variety of sectors including police, fire, law, faith-based organizations and business to discuss preparedness. In our eyes, the more partners at the state and local level working to improve preparedness, the better.

Understanding the realities that “Contagion” brought to light, and with CDC in our backyard, I think protecting health is one of America’s urgent concerns. I believe organizations like the CDC Foundation deserve consideration by corporate CSR programs looking for a partner to truly improve the health, safety and security of the communities they serve.

David M. Ratcliffe is retired chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company and current board member of the CDC Foundation.

Charles Stokes is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.