American Businesses Contribute over $24 Million to Haiti Earthquake Relief

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A large and growing number of American companies have made sizeable donations to the relief effort in Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation.

As of Thursday afternoon, a group of at least 12 American corporations had each pledged donations of $1 million of more to the relief effort.

That group includes biotechnology company Amgen, Inc, which will donate $2 million and match employee contributions; Microsoft Corp. has pledged $1.25 million; and Major League Baseball, which pledged $1 million, a day after its richest team, the New York Yankees, announced it would donate $500,000 to the relief effort.

Beverage industry rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo each pledged $1 million in aid, and both companies will provide bottled water and food to the recovery effort. UPS will include shipping services in its $1 million donation.

Wall Street is also coming to Haiti's aid. Morgan Stanley is donating $1 million. Rival investment bank Jeffries & Co. will hold "Haiti Earthquake Relief Day" on Friday. Jeffries will donate all of the day's commissions and volunteered salaries to the relief effort, along with an additional $1 million.

Bank of America is also donating $1 million, and matching all employee donations, something many companies are doing to encourage their workers to give money. Bank of America said Wednesday it would not limit the amount of money it will donate through the matching program. Other companies implementing employee matching programs include Amgen, Kellogg's, Western Union, and Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

The Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), a nonprofit group associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reports that total corporate aid pledges exceeded $24 million as of Thursday afternoon. "When disasters strike, businesses respond, said Stephen Jordan, senior vice president and executive director of the BCLC. "We expect this number to soar in the days to come as businesses learn more about what it will take to save lives and rebuild communities." The BCLC says more than 35 companies have already pledged assistance.

That number is expected to grow substantially in the coming days. The BCLC points out that some of the "usual suspects," when it comes to disaster relief have yet to announce donations, specifically large pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Pfizer. Jordan said Jeffries' donation came as a bit of a surprise, and could be a sign that total giving could far exceed expectations. "Unprecedented things are in the works here," says Jordan.

In addition to cash donations and employee matching, corporations are encouraging their customers to donate as well. For example, American Airlines is offering free bonus miles to its customers. American will give 250 miles to anyone who donates more than $50, and 500 miles for donations above $100.

The Western Union Company will waive fees to anyone sending money to Haiti from the United States, Canada and France, for seven days after it gets its wire service up and running again. Western Union also set up a special account in the U.S to which consumers may wire up to $5,000 free of any fees for the next 30 days. Western Union also pledged $250,000 in donations.

And Wal-Mart set up a website where customers and employees can give to the Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations with operations in Haiti. The nation's largest retailer also announced it will give $500,000 in cash and another $100,000 in food kits to the Red Cross as well.

The BCLC believes total corporate contributions could exceed $80 million. Donations have already more than doubled since Wednesday, and the center said it may increase its estimate if contributions continue to pour in at such a torrid pace.

If it continues, the humanitarian response to the Haiti earthquake will easily make the top five responses to global crises. Number 1 on that list is the Tsunami of 2004, in which over 600 companies around the world responded with $566 million in aid.

--Edited by Drew Trachtenberg, Executive Producer, CNN Business News


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