Who’s Doing Good?

12 February 2018 - 18 February 2018

This weekly brief is a one-stop shop for selectively curated news on “doing good.” From mega-donations and CSR to nonprofits and social enterprises, “Who’s Doing Good?” keeps you up-to-date with the ever-bustling market of philanthropy and charity in Asia.

THE GIVERS

Bill Gates shares his insights on doing philanthropy in India. In this comprehensive interview with Hindustan Times, Gates touches on a variety of pertinent issues such as healthcare and shares the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s experience of working and interacting with governments and other philanthropists.

THE THINKERS

Pakistani think tank argues CSR should be used to build peace. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) says the private sector in Pakistan has the potential to better promote businesses and contribute to economic development by allocating funds for fighting against extremism and promoting social harmony and peace.

Are we missing the bigger picture for CSR? In her article in the India Development Review, Vanessa D’Souza, CEO of Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA), discusses the bigger picture companies are missing in their CSR strategy when deciding which NGOs to work with. D’Souza points out how CSR-nonprofit relationship has turned down to resemble a job interview, where the majority of the questions revolve around “everything organizational.” From financial sustainability to risk management processes, companies are focusing less on the actual programs and ground-level knowledge of nonprofit professionals, but more on organizational capacity. D’Souza poses the question, “How will these organizations answer questions on financial sustainabiltiy and risk management when they don’t have the wherewithal to put all these systems in place?” Read what D’Souza has to say to learn what CSR can actually do to help the sector of doing good.

THE NONPROFITS

NGO promotes palliative care in Indonesia. Rachel House, a nonprofit organization that specializes in children’s palliative care, is successfully creating an ecosystem for palliative care in Indonesia. When it was founded in 2006, Rachel House was the first pediatric palliative care service provider in the country. Now, it is working to train professionals and build capacity of other individuals and organizations for a strong palliative care ecosystem.

THE BUSINESSES

AboitizPower donates technical-vocational equipment to senior high schools in Cebu, the Philippines. AboitizPower, a major power generation company in the Philippines, provided two Cebu high schools with technical-vocational equipment such as sewing machines, heavy-duty power drills, and spindle moulders worth P2.8 million (US$54,000). A total of 844 students were seen to benefit from this gift.

Lotte Duty Free celebrates 38th anniversary with charitable donations and community initiatives. Just before its 38th anniversary on February 14, 2018, Lotte Duty Free, a major travel retail company in Korea, hosted a number of community service activities and gave charitable donations to those in need. Hundreds of employees, including the CEO, volunteered for welfare centers and local organizations, while the company donated approximately ₩25 million (US$23,000) and rice to support the elderly and the homeless.

Sir Ronald Cohen announces setting up two major impact investment funds in India. Sir Ronald Cohen, Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG), has announced setting up two impact investment funds, each estimated to reach up to US$1 billion by October. The India Education Outcomes Fund (IEOF) will aim at improving the quality K-12 education, while the India Impact Fund of Funds (IIFF) will look at other development programs. The IEOF will raise funds primarily from bilateral agencies, philanthropists, local and global institutional donors, CSR budgets, and government institutions, while the IIFF will raise funds from Indian high-net-worth individuals, both abroad and at home.

THE INNOVATORS

Alibaba applies its business products and services to tackling poverty in China. On top of the many charitable funds and donations led by its executive chairman, Jack Ma, Alibaba has integrated its e-commerce and technological expertise into its CSR programs. From providing e-commerce platforms for rural entrepreneurs to offering online micro-lending to farmers, Alibaba is making “doing good” smart.

With a public fundraising platform, Yahoo Japan helps raise money for Hualien earthquake victims in Taiwan. As of February 14, 2018, 139,138 donors in Japan had contributed about ¥126 million (US$1.16 million) through the Japanese online portal’s crowdfunding platform. The online fundraising campaign is expected to continue for one more week.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Two volunteers share their experience of “voluntouring.” In a magazine interview, two Singapore-based volunteers talk about their personal stories of working with the Happy Hearts Fund, a charity that helps rebuild schools in disaster-affected parts of the world. Specifically, they discuss their experience of “voluntouring,” traveling to other countries to do charitable work. Having visited Indonesia to help rebuild schools, one interviewee said, “If they [children in Indonesia] cannot afford to travel to see things for themselves; at least the ‘world’ is coming to them.”

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Oxfam’s sexual misconduct scandal has ramifications on not only its own charitable work, but also the larger aid industry. Since allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against Oxfam and its employees, many stakeholders have responded, suggesting there may be greater implications than a mere scandal. The Charity Commission of the United Kingdom has launched an inquiry, while some corporate partners have chimed in as well. The British government also told Oxfam it could forfeit large sums of government money if it did not explain itself, while the European Union, another major financial supporter, called for transparency from the organization. This scandal comes at a time when public trust in the sector was already at its lowest-ever in the country, and what is most concerning is that this scandal is bolstering the agenda of the Conservative Party to terminate the country’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.

Singaporean hospital warns of cancer research fund donation scam. Tan Tock Seng Hospital, one of the largest multi-disciplinary hospitals in Singapore, warned its social media followers about a scam soliciting donations to a cancer research fund. According to the hospital, relevant authorities have been informed of the situation, and local media outlets are in the process of requesting for more details from the hospital.

Who’s Doing Good?

5 February 2018 - 11 February 2018

This weekly brief is a one-stop shop for selectively curated news on “doing good.” From mega-donations and CSR to nonprofits and social enterprises, “Who’s Doing Good?” keeps you up-to-date with the ever-bustling market of philanthropy and charity in Asia.

THE GIVERS

Chinese home appliance-maker’s founder tops the list of China’s top 100 philanthropists for the first time. He Xiangjian, founder of Midea Group Co., Ltd., donated 6.8 billion yuan (US$1.09 billion) to charity last year, topping for the first time the list of China’s top 100 philanthropists published by Beijing Normal University’s China Philanthropy Research Institute. According to the same report, the top 100 givers in China donated a total of 23.3 billion yuan (US$3.68 billion). In comparison, the top 50 givers in the United States donated US$12.2 billion to charity in 2016.

In the wake of the Hualien earthquake, donations from Taiwanese philanthropists pour in. Including those from ultra-high-net-worth philanthropists, total donations (as of February 8, 2018) to disaster relief funds for people affected by the earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan, is reported to have exceeded NT$600 million (US$20.42 million). List of notable companies and organizations includes: Hon Hai Precision Industry, Formosa Plastics Group, Lin Rung San Foundation of Culture and Social Welfare, Union Bank of Taiwan, Pegatron, and Fubon Financial Holding.

Prince Charles launches education impact bond for India. With the support of the British government’s Department for International Development, Comic Relief, the Mittal Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation, and philanthropists like Sir Ronald Cohen, the US$10 million Development Impact Bond (DIB) aspires to help improve education for over 200,000 children in India. The DIB is the largest bond of its type in South Asia and is the latest fundraising initiative by the British Asian Trust, which was set up by Prince Charles in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia.

THE THINKERS

SK plans to launch research unit on social enterprises. In March, the South Korean conglomerate will establish and fund a nonprofit research foundation on issues relating to social enterprises. Chey Tae-won, Chairman of the SK Group, has been a longtime supporter of social enterprises in Korea.

THE NONPROFITS

Doctor and his healthcare charity win the The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award. Dr. Goh Wei Leong and his team have been named The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year, an award organized by The Straits Times and sponsored by UBS Singapore. Dr. Goh co-founded HealthServe, a healthcare charity in Singapore that provides migrant workers with affordable healthcare and other social services.

THE BUSINESSES

Hyundai Motor supports the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics by providing 4,100 vehicles and ₩50 billion (US$46.95 million) donation. On top of the logistical and financial contributions it has made to PyeongChang, Hyundai has been an active supporter of winter sports in Korea, developing upgraded bobsleighs and providing coaching staff for the country’s national team.

THE INNOVATORS

Grab and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) join forces to raise funds for supporting vulnerable communities. Grab is Southeast Asia’s leading on-demand transportation and mobile payments platform, and its customers will now be able to convert GrabRewards loyalty points to a donation to the IFRC. Such partnership is the IFRC’s first fundraising initiative globally to use a smartphone application.

The Tata Trusts launches the “Social Alpha Energy Challenge” to find high-impact innovations that could catalyze system change in the field of energy. The challenge is managed and run by the Tata Trusts’ Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE), which supports innovative, technology-based solutions for social impact. It specifically focuses on clean technology, sustainability, and energy efficiency and will select a maximum of 10 winners, whose ideas will receive incubation and other forms of support from the Tata Trusts.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Charity and volunteerism help fight aftermath of the Hualien earthquake in Taiwan. On top of the reported total of NT$600 million (US$20.42 million) in charitable donations, many are offering to help as volunteers utilizing their resources and skills. Hsu Tang-yu from Taichung, for example, showed up in Hualien to provide rescue workers with bowls of noodles from her mobile ramen cart, while a team of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners set up a station to treat rescue workers’ back pain and sore muscles.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

A Hong Kong millionaire’s bribery case in Africa shows another incident where a donation and NGO status are abused as a bribery vehicle. Chi Ping Patrick Ho, former Hong Kong Home Affairs Secretary and founding chairman of an energy NGO registered in Hong Kong and the United States, was alleged to have drafted a letter to the President of Chad expressing a Chinese company’s desire to make a US$2 million “donation” to support “social and other programs as [the President] see[s] fit.” Ho’s bail application and request to be put under house arrest were rejected.

Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained

Palgrave Macmillan, January 2018

“We must create a civilization where we can realize the best of human potential. This book helps us to understand how this vision is being realized in Asia today.” (Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and Founder, the Grameen Bank)

“In today’s world, leaders must rely on partnerships that connect across business, government and civil society. In Asia, partnerships are in evident display. Ruth Shapiro tells us how they help address our shared problems in ways that create win-win solutions.” (Dominic Barton, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company)

“Charity has had a long and noble history in Asia.  It has not however, been the study of much research or documentation.  Pragmatic Philanthropic makes an important contribution to understanding the way in which social investment in Asia takes place.” (Victor K. Fung, Group Chairman of the Fung Group)

“Kiva is working in 80 countries.  While some aspects of our work are consistent throughout the world, we have learned that it is essential to have on the ground knowledge in each of the localities where we make loans available.  We must have trust worthy local partners and be familiar with local laws and practices. Dr. Ruth Shapiro’s insights come from decades of work in Asia. This book provides a very helpful view into the way philanthropy and other types of social investment gets done in the region.” (Premal Shah, Co-Founder & President, Kiva)

“As every great social entrepreneur knows, and as the Skoll Foundation has learned from our work with them, context matters. What works in Bangladesh may not translate to Indonesia, and vice versa. Successful social investment depends upon local knowledge and uptake, as Ruth Shapiro demonstrates in this valuable volume. Here she shares insights gained from her work in Asia together with some of the world’s most promising philanthropists. Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained is essential reading for change-agents working across the Asian continent, and for those seeking to support them.” (Sally Osberg, President and CEO, Skoll Foundation)

“We are beginning to see dramatic increases in interest and activity in philanthropy in China and throughout Asia.  We also need to see a commensurate degree of research and understanding of the sector.  This book is a worthwhile effort to help close the gap between interest and impact.” (Xiulan Zhang, Professor and Former Founding Dean, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Beijing Normal University, China)

“Although non-profit corporations have been in existence in legal sense since 1898, the Kobe earthquake of 1995, followed by other natural disasters have been a wake-up call for Japan. We see the need for citizens to be active in addressing our shared concerns whether they are helping vulnerable people or reconstructing a devastated area.   Studies like the one carried out by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society help us to learn valuable lessons about what works in taking on these roles.” (Tatsuo Ohta, Chairman, The Japan Association of Charitable Organizations)

“This book exemplifies the reason that I agreed to go on the board of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society – it provides world-class analysis to a field that is understudied and misunderstood.  For too long, philanthropists have worked from the premise that the rigor and analysis they use in their businesses are not applicable to their charitable investments.   The opposite is the case as these types of investments are more difficult to measure and can touch the lives of many.  Dr. Ruth Shapiro’s book helps us to understand the dynamic nature of the Asian philanthropic sector and make more informed choices about how we invest our time and our resources.” (Elizabeth Eder Zobel de Ayala, Chairman, Teach for the Philippines)

“More and more people are thinking about philanthropy in a more methodical, intelligent way.  It is important to understand deeply the issues you are dealing with and support solutions that make the most impact.  Grounded in  research and evidence, this book helps us to see how this trend is accelerating across Asia.” (Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, Godrej and Boyce)

“Our own Trust Barometer shows that trust is in crisis around the world.  Non-profit organizations tend to be more trusted than governments and companies but even their numbers are going down.  In Asia, this lack of trust has significant ramifications for philanthropy and the charitable sector.  This book helps us to understand why trust is in such short supply, why this matters and what we can do about it.” (Richard Edelman, Chief Executive Officer, Edelman)

“The Djarum Foundation’s work is grounded in community help, tolerance and mutual assistance.  These are values that are integral to who we are and are shared by many in Indonesia and throughout out Asia.   Pragmatic Philanthropy explains how these values underpin programs and practices of helping each other in Asia.” (Victor Hartono, Chairman, The Djarum Foundation)

Who’s Doing Good?

29 January 2018 - 4 February 2018

This weekly brief is a one-stop shop for selectively curated news on “doing good.” From mega-donations and CSR to nonprofits and social enterprises, “Who’s Doing Good?” keeps you up-to-date with the ever-bustling market of philanthropy and charity in Asia.

THE GIVERS

Indian-born Middle East billionaire joins the Giving Pledge. Shamsheer Vayalil, founder of VPS Healthcare whose net worth is projected to be around US$1.7 billion, joined the Giving Pledge along with his wife on his 41st birthday. On top of this commitment, Vayalil is also in the process of forming the VPS Foundation for providing healthcare and education to “those people who tend to be forgotten.”

Apple teams up with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai to fund education for 100,000 girls. The support from Apple will help the Malala Fund double the number of grants to fund secondary education for girls in India and Latin America. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, will also join its leadership council.

THE THINKERS

With the right policies and incentives, the Doing Good Index claims Asia can unlock over US$500 billion in philanthropy. The DGI is a groundbreaking inaugural study by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society that maps the philanthropic and charitable landscape in Asia and looks at the enabling environment for “doing good.”

Rati Forbes argues, “Impact is not limited to big philanthropy.” In her opinion editorial, Forbes laments the lack of supporting ecosystem and resources for smaller individual givers, who are more than eager to ensure that their giving is making an impact. Her four-point advice includes: 1. Identify a cause that resonates with you; 2. Build a long-term association with a nonprofit; 3. Think about sustainability; and 4. Collaborate.

THE NONPROFITS

Singaporean charities help bridge economic, religious, and racial divides. With the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and its Harmony Fund, various community organizations have stepped up to address societal issues facing Singapore. While Beyond Social Services have helped convene residents of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to mediate their complaints against one another, Roses of Peace and More Than Just have addressed interfaith and interethnic conflicts.

THE BUSINESSES

A New York Stock Exchange-listed company wins top awards at the China Charity Festival. Air Products, a world-leading industrial gases company serving China for 30 years, has won the “2017 Overall Community Care Award” and “The Best Community Program of 2017” at the China Charity Festival, a nonprofit event co-organized by over 30 Chinese media outlets advocating philanthropic spirit and behavior of individuals and organizations. Air Products has been consistently recognized for its services that help Chinese manufacturers improve their environmental performance and for its many CSR initiatives such as the LIN Ambassador Program, an education initiative that fosters the next generation’s interest in science and innovation.

PetroChina does good and does well in Indonesia and Myanmar. PetroChina, the country’s largest oil supplier and distributor, has gone philanthropic, thereby earning trust from the foreign local markets. In Indonesia, the company has helped with the long-term sustainability, capacity, upscaling of local coffee farmers. In Myanmar, it donated more than US$24 million for various infrastructure projects.

THE INNOVATORS

South Korean city debuts “smart donation box” for charitable contributions. Incheon, known for its international airport, became the first in Korea to offer high-tech donation boxes that allow passersby to use credit, debit, or transportation cards for charitable giving. The machines are run by a local social enterprise that also selects a portfolio of beneficiary organizations.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Jet Airways’ internal employee-driven volunteering program continues to help the underprivileged in India. “Joy of Giving,” branded in line with its corporate slogan of “Joy of Flying,” is an annual corporate volunteering program that engages with a host of NGOs serving the cause of the less privileged such as children, women, and senior citizens. This year, Jet Airways’ employees not only spent time with those affected, but also donated cash and other resources.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Major charitable crowdfunding scam hits Singapore. A scammer has been targeting people who raised money on crowdfunding websites for charitable purposes. One case includes losing SG$53,000 raised via Give.asia for a baby’s surgery. This scandal ironically comes at a time when the Commissioner of Charities-led code of practice for online charitable fundraising was launched only last month.

Philanthropy in Asia needs a push from good government policies

South China Morning Post

Ruth A. Shapiro says that governments in the region must send strong signals that they value philanthropy through tax incentives and other policies. This could encourage a more systematic approach to giving and spark innovation in the social sector.

The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society has just released its inaugural Doing Good Index, which looks at the factors that both enable and hinder philanthropy and other kinds of private social investment in Asia. We found that Asia has enormous potential to do good. If Asia were to donate the equivalent of 2 per cent of its GDP, the same as the United States, it would unleash US$507 billion (HK$3.9 trillion) annually. This is more than 11 times the foreign aid flowing into the region every year and one-third of the annual amount needed globally to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030.

We did this study after understanding several important dichotomies affecting Asia and its social sector. First, there is enormous wealth being created in Asia but still incredible and at times tragic need. Second, while there is a long history of charity in Asia, philanthropy, or the systematic approach to doing good, is relatively new. Third, while many on the ground are carrying out extraordinary efforts to help relieve suffering and need, there is often a debilitating lack of trust towards the sector. Last, many Asian governments realise that philanthropy is growing and are reacting by crafting new policies and regulations that both encourage and control its flow.

The Doing Good Index is an ambitious initiative. Supported by donors in Asia, the team worked with 34 partners from 15 economies to survey 1,516 social delivery organisations and 80 experts. They answered questions about a range of factors that influence philanthropic capital. The questions fell into four categories – regulations, tax and fiscal policies, procurement and ecosystem. The first three are government-driven, while ecosystem looks at the role that people, communities, companies and universities are playing in addressing social challenges and nurturing the social sector.

We find that people are ahead of government: on average, Asian economies perform better in the ecosystem category than in the other three. Society is rewarding philanthropists and organisations in the social sector. Public recognition and awards are becoming more prevalent in most economies we studied. Many are volunteering both through their companies and on their own, people are serving on boards, and universities are offering classes in philanthropy and non-profit management.

Our study also shows that the right policies and incentives do matter. Tax subsidies contribute a great deal towards the propensity to give across income levels and have an important signalling effect. Asian philanthropists are pragmatic. People want to help their communities but also want to do this in ways that are aligned with their own government’s goals. When a government signals that philanthropy is appreciated, it has a positive influence on giving.

The right policies can address the trust deficit and mitigate the deleterious effect on philanthropy. Many social delivery organisations in Asia are endeavouring to become more transparent and accountable. In our study, 75 per cent of those surveyed have a website and 86 per cent have a board of trustees with nearly all reporting regular board meetings. Organisations in 13 of 15 economies are required to submit an annual report. The right regulations create a culture of accountability and facilitate the ability of organisations to report.

However, regulations need to be calibrated to reduce friction in the social sector and facilitate its growth. In some economies, organisations need to work with many government agencies, with one country having 15 different ministries all with different reporting requirements. This puts a burden on non-profit organisations and encourages underreporting.

Last, the social sector is vastly understudied. There is very little reliable data. For the Doing Good Index, we had to create the data from scratch. More information about philanthropy can help address the trust deficit and showcase which practices, models and policies are best in class. There is no dearth of humanity, creativity and commitment in Asia.

The key is to put systems and practices in place that allow us to learn from each other, contribute to our communities and help Asia become a global philanthropic leader and a centre for social innovation.

Ruth A. Shapiro is founder and chief executive of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Right policies can boost Asian philanthropy.

This article ran originally in the South China Morning Post.

Doing Good Index 2018

Maximizing Asia's Potential

The inaugural Doing Good Index examines the enabling environment for philanthropy and private social investment across 15 Asian economies. Composed of four areas–tax and fiscal policy, regulatory regimes, socio-cultural ecosystem, and government procurement–the Index reveals how Asian economies are catalyzing philanthropic giving.

If the right regulatory and tax policies were in place, Asian philanthropists could give over US$500 billion, contributing to the US$1.4 trillion annual price tag needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Index serves as a unique and useful body of data for Asian governments, as well as for nonprofits, foundations and charities in Asia, to learn from each other. At a time when policy is evolving, the social sector is growing, and interest in philanthropy is rapidly developing, the DGI shows the potential for Asia to leapfrog and become a leader in social innovation.*

*The latest version as of 19 January 2018 is available for download now.

Charity in China, Where Giving Begins on Your Phone

Shen Bin (Sixth Tone)

As the largest economy in Asia and only second to the United States in the world, China boasts a technologically advanced society. The use of mobile payment is just as common as swiping a credit card or spending cash. Homegrown high-tech manufacturing firms, software conglomerates, and creative startups such as Tencent, Xiaomi, and Alibaba are at the forefront of China’s economic growth and are an integral part of Chinese citizens’ day-to-day lives.

The reach of China’s technological ecosystem is now seeping into the industry of doing good. With a few touches on their smartphones and free mobile applications, individuals can make quick donations to charitable causes and organizations. Furthermore, these tech companies are applying their creative abilities and ideas to promote individual philanthropy on an unprecedented scale. From matching donations as part of their corporate social responsibility to hosting social media donation competitions, China is making philanthropy cool and trendy.

Shen Bin’s article in the online publication Sixth Tone provides a comprehensive snapshot of and introduction to this intersection between technology and philanthropy in China.

Click here to read the full article.

 

The Business of Green

Society of Ecology & Entrepreneurs (SEE): Creating the conditions for environmental philanthropy to thrive

A community of like-minded business leaders joined forces to fight deforestation and drive forward China’s environmental movement.

“It started with planting trees,” said Zhang Li, the current secretary general of SEE Foundation. The original aim of the association was to mobilise the resources of China’s newly rich entrepreneurs to take on the problem of desertification in the Alashan Region.

But this would be merely the opening act of an organization that grew into a national network of nearly 600 entrepreneur members, including high-profile figures from the real estate, construction, manufacturing, and financial services sectors. SEE’s members would come to include some of China’s most successful and prolific corporate faces, including Wang Shi, chairman of Vanke, the world’s largest real estate developer; Feng Lun, chairman of real estate leader Vantone Holdings; Chen Dongsheng, chairman of Taikang Life Insurance; and Pan Shiyi, chairman of property company SOHO China. The work of the organization would expand to include support for national ecosystem conservation and nature education, green supply chains, pollution prevention, and development of China’s grassroots environmental NGOs.

Asian companies develop new forms of philanthropy

Nikkei Asian Review

Anxiety about the gap between rich and poor has spread to Asia.

Rising joblessness led South Koreans to replace the dominant Saenuri Party in April. Even in the Philippines, with the healthiest economic growth since 1970, voters rejected the ruling elite in favor of the anti-establishment Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on profanity-laced vows to cut poverty. Yet not all solutions to social problems are political. Around the world, companies are seeing community engagement as not only in their own interest but also as an important part of their role in society.

Donations already play a large role. Corporate philanthropy has been on the rise for a decade and continues to grow. In 2012, 66% of all charitable giving in China came from corporations, as estimated by the Conference Board, a non-profit business research group.

India now requires top companies to pay 2 percent of after-tax income into certified philanthropic activities. According to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, such giving totaled Rs 8,347.47 crore in the last year, about $1.5 billion USD. We do not know if the money is being spent wisely or efficiently, but it is clear that the bottom line is massive and will trickle through to increase the impact of many charitable programs throughout India.

Companies can help in at least four other ways, starting with sharing technical expertise. Some companies are already using their skills alongside financial resources to build capacity and bring about sustainable change. In India, the Axis Bank Foundation (ABF) opened a strategic partnership with Dilasa Sanstha, an organization devoted to helping farmers increase production and earn stable livelihoods. The ABF helped Dilasa expand rural credit, strengthen internal budgeting and create an evaluation system. For the first time, Dilasa could collect critical data on beneficiary income, household assets, education levels, diet and investment plans.

Similarly, support from Khazanah Berhad, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, helped improve the capabilities of Mercy Malaysia, a medical response group active after natural disasters. Khazanah helped Mercy develop systems that assist it in managing people and resources and deploying them efficiently to disaster zones. The partnership has helped Mercy become an internationally acclaimed provider of disaster assistance.

Social delivery organizations may be non-profits, but they need to think more like businesses. To maximize their impact, they should be concerned with transparent accounting, financial forecasting, strategic planning, organizational management and development and a host of other skills that have traditionally been labeled as business skills. The private sector has plenty of these skills. In both of these cases, the companies provided financial resources and technical resources. They committed to the social delivery organizations for the longer term.

Another way companies can help is through shared value initiatives. Shared value, a term coined in 2006 by Harvard professors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, is a strategy in which companies bring economic value to themselves while addressing a social need. In the Philippines, Manila Water figured out how to decrease siphoning and protect the pipeline so that clean, cheaper water reached those in the poorest districts of Manila. This successful project improved water access for the poor and increased Manila Water’s bottom line.

Uniqlo owner Fast Retail provides another example of shared value. With garment factories in Bangladesh, Fast Retail knows first hand the difficult circumstances facing many workers there. Uniqlo has launched a line of products inspired by traditional designs. Proceeds from these clothes go toward continuing education for women working in their factories.

Not surprisingly, there is considerable excitement around the notion of shared value. When the company and the community both prosper, the initiatives are more sustainable. Still, shared value initiatives are new globally and very new in Asia, and we can expect to see much more innovation of this kind.

A third strategy for community engagement is when companies work on their own. They believe and with some justification, that they have the skills to deliver a social good more efficiently than by working through an NGO. Shopping mall operator SM Prime Holdings in the Philippines is building clinics and schools, through its BDO Foundation, in the typhoon-ravaged areas of Leyte and Samar. The Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of India’s Reliance Industries, carries out work through its own rural development, health and education initiatives.

Lastly, in some cases, corporations find it useful to develop alliances to bring about change. In China, corporate leaders have come together to create the SEE Foundation to work on environmental issues and the Ai You Foundation to provide medical aid to children. The Philippines’ largest conglomerate, the Ayala Group, and the telecommunications firm PLDT together created the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation to build a disaster operations center to coordinate the private sector relief efforts during major disasters.

How can companies evaluate whether they are doing enough? There are several key questions to ask.

First, how robust is your volunteer program? According to a Deloitte survey, 90% of HR managers believe that volunteering aids in building an employee’s leadership skills and according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers study, employees are less likely to resign if they feel engaged with their companies including through volunteer programs. A robust volunteer program can assist local charities while at the same time boosting employee company pride and loyalty.

Second, what subject areas best align with a company’s strengths and goals? Community engagement is much more sustainable when aligned with key competencies. It makes sense for Uniqlo to be utilizing clothing to engage with the community or for Axis Bank to focus on livelihoods and financial inclusion. Not everything a company does must be aligned with its interests and strengths, but it is helpful to know what these are and how they can be utilized to benefit the community.

Third, tone from the top is critical but innovation at all levels of the company is equally important. Employees have ties to the community and understand the needs of those living there. Creating programs that allow some latitude in addressing community concerns can harness this knowledge.
The rise in corporate involvement is clear. There is no question about whether a company should engage with the community, the only question is how. With their technical expertise, shared values and productive partnerships, Asia’s corporations are poised to be constructive, long-term stakeholders in the region’s continued growth.

Ruth Shapiro is chief executive of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society, an organization dedicated to facilitating excellence in philanthropy.

This article ran originally in the Nikkei Asian Review.

 

Landwasher: Guardian of the Blue Earth

Leveraging business solutions for environmental impact in China

Recognizing the severity of the environmental challenges facing China, investor-turned-entrepreneur Hao Wu set up an environmental enterprise for waterless toilet solutions to directly address issues of water scarcity, sanitation and hygiene.

Under Wu’s leadership, Landwasher has become China’s top waterless toilet-solution provider, growing from a team of three to a RMB 60 million (around US$10 million) company employing some 160 people by 2013. Landwasher has so far installed more than 10,000 of its toilets across the country, posting average annual revenues of RMB 40 million (around US$7 million), making it China’s market leader in environmental toilets. The environmental value of its waterless toilets has been at the heart of Landwasher’s mission from its inception, which according to Wu, has helped to differentiate the product from the competition.