A story from Penny Clifton, British Red Cross (2017)
In 1954 Land Rover donated a vehicle to the British Red Cross for use as a medical dispensary in the deserts of Dubai. The vehicle was the first of many to be donated by the company for use by the Red Cross around the world.
Today, 63 years later, Land Rover has once again donated a specially adapted vehicle – this time with an integral communications drone that will be tested in search and rescue operations by the Austrian Red Cross. The vehicle – known as Project Hero – has been developed collaboratively by a team of Land Rover engineers working with Red Cross Red Crescent emergency response specialists. The vehicle’s interior and communications equipment have been custom-made to meet the needs of a search and rescue team.
Project Hero is just one example of the increasingly collaborative nature of what is now a multi-million dollar strategic global partnership. Projects currently include providing water and sanitation facilities, help in preparing communities for natural disasters and health and social care for the elderly, homeless and unemployed, all under the umbrella of “supporting vulnerable people around the world”.
At the start of the millennium, the donation and loan of vehicles had become just one facet of a growing relationship between Land Rover and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In 2007 it moved to a formal footing with the first phase of the strategic partnership, and since then, Land Rover has supported projects in nearly 30 countries on four continents from Austria and Australia to Uganda and the UK.
The two organisations increasingly work together on ambitious and innovative fundraising initiatives, starting with Land Rover’s ‘Journey of Discovery’ expedition from Birmingham to Beijing, which raised money from donations by Land Rover dealers, customers, suppliers and employees. The 1.24 million Swiss francs raised (£1 million) supported a project in Uganda, providing safe water and sanitation to 45,000 people.
Land Rover provided more than 8.36 million Swiss francs (£6.75 million) funding in the three years to 2013, and now has the aim of raising a further 18.7 million Swiss francs (£15 million) in the five years to 2018.
The global partnership between Land Rover and IFRC is managed centrally through a dedicated team at the British Red Cross working closely with Land Rover headquarters in Coventry. National Societies bid for, and manage, their own individual projects either in-country or with their Red Cross and Red Crescent partners overseas. The Norwegian Red Cross, for example, is working with the Burundi, Madagascar and Kenya Red Cross Societies and with Land Rover to manage a series of water and sanitation projects. The partnership is also exploring ways of innovating, sharing skills and adding value to the IFRC’s core business of emergency response. This often means Land Rover’s staff working or volunteering at projects. In Spain, staff have been teaching the basics of mechanics to people who are unemployed, while in Italy, Land Rover volunteers visit the streets of Milan and Rome to hand out food and drink to the homeless. It is also reflected in innovative fundraising: in 2015 the two millionth Land Rover Defender was auctioned for a record price, raising nearly 250,000 Swiss francs (£200,000) for a project to help rural communities in Nepal.
Olaug Bergseth, who is a member of a team that oversees partnerships with the private sector at the IFRC, explained that the relationship has thrived due to the shared vision and commitment of both parties:
“We are aiming to generate both a strong social impact and a lasting legacy in the communities we work with. This requires a long-term commitment from our partner and effective collaboration to deliver a lasting positive impact. We are constantly looking for the ‘added value’ that can be achieved through working together. This might be through fundraising, staff volunteering or in product development – as with the Austrian Red Cross and Project Hero.”
“By developing national level relationships, Land Rover has the opportunity of supporting a humanitarian cause that is globally respected, but tailored and relevant to the local markets”, she said.
Today the partnership is recognised as innovative and pioneering, winning industry awards such as Third Sector Business Charity Awards 2011 and Responsible Business of the Year in 2013.