In November 2015, when terrorists armed with firearms and explosives killed 130 people in Paris, France, a number of companies responded to the horror with compassion. A variety of cellphone carriers lifted service fees and waived charges to enable people to contact loved ones. Airbnb encouraged hosts to offer free housing for those whose flights had been canceled.
But as a rule, says Northeastern professor Max Abrahms, companies around the world do not always react generously to terrorist attacks. “It turns out that companies respond to terrorism selfishly,” says Abrahms, who has joined with two fellow Northeastern professors to author the first study of the relationship between terrorism and the responsibility of corporations to invest in and elevate society.
The researchers unearthed a dichotomy in the reactions by companies to acts of terrorism. When governments or communities are the targets of terrorism, the study finds that companies often go above and beyond. Such was the case after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when a diverse group of corporations and banks offered financial assistance to customers and others who had been affected throughout the U.S.