Who’s Doing Good?

14 October 2019 - 27 October 2019

THE GIVERS

Shiv Nadar top philanthropist in India, followed by Premji and Ambani. HCL founder and chairman Shiv Nadar was named the most generous individual philanthropist in India. According to the Edelgive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2019, Nadar and his family gave Rs826 crore (approximately US$117 million) in 2018. Azim Premji was second on the list followed by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The list also noted an almost two-fold increase from the previous year in the number of Indians who donated more than Rs5 crore (nearly US$1 million) to social causes, excluding religious donations. 

THE THINKERS

Universities in Hong Kong should focus more on practice and less on theory to create social change. A new report, Surveying the Landscape of Social Innovation and Higher Education in Hong Kong, pushes universities to “do less theory and more practice to have genuine social impact.” The main findings of the report show a buildout of social innovation research and teaching in Hong Kong. However, the report notes that scholars need to engage in more practical activity and collaborations outside academia to impactfully tackle social challenges. The article details current collaborations in Hong Kong such as the British Council’s BRICKS (Building Research Innovation for Community Knowledge and Sustainability) consortium, and Nurturing Social Minds, a social innovation teaching program funded by the government’s SIE Fund and Yeh Family Philanthropy.

THE NONPROFITS

Change in India’s sector is being powered by tech, young entrepreneurs, and committed funders. As the revenue pool available for nonprofits grows with increased corporate funding and philanthropic funding, the sector is seeing significant change. This includes a new focus on organization-building, talent development, and leadership training. This comes at a time when there is growing acknowledgement globally that donors need to help nonprofits develop their own capacity to achieve greater impact. India’s sector is catching up with promising trends including nonprofit leadership programs, young professionals entering the sector, and more focus on nonprofit organizational development.

THE BUSINESSES

J.P. Morgan commits US$25 million to aid skills development in India. J.P. Morgan has announced a five-year commitment to skills development initiatives for low- and middle-income communities in India. This US$25 million commitment is part of the firm’s five-year US$350 million global commitment to meet the growing demand for skilled workers and to create economic mobility for underserved populations. In collaboration with government and nonprofit leaders, J.P. Morgan will support skills training and career education programs related to the country’s high growth sectors and aligned with market trends. It will also support actionable research to inform future philanthropic investments in India and to share best practices on education and training programs. 

Japan Inc. plays catch up in scramble to bioplastics. Nikkei Asian Review reports on Japanese companies committing to better recycling practices as they risk losing environmentally conscious investors. This includes household goods producer Kao, which is a founding member of a consortium of 265 companies and associations fighting plastic pollution. Beverage giant Suntory Holdings has also stated it will replace fossil fuel-based materials with items made from used plastic bottles and bioplastics by 2030. Kuraray and Mitsubishi Chemical are also joining in. These efforts are intended to help create a circular economy, where products are made from recycled materials, and in turn are recycled. Such a system is estimated to pump at least ¥20 trillion (US$187 billion) into Japan’s economy—nearly 4% of GDP.

Vietnam ed tech startup aims to fill Southeast Asia’s talent pool. A recent report from Google and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings highlights the region’s shallow talent pool, which is weighing on efforts to boost the internet economy. Education startups, like Vietnam’s Topica Edtech Group, are pioneering digital training grounds for talent development in the Southeast Asian tech scene. At the forefront of Southeast Asia’s burgeoning “ed tech sector,” Topica is upskilling young professionals for the digital age. The startup, which was launched in 2008, now offers 3,000 e-learning courses and has about 1.5 million students in Vietnam and Thailand. Nikkei Asian Review covers the startup’s pivot and journey towards addressing Southeast Asia’s talent shortage, especially in digital technologies.

THE INNOVATORS

Asian Development Bank invests ฿3 billion in Energy Absolute’s green bond. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) climate financing, which supports climate change mitigation, is expected to reach US$80 billion from 2019 to 2030. ADB recently signed an agreement with Energy Absolute, one of the largest renewable energy companies in Thailand. ADB will invest US$98.7 million in Energy Absolute’s maiden green bond issuance, the first bond dedicated to a wind power project in Thailand. The green bond will help support the long-term financing of the company’s 260-megawatt Hanuman wind farm. As the largest wind farm in Thailand, it is expected to reduce the country’s annual carbon emissions by 200,000 tons by 2020. 

Asia-Pacific issuance of green bonds hits record high US$18.9 billion. A recent HSBC report on sustainable financing found that more than a third of Asian investors surveyed noted that the bulk of their clients had negative perceptions of ESG investing, compared with a global figure of around one fifth. However, the region is now “catching up,” according to Financial Times. Green bond issuance in the Asia-Pacific region has reached a record US$18.9 billion raised from 44 green bond issuances in the year to date. A director at Citi, one of the biggest green bond underwriters in the Asia-Pacific region, underscored the growing interest noting, “The amount of enquiries we get tells us that in the future every bond will need to be marketed with an ESG component.”

Who’s Doing Good?

30 September 2019 - 13 October 2019

THE GIVERS

Beauty brand Clé de Peau Beauté pledges US$8.7 million to UNICEF. The beauty brand–a division of Japan’s Shiseido–made the announcement on International Day of the Girl (October 11). The US$8.7 million donation is the “world’s largest contribution” to UNICEF’s Gender Equality Program, according to the announcement. It will aid UNICEF’s work in Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Niger, and other countries. The donation will go towards girls’ education, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The beauty brand has also pledged a percentage of sales from Clé de Peau’s The Serum product to UNICEF’s girls’ empowerment programs. Clé de Peau Beauté’s chief brand officer noted that this partnership with UNICEF aligns with the brand’s corporate vision for social value creation.

Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing will donate US$128 million to support local business. The Li Ka-shing Foundation announced a HK$1 billion (US$128 million) fund to support local small and medium sized businesses. The foundation said it made the donation as Hong Kong’s economy faces unprecedented challenges amidst a slowing global economy. The announcement follows recent government relief measures set forth for smaller companies impacted by the US-China trade war and the city’s protests. According to the foundation, its fund will complement these government measures. Regarding the donation Li stated, “I hope the HK$1 billion from the foundation can play a leading role. I encourage different sectors to give their opinions, work together and pool our wisdom.”

THE THINKERS

Asia must forge a new breed of partnership to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Asia’s greatest challenges today are inextricably linked to business, national growth, and political stability. Addressing these challenges therefore requires greater collaboration, according to The Rockefeller Foundation’s Director of Partnerships and Advocacy in Asia. While the region is already seeing multisector collaboration, this article argues that partnerships must go beyond simply breaking sector silos. To amplify impact, partnerships should design and invest behind solutions at the “nexus of challenges we seek to eradicate.” The article offers examples of The Rockefeller Foundation’s initiatives that aim to achieve multi-issue impact. 

Lessons from India on scaling up market-based solutions. As viable businesses that straddle the commercial and social sectors, market-based solutions (MBSs) have the potential to address poverty at scale. This Stanford Social Innovation Review article notes four common challenges investors and practitioners face and five simple questions they should ask to improve MBSs. The article also offers four recommendations for building stronger MBSs: build innovative and robust business models; invest in sizeable pilots to refine and evolve the business model; understand, address, and leverage ecosystem barrier; and attract experienced business leaders. Together, investors and practitioners can help fortify the nascent sector and build viable businesses that solve complex social problems.

THE BUSINESSES

Human rights in Southeast Asia suppliers become priority in Japan. Japanese companies are putting forth efforts to curb human rights abuses in their supply chains. Ajinomoto, Fuji Oil Holdings, and ANA Holdings are a few companies that are becoming more human rights focused. However, they face a challenge in collecting information on workers’ conditions in developing countries. Companies are therefore partnering with nonprofits to gain insight on actual working conditions. These efforts illustrate how businesses can gather information related to their operations in efforts to resolve human rights-related issues. This comes at a time of increasing recognition that sustainable corporate practices are critical for attracting consumers of the younger generation–one that places great importance on corporate ethics.

Amgen Foundation empowers students to live the life of a scientist. The corporate philanthropy arm of biopharmaceutical company Amgen aims to expose students and teachers to the world of research. The foundation’s Amgen Scholars Program recently held its first Amgen Scholars Asia Symposium in collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS). The event brought together more the 60 Amgen Scholars from across Asia, senior executives from Amgen, and speakers from NUS, Kyoto University, Tsinghua University, and the University of Tokyo. The foundation’s other initiative—the Amgen Biotech Experience—has equipped 2,000 students and teachers in Singapore with research-grade lab equipment and teaching materials since its inception in 2017.

THE INNOVATORS

Asian family offices are turning to tech and sustainable investment. The Nikkei Asian Review presents key findings from UBS’ annual report on global family offices. The article highlights changing investment habits among Asia’s ultra-rich families, such as growing private equity investment in technology and real estate. These include investments in healthcare, education, eco-tourism, and shared spaces. This comes amid a period of inter-generational wealth transfer to younger family members. According to UBS, this younger generation is more inclined to invest in companies with a positive impact on the environment and society. The head of UBS’ global family office group in the Asia Pacific notes that 40% of Asian family offices are now engaged in sustainability investing.

Center of gravity of sustainable finance is swinging towards Asia. The demand for green financing is growing in Asia, and banks like Societe Generale are playing a key role. Head of debt capital markets Asia Pacific at Societe Generale, Raj Malhotra, discusses this increased interest. Addressing the region’s complex environmental challenges will require different forms of financing, and bond markets can play a big role, according to Malhotra. He notes positive trends such as the promotion of green finance in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Corporates and banks in the region are also showing interest in other instruments such as green loans. The green and sustainability financing market in Asia is still nascent, but the region’s upward trend is a positive development in impact finance. If this trend continues, Maholtra states that Asia is poised to be at the center of gravity of green and sustainability financing.

Who’s Doing Good?

2 September 2019 - 15 September 2019

THE GIVERS

US$442 million donated via online platforms in China in 2018. According to a recent report by China Philanthropy Research Institute, Chinese donations to online charity platforms increased nearly 27 percent in 2018 to more than ¥3.17 billion (approximately US$442 million). A total of 20 online platforms attracted donations from 8.46 billion internet users. The report also notes a 34.5 percent increase in the number of registered charitable organizations in China putting the total at 5,620. Guangdong ranks first in the country with 748 charitable organizations, followed by Beijing and Zhejiang.

Donations to earthquake-hit towns in Japan rose sharply in 2018. Through the Japanese government’s furusato nozei (hometown tax donation) system, taxpayers can contribute to their hometowns or other municipalities in return for tax cuts. The Japan Times reports that donations to three earthquake-hit towns in Hokkaido have risen sharply, most notably to Atsuma where they grew 5.4 times from the previous year to over ¥1 billion (approximately US$9 million). The Atsuma Municipal Government intends to channel donations towards reconstruction efforts, among others.

THE NONPROFITS

BRAC, one of the world’s largest charities, charts new path. Founded in 1972, BRAC has grown into one of the world’s largest non-governmental organizations (NGO) with 100,000 full-time staff. According to the The Economist, BRAC lent money to almost 8 million people and educated more than 1 million children across Bangladesh and ten other countries in 2018 alone. NGO Advisor has ranked BRAC as the world’s best charity for the past four years.  However, there are challenges ahead. As Bangladesh’s annual GDP continues to grow and government spending on public services continues to increase, large charities are having to think about where else they can contribute. In response, BRAC is venturing into new directions and shifting to income-generating activities to subsidize its philanthropic activities. The Economist notes that, by charting this new path, BRAC can serve as a model for other charities to follow.  

THE BUSINESSES

Japanese companies lead world in disclosing climate risks. According to the Financial Times, more than 60 Japanese companies threw their support behind the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in May, surpassing companies in the US and the UK. Nearly 200 Japanese companies back TCFD measures now. This has been applauded by investors and lenders as a valuable opportunity for obtaining consistent information about companies’ climate risks. The country has also seen a sharp increase in ESG investing. The Global Sustainable Investment Alliance reported that Japan’s ESG investing assets quadrupled from US$474 billion to US$2 trillion from 2016-18. 

China’s Xiamen Airlines vows to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. At a recent industry expo, Chairman of Xiamen Airlines (XiamenAir) Zhao Dong confirmed the airline’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2017 XiamenAir was the first airline to sign a cooperation agreement with the United Nations  to formally support the SDGs. Since then the airline has adopted a range of measures including providing passengers with sustainable tissues and bamboo cups, and offering digital news services instead of printed newspapers. According to Zhao, XiamenAir has also achieved a 14.8 percent drop in fuel consumption per ton-kilometer, exceeding the global average of fuel efficiency improvement. At the event, the airline committed to continuing its support for sustainable development in the aviation industry. 

Global Reporting Initiative Regional Hub officially opens in Singapore. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an independent international organization that helps businesses, governments, and other organizations understand and communicate their sustainability standards. The organization officially launched its GRI Regional Hub in Singapore earlier this month, adding to six other hubs around the world. The Singapore hub will support ASEAN companies by helping them “identify, manage, and report their most material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts.” The Hub will be headed by Michele Lemmens, a business executive from Tata Consultancy Services.

THE VOLUNTEERS

With the help of 12,000 volunteers, No Food Waste redistributes surplus food to the needy in India. The food-recovery startup, No Food Waste (NFW), was founded in 2014 to redistribute surplus food to the needy in Tamil Nadu. With the support of a network of 12,000 volunteers, NFW now serves an average of 900 people per day. The organization collects surplus food from banquets at social functions, corporate canteens, and hotels. After being notified of a food pick-up, a city-specific NFW coordinator gets their team of volunteers together to collect and distribute the food. Recently, the startup has been working to incorporate more sustainable measures by banning single-use disposable containers and shifting to serving food on plantain leaves. The food-recovery startup has received a number of awards recognizing its work.

THE INNOVATORS

Singapore-based IIX and Korean government agency commit US$1.2 million to accelerate high-impact enterprises in Asia. Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), a global organization that provides funding and support to social enterprises, has announced a new partnership with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). IIX and KOICA will jointly contribute US$1.2 million over five years to support 18 social enterprises across South and Southeast Asia. Through its Acceleration and Customized Technical Services (ACTS) program, IIX will select the social enterprises and offer them capacity building and technical assistance to ensure they are investment-ready. The enterprises will also gain access to mentors and over 1,000 accredited investors from around the world. This joint initiative aims to impact the lives of 8 million people.

UNDP and 500 Startups launch accelerator for social enterprises in Indonesia. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and 500 Startups have launched ImpactAim Indonesia, a social accelerator that aims to boost social entrepreneurship in the country. The accelerator will support eight to ten startups that are serving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a 10-week program in Jakarta. These startups will receive guidance on impact measurement and gain access to prospective impact investors from around the world. According to the article, ImpactAim hopes to amplify social impact through three main objectives: “growing impact ventures, assessing their contribution to the SDGs, and connecting them to networks and funding opportunities.”

Who’s Doing Good?

19 August 2019 - 1 September 2019

THE GIVERS

Bangladesh set to receive US$22.7 million from UNHCR Refugee Zakat Fund. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched its Refugee Zakat Fund as a new structure of its zakat program that was founded in 2016. The fund has already surpassed its US$26 million target for 2019, raising just over US$38 million in the first half of the year. Most of this came from donors in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and Egypt. The fund has already disbursed over half a million dollars to benefit 670,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which is set to receive a total of US$22.7 million. The UNHCR Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia Pacific noted that Islamic philanthropy has yet to realize its full potential within the global humanitarian sector and underscored the important role zakat can play.

Simon and Eleanor Kwok donate HK$5.2 million to injured jockey Tye Angland. According to Hong Kong Tatler, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent horse racing aficionados, the Kwok family, recently announced a HK$5.2 million (approximately US$700,000) donation to jockey Tye Angland. After a jockeying accident in Hong Kong last November, the Australian suffered career-ending spinal injuries which left him a quadriplegic. In an interview with Sky Sports Radio, Angland responded to the donation with gratitude, noting that it will be going into three different trusts for his children’s education and life expenses. The former jockey has been overwhelmed with support from the racing community and hopes to be a role model for others living with disabilities.

THE THINKERS

Levelling up: shattering myths about philanthropy in Asia. Asia is home to more billionaires now than any other region, and this article explores the intricacies of giving among Asia’s fastest-growing economies. CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro weighs in, noting the difficulties of gathering data in this space as most giving is done through companies and often without proclamation. The article discusses the findings of CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018, including the trust deficit in the social sector and the important role governments can play. As the region witnesses growing inequality, governments are increasingly looking to private players for support. With more wealth than ever before, Shapiro concludes that Asia has enormous potential to be a world leader in philanthropy.

THE BUSINESSES

The Philippines’ Aboitiz Group supports young robotics enthusiasts. The Aboitiz Group has long supported STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the Philippines, and it recently reinforced its commitment through the launch of the ‘Kabataan Inyovator: An Aboitiz Robotics Competition.’ The competition aims to encourage innovation in solving community problems through robotics. Together with Davao Light and Power Company, the Aboitiz Foundation led the competition launch on August 12 in Davao City. Pinoy Robot Games offered training sessions on robot programming, and project ideation and evaluation, for 20 Davao City public elementary and high school teams. The winning team will have its prototype deployed in its host community, and represent the Philippines in the World Robot Olympiad in Canada.  

Macronix donates NT$420 million to National Cheng Kung University to build Macronix Innovation Center. Macronix International, a global manufacturer of integrated non-volatile memory components headquartered in Taiwan, has made a generous donation to Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University (NCKU). The NT$420 million donation (approximately US$13.5 million) will be used to build the Macronix Innovation Center, a historic new space on campus that will leverage the talent of Macronix and NCKU collaboratively. Miin Wu, the founder and chief executive officer of Macronix is an alumnus of the university, where he studied electrical engineering. Macronix hopes the new creative space will foster new talent as well as demonstrate the company’s dedication to corporate social responsibility. The Macronix Innovation Center adds to NUCK’s nine existing schools by housing the School of Computing, modeled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) College of Computing.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Volunteer-based emergency response system offers solution to road traffic accidents in Bangladesh. Featured in Stanford Social Innovation Review, TraumaLink’s pragmatic model shines a spotlight on volunteer-based emergency response systems. In Bangladesh, road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the leading cause of death and disability, with nearly 25,000 road traffic deaths in 2016 according to the World Health Organization. In 2013, TraumaLink co-founders Jon Moussally, an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Mridul Chowdhury, CEO of mPower Social Enterprises, introduced a volunteer-based solution. TraumaLink enlists local volunteers, who live or work along the highway, to provide more immediate first aid to RTI victims. As of mid-2019, almost 2,000 patients have been treated by nearly 500 TraumaLink volunteers.

THE INNOVATORS

Thailand’s Bank of Ayudhya to issue first private-sector gender bonds in Asia-Pacific. The IFC (International Finance Corporation) and DEG (Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft) have agreed to subscribe to the first private-sector gender bonds in Asia, set to be issued in the amount of up to US$220 million by Thailand’s Bank of Ayudhya. These gender bonds are supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, a join initiative of the IFC and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative. Together they aim to increase access to finance for as many as 100,000 women in emerging markets. This inaugural gender bond issuance will help expand credit lines to women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises in Thailand, as well as promote the transparency and integrity of Asia’s nascent social bond market. The Bank of Ayudhya is expected to issue the bonds this October. 

Japan’s MUFG Bank joins ESG wave with new unit. Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) will set up a department specializing in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) funding to develop financial products for companies focused on responsible investing. This sustainable business office will encourage customers to work on ESG issues and provide financing to companies based on ESG ratings and benchmarks. With an aim to improve its ESG performance groupwide, MUFG Bank has already taken concrete steps itself, such as sourcing all power for its Tokyo headquarters from hydroelectric sources. Further, by signing on to the Principle for Responsible Banking which will be launched by the United Nations this month, MUFG Bank will also set publicly disclosed environmental and social impact goals.

Who’s Doing Good?

22 July 2019 - 4 August 2019

THE GIVERS

Tin Ka Ping Foundation donates HK$5 million (approximately US$640,000) to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Dr. Tin Ka Ping’s eponymous foundation has reinforced the late philanthropist’s lifelong commitment to education through its most recent donation. Made to the Tin Ka Ping Education Fund—a permanent fund established in 2008 for HKUST’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)—the donation raised the Fund’s principal to a total of HK$11 million (approximately US$1.4 million). The university plans to use the new funds to support its “Dream Chaser Scholarship Fund” aimed at meeting the financial needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. HKUST President Prof. Wei Shyy remarked, “I am sure this donation would help foster whole-person development for students—especially those in need, and help attract more excellent young scholars to our university, further expanding the realms of academic and knowledge frontiers.”

Donations to Kyoto Animation surpass ¥1 billion (approximately US$9.4 million) after tragic arson attack. Support for Japanese anime studio Kyoto Animation has poured in from inside and outside the country in the wake of the July 18th arson attack which resulted in 35 casualties. Over 48,000 donors, including individuals and companies, donated US$9.4 million in just five days after the studio opened a bank account specifically for receiving donations. Outside Japan, Sentai Filmworks, a U.S. company that distributes Japanese anime, managed to raise US$2.3 million for the studio via crowdfunding. Kyoto Animation will use the money to help injured victims and deceased victims’ families as well as aid reconstruction efforts. The firm plans to report the use of these funds to the public.

Hui Ka Yan, Chairman of Evergrande Group, tops Forbes’ China Philanthropy List for the fourth time. The chairman of one of the world’s most valuable real estate companies retained his top position on Forbes’ China Philanthropy List after receiving the accolade in 2012, 2013, and 2018. Yang Guoqiang, Chairman of real estate company Country Garden, and Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, were second and third respectively. Hui Ka Yan led with total cash donations worth ¥4.07 billion (approximately US$586 million) followed by ¥1.65 billion (approximately US$237 million) donated by Yang and family, and ¥980 million (approximately US$141 million) under Ma’s name. Donations across the hundred entrepreneurs featured on the list totaled ¥19.17 billion (approximately US$2.8 billion), a seven-year high and a 10.7% increase year-on-year.

Hong Kong billionaire Lui Che Woo offers insight into his philanthropic efforts. One of the richest men in Hong Kong, Lui Che Woo, established the Lui Che Woo Prize for World Civilization in 2015 through a donation of US$1.2 billion. Nine laureates have received the prize’s cash award of HK$20 million (approximately US$2.6 million) each so far. In this Forbes interview Lui states that motivation for establishing the prize came from his own experience of World War II, which led him to question why conflict and development gaps continue to exist. The prize focuses on “the appreciation and recognition towards sustainability of world resources, determination in betterment of people and the society, and demonstration of positivity which enables mankind to withstand different challenges.” Lui’s philanthropy is rooted in an idea of being “gifted” by society, and he vows to never forget to contribute back to it.

THE THINKERS

Impact investment rising in Asia, but challenges remain. CAPS’ Director of Research, Mehvesh Mumtaz Ahmed, argues that impact investment in Asia has evoked wide interest but commensurate capital deployment is yet to be witnessed—Asia accounts for less than 10% of global impact investment assets under management. She cites the newness of impact investing in Asia as one inhibitor. According to a poll of ultra- and high-net-worth individuals, 98% of respondents looked to increase their allocations to impact investment, but over half had not made a single impact investment. A mismatch between the types of financing needed by social enterprises and those on offer from impact investors has also surfaced as a gap. But, Mehvesh Ahmed argues, the thinking around impact investment in Asia is constantly evolving and the future for the financing mechanism appears bright. CAPS will be releasing a detailed study on social entrepreneurship and impact investing in Asia this fall.

Increasing inheritance tax levels could boost giving in Asia. Sumit Agarwal, Professor at the National University of Singapore, opines that Asia can do more to spur its ultra-rich to be more philanthropic. Asia has been home to incredible wealth creation in recent years: the number of billionaires in China rose to 819 in 2018 from 571 in 2017, far outpacing growth in the United States. Yet, Agarwal notes, only 10 out of the 182 total signatories of the “Giving Pledge” come from Asia. Low or nonexistent inheritance tax exacerbates the situation, allowing Asians to pass all or most of their wealth to their descendants. Agarwal cites recent research from the U.S. which finds that repealing the inheritance tax for a year led to a decline in charitable giving by US$6 billion. He concludes that the introduction of even a modest inheritance tax could incentivize Asian high-net-worth individuals to donate their growing share of global wealth. (CAPS highlighted the importance of inheritance tax for Asian philanthropy in the 2018 Doing Good Index.

Brookings India releases report on the Indian impact investment landscape. India faces an annual financing gap of US$565 billion towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Impact investment is emerging as one answer: it can help champion innovative ideas in social service delivery, test their effectiveness, and help them scale up. This report from Brookings India surveys market trends and finds that impact investment is beginning to take off. The sector attracted US$5.2 billion from 2010 to 2016 with US$1.1 billion invested in 2016 alone. The report concludes with actionable recommendations for creating an effective social financing ecosystem in India.

THE NONPROFITS

Social donations in China exceed ¥90 billion (approximately US$13 billion) in 2018. Figures from the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs have also shed light on the growing importance of online donations for China’s third sector. The 2018 “September 9 Charity Day,” an event backed by internet-giant Tencent, saw 28 million online donors donating ¥830 million (approximately US$120 million) through 20 officially designated online charity platforms. For some major foundations as much as 80% of their donations are now originating from online and social sources. Overall, official figures hold the number of registered charity organizations in China at 7,500 with their net assets totaling ¥160 billion (approximately US$23 billion). 

THE INNOVATORS

Indian clean energy producer raises US$950 million in Asia’s largest green bond sale. Global investors oversubscribed by three times a green bond issued by Greenko Energy Holdings, which currently operates assets totaling 4.2 gigawatts of energy generation capacity and has another 7 gigawatts under construction. The bond sale followed an additional US$329 million commitment from two sovereign wealth funds, Singapore’s GIC Private Limited, and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which itself had come on the heels of a previous infusion of US$495 million by sovereign wealth funds for Greenko to build power storage projects. India has set ambitious clean energy targets: it plans to achieve 175 gigawatts by 2022 and 500 gigawatts by 2030. Meeting these goals is estimated to require north of US$250 billion in investments from 2023-2030.

Who’s Doing Good?

24 June 2019 - 7 July 2019

THE GIVERS

Alibaba to contribute US$145 million donation to women’s football. The Chinese women’s national football team will receive ¥1 billion (US$145 million) in donations from Chinese online giant Alibaba. Alipay, the mobile payment platform of Alibaba, will fund the bulk of the initiative. Additional contributions will come from the respective foundations of Alibaba co-founders Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai. The donation will be deployed over the coming decade towards injury prevention and treatment, career development of retired players, technical development, coach education, and youth development. According to this Channel News Asia article, the three parties aim to make football “more sustainable and accessible to girls and women across the nation.” Despite underfunding, the Chinese women’s national team has qualified for seven of the eight Women’s World Cups, including this year’s Cup in France. 

East Asia’s young rich redefine the concept of family legacy. A recent report, Passing the Torch: Bridging mindset gaps between high-net-worth generations in Hong Kong, mainland China, and Singapore, highlights a shift in family business and philanthropy. The study, which was conducted by HSBC and commissioned by The Economist, reveals that high-net-worth individuals are giving their heirs flexibility in taking the family business in a new direction. Increasingly, the younger generation is redefining their family legacies through establishing charitable foundations or engaging in new CSR initiatives under the umbrella of their family business. At the intersection of new wealth and new ideas, the younger generation is redefining family legacy as they strive to create long-term social or environmental impact at the helm of their family business.

THE THINKERS

Muhammad Yunus underscores the power of social enterprises run by women and young people. Ahead of a social business event in Thailand, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus talks about the impact of social enterprises, especially those run by women and young people. In conversation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, he highlighted, “Women and young people perhaps understand these problems better because they are most affected by them.” As social entrepreneurship burgeons across the region, some Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines have passed legislation or revised laws to support social business ventures. To aid these developments, Yunus highlights the importance of adapting educational institutions and financial systems to encourage entrepreneurship and social business.

Philanthropy is still the backbone of social action. CAPS Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro’s letter in the Financial Times gives insight into the relationship between philanthropy and impact investing. In a recent study, CAPS found that 59 percent and 66 percent of social enterprises in Hong Kong and Japan respectively report receiving philanthropic or government grants. In fact, many social enterprises in Asia depend on philanthropy and government grants as angel investment. Shapiro’s letter is a prelude to CAPS’ upcoming report on effective social enterprise ecosystems in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Thailand, set to be published this fall.

THE BUSINESSES

Prudence Foundation and AVPN announce winners of inaugural Disaster Tech Innovation Competition. Prudence Foundation, the community investment arm of Prudential in Asia, and AVPN launched the Disaster Tech Innovation Competition earlier this year. The competition aims to “leverage technology solutions for disaster prevention and recovery efforts in the region.” The finalists, comprised of both nonprofit and for-profit social purpose organizations, covered markets including Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Taiwan. FieldSight, a mobile platform that supports disaster reconstruction activities, won First Prize. According to FieldSight director Justin Henceroth, the mobile platform was first launched in Nepal following the 2015 earthquakes and has since been implemented at 60,000 sites in 16 markets. The organization received a grant of US$100,000 to help fund the implementation and scaling up of its Disaster Tech solution.

Development impact bond (DIB) boosts education in India. The Quality Education India DIB was launched in September 2018 by the British Asian Trust, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation, and Tata Trusts, together with local partners. As the largest development impact bond in the area to date, the bond funds initiatives towards improving literacy and numeracy skills for more than 300,000 children in India. According to a recent evaluation, “40 percent of participating schools met or exceeded their targets for literacy and numeracy outcomes compared with non-participating schools.” The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation country director for India highlighted, “The early signs are that outcome-based funding models, with an incentive attached, have the potential to drive quality in education and attract new forms of capital to sustain it.”

Japan’s Suntory joins rival Coca-Cola to encourage plastic recycling in Vietnam. Reuters reports on a new alliance between Suntory, Coca-Cola, and Nestle–the latest in partnerships among global plastics and consumer goods companies. The Japanese beverage giant, Suntory Holdings, plans to switch out pure petroleum-based plastic bottles for bottles made from recycled or plant-based materials by 2030. However, achieving this goal will be challenging due to a lack of sophisticated recycling systems in Suntory’s Southeast Asian markets, such as Vietnam. The alliance, which also includes the local operations of Tetra Pak and NutiFood, will call on the Vietnamese government to, “plan a system spanning collection and facilities for recycling.” This push comes at a time when Vietnam is among the biggest contributors to plastic waste in the ocean. Earlier this month Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated that he wants Vietnam to phase out single-use plastics by 2025, but companies are pushing for large-scale recycling systems in addition to government restrictions on plastic bottles.

THE INNOVATORS

Sustainable investments make up nearly a fifth of rich Asian investors’ portfolios. According to a survey by Standard Chartered Private Bank, high-net-worth (HNW) investors in Asia have increased their allocation to sustainable investments to almost a fifth of their portfolios. The survey covered 416 HNW individuals residing in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India with a minimum of US$1 million in investments. Chinese investors are leading as the survey found “a majority of [Chinese] respondents have already allocated between a quarter to half of their funds to sustainable investments.” The study also revealed that in Asia knowledge of sustainable investing among investors has improved by 20 percent from 2018. The top cited motivation among the HNW investors was to “create a better future,” followed by “doing good while earning a profit.” The growing interest and awareness of sustainable investing among HNW investors is an encouraging trend for the region.

Impact investing in Asia to gain as US$15 trillion set to change hands among world’s wealthiest families. Impact investing in Asia has an opportunity to gain from the US$15.4 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer expected to occur over the next decade, according to global wealth researcher Wealth-X. While only US$1.88 trillion of this total is expected to be transferred in Asia, the transfer of wealth will occur amidst a growing ESG sector and growing interest in impact investing. With the younger generation soon to be at the helm of their families’ wealth, this intergenerational transfer is a fruitful opportunity for impact investing to grow. Wealth-X additionally notes that the US$8.8 trillion expected to change hands in Europe and North America bodes well for Asia. Due to friendlier regulatory environments, wealthy investors are increasingly setting up family office branches in Singapore or Hong Kong.

Who’s Doing Good?

10 June 2019 - 23 June 2019

THE GIVERS

Li Ka-shing donates HK$118 million to Shantou University. Every undergraduate attending Shantou University in China will have their tuition paid for thanks to Hong Kong’s richest man. Li Ka-shing established the university in 1981 to aid the development of his hometown of Shantou. His donation of HK$118 million (approximately US$15 million) will grant a full scholarship to every student enrolled in the university for the next four years. The donation will be administered through his eponymous foundation, which he founded in 1980. The Hong Kong billionaire has exhibited great dedication to philanthropy, having donated over HK$20 billion (approximately US$2.5 billion) to schools, hospitals, and universities in 27 countries and regions. Li has stated that he plans to bequeath a third of his wealth to philanthropy and charitable causes.

Indian billionaire Azim Premji’s retirement casts spotlight on private philanthropy in India. Azim Premji announced last week that he will retire from his position as executive chairman and managing director of Wipro. As India’s second-richest person with an estimated net worth of US$22.4 billion, Premji has grown to be an inspiring philanthropist, committing over half of his wealth to philanthropy. Premji was the first Indian to sign The Giving Pledge and has donated US$21 billion to date. While ultra-high-net-worth individuals in India are giving less than they did five years ago, according to Dasra and Bain’s 2019 India Philanthropy Report, Premji is a notable exception. His retirement casts a spotlight on private philanthropy in India and the opportunity for more business leaders and philanthropists to invest their wealth in the social sector.

Japan’s Rugby World Cup mascots call on fans to help disadvantaged children in Asia. ChildFund and World Rugby are partnering for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which will be hosted by Japan this fall. As part of their Impact Beyond legacy program, the Rugby World Cup’s two mascots will be ambassadors to ChildFund Pass It Back, a sport-for-development organization. Pass It Back has benefited more than 10,000 disadvantaged children across Asia–over half being girls and young women–by integrating life skills curricula with tag rugby. With a pledge of a record £1.5 million (US$1.9 million), the global rugby community and commercial partners for the 2019 Rugby World Cup will enable over 25,000 disadvantaged youth from across Asia to participate in the Pass It Back program.

THE THINKERS

Japan’s social investment funds connect social enterprises to private capital. As interest in social ventures increases among investors, third-party organizations in Japan are stepping in to connect social enterprises with private capital. This includes Kamakura Investment Management, which works to facilitate a cross-sector ecosystem by connecting companies it invests in to social ventures it supports. Kamakura’s flagship mutual fund, Yui 2101, which initially received skepticism from people in the industry, now boasts assets under management of US$340 million from more than 19,000 investors. Another key player working to foster a cross-sector ecosystem is the Japan Social Impact Investment Foundation (SIIF), which invested in Japan’s first health-care social impact bond.

Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) releases its 2019 Annual Impact Investor Survey. In its ninth iteration, GIIN’s Annual Impact Investor Survey provides data on and insights into the increasing scale and maturity of the global impact investing industry. The report draws on responses from 266 leading impact investing organizations from around the world who collectively manage US$239 billion. The report also includes Asia-specific findings. South Asia is reported to be the second-fastest-growing region of interest among four-year repeat respondents, with 40 percent of all respondents planning to increase their allocations to it. For the array of actors entering Asia’s nascent impact investing industry, this report offers a snapshot of impact investing activity from global counterparts.

THE NONPROFITS

Cambodian nonprofit wins Australian award for film addressing domestic violence. Siem Reap-based nonprofit This Life Cambodia won the “Best Social Media Campaign of the Year” at the Not-For-Profit Technology Awards in Australia. The nonprofit leveraged the power of social media to run its End Violence Together campaign for 16 days in November and December 2018. The campaign included a two-minute film depicting “a world in which women and children weren’t wearing helmets to protect themselves from road accidents, but wore them inside their homes to protect themselves from domestic violence.” According to The Phnom Penh Post, the video went viral and was viewed more than a million times. This Life Cambodia is also a finalist for the global Grassroots Justice Prize.

THE BUSINESSES

Korea’s Amorepacific signs MOU with TerraCycle to recycle empty bottles. Recycling efforts will soon get a boost with an agreement signed between Amorepacific Corporate and global environment company TerraCycle. A memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties in June includes objectives to recycle at least 100 tons of empty plastic bottles annually for three years and to increase the usage of recycled empty bottles for Amorepacific products. Amorepacific is a leading Korean beauty company and has collected 1,736 tons of empty cosmetic bottles over the last 15 years. The company has been running its Greencycle campaign to recycle these empty cosmetic bottles or upcycle them into creative artworks. The company is also currently studying different recycling opportunities to mitigate environmental harm caused by used cosmetic bottles.

Collaboration among stakeholders key to achieving development goals. In the lead-up to the G-20 Osaka Summit, Japan has outlined action plans for achieving the SDGs through regional revitalization, women empowerment, and Society 5.0–a program based on human-centered society, leveraging data, and new technologies. Business leaders have also been vocalizing their support. The Keidanren, also known as the Japan Business Foundation, has updated its Charter of Corporate Behavior to support efforts for achieving the SDGs. The integration of SDG principles and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into business strategies and investments is promising, but the article highlights the need for more collaboration at the global level to achieve the SDGs. At the first SDG Summit in New York this September, the international community will need to discuss progress made and a collaborative way forward.

THE INNOVATORS

Asian banks curb lending to coal plants after pressure from investment funds. Asian banks are stopping loans to coal plants as investors increasingly adopt environmentally conscious investment principles. The latest move came from Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in May and banks across Asia, such as DBS and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation in Singapore, have also announced similar measures. This is in line with a surge in global investments based on ESG factors, which have reached US$30.7 trillion as of 2018–a 34 percent increase in just two years–according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. George Iguchi of Nissay Asset Management stated, “These three factors [environment, social, and governance] are good indicators of what vision each company has for its business. Businesses with a good vision can generate better returns [that are] sustainable.”

UOB Venture Management expands its impact investing initiative. UOB Venture Management will be launching a new impact fund in the second half this year. Named the Asia Impact Investment Fund (AIIF II), it will continue the Fund’s focus on investment in education, healthcare, and agriculture as well as extend into new areas like clean energy and affordable housing. Deals for the Fund will be assessed based on a company’s ability to scale its business and the company’s impact on low-income communities. UOB Venture Management started the first series of the Fund in 2015 and has invested in nine companies across China, Indonesia, and Myanmar. These companies have strived to improve the lives of low-income communities by including them as consumers, suppliers, or distributors.

Who’s Doing Good?

15 April 2019 - 28 April 2019

THE GIVERS

Next-generation Asian philanthropists take an innovative approach to family foundations. Out of 146 countries and territories studied for the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index 2018, Hong Kong ranked 18th for charitable donations. Hong Kong family charities and foundations have long been generous givers, and the next generation is becoming more engaged and strategic in family giving. Cynthia D’Anjou-Brown, head of philanthropy and family governance advisory services at HSBC Private Banking, states, “Most younger donors don’t want to be seen as a money machine. They want to bring their skills and abilities to the table.” These second- and third-generation philanthropists are moving their family foundations beyond check-writing and underscoring a larger trend of a growing formalization of philanthropy in Hong Kong.

China increasingly a nation of givers through online and mobile platforms. Chinese philanthropy has grown and evolved significantly over the past decade, exemplified by the total amount of domestic giving quadrupling from 2009 to 2017. While a total of US$3.3 billion in public donations have been made by China’s top 100 philanthropists, ordinary individuals have become vital contributors through the expansion of digital payment platforms and artificial intelligence. Through popular online and mobile payment platforms like Alipay, users have easy access to various philanthropic activities including donating second-hand items, donating blood, and planting trees. With this expansion, it is critical that online and mobile platforms improve supervising mechanisms and enhance cross-platform collaboration to strengthen, manage, and prevent crises that could damage public trust in the charitable sector.

THE THINKERS

New report highlights Asia’s growing interest and momentum in sustainable finance. Although Asia historically lags behind global counterparts in social investment, innovations are emerging throughout the region. The past decade has seen more institutional investors broaden their portfolios, governments establish social investment funds and enact supportive legislation, and corporations engage in impact investing and social enterprise mentoring. This momentum is driven by recent developments such as the growth of the green bond market, the issuance of green sukuks, and the support of ESG funds by governments across the region. While Asian businesses, governments, and investors are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their impact initiatives, they must collaborate to address multidimensional challenges and to catch up with more developed markets such as the United States and Europe.

THE NONPROFITS

Hong Kong nonprofits building transitional homes to be exempted land charges. In an effort to lessen the financial burden on nonprofits and to encourage more community-initiated transitional housing projects, the Hong Kong government recently announced that charities that build transitional homes on private plots will be exempted from paying hefty land charges. According to the government statement, HK$2 billion (US$225 million) is also being set aside to support nonprofits in building transitional housing, and concessions will be given for other sites suitable for building transitional homes, such as vacant government sites and disused government premises. In Hong Kong, where the wait for public rental housing can be up to five-and-a-half years, transitional homes play a critical role in providing temporary relief for people stuck in poor living conditions.

THE BUSINESSES

Aloke and Suchitra Lohia speak with CAPS’ Chief Executive, Ruth Shapiro, on the launch of their IVL Foundation. Aloke Lohia, founder and CEO of Indorama Ventures (IVL), transformed a modest family business into a multi-billion-dollar international corporation. In addition to being one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wool, yarn, and polyester, Indorama is also one of the world’s largest recyclers of plastic and leverages its global operations to promote the circular economy. In conversation with Ruth Shapiro for Hong Kong Tatler, Bangkok-based tycoons Aloke and Suchitra Lohia discuss the company’s initiatives supporting education, economic development, women’s empowerment, healthcare, and social enterprises. Through the IVL Foundation, the couple aims to further create meaningful change through strategic philanthropy that amplifies impact and spreads value throughout the company and the communities they work with.

Japan-based Kao Corporation announces new global ESG strategy. Kao Corporation, whose brand portfolio includes Bioré, Goldwell, Jergens, John Frieda, and Molton Brown, recently announced its new global ESG strategy to promote a more sustainable way of living. The corporation’s “Kirei Lifestyle Plan” has set three bold commitments supported by 19 detailed leadership actions for the business to deliver by 2030. Kao aims to build upon the success of past initiatives, such as the adoption of refills and replacement packaging and the development of more compacted formulas, which together reduced the company’s plastic use in its packaging by 93,100 tons in 2018. For five years running, Kao has been selected for inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.

THE INNOVATORS

Jakarta-based investors weigh in on the difference between impact investors and traditional VCs. While tech-focused startups have the potential to create jobs and improve social welfare, there is debate on whether venture funds that invest in these startups should be labeled as social impact funds. There is difficulty in demarcating the boundaries of impact investors and VCs, but some practitioners encourage impact investors to differentiate themselves by justifying why they use that label, providing advice on measuring and monitoring impact, and investing where other people are not to close funding gaps. David Soukhasing, managing director at ANGIN, Tanisha Banaszczyk, investment manager at Convergence Ventures, and Melisa Irene, partner at East Ventures, weigh in on key characteristics that distinguish impact funds from their VC counterparts.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Healthcare workers, caregivers, and volunteers awarded for their work in Singapore. At the 16th Healthcare Humanity Awards organized by The Courage Fund, 83 people were recognized for their work in taking care of the sick and elderly in Singapore. One of the four categories recognizes volunteers who provide care or commit personal time to helping the nominating healthcare, social, and community care organizations. From fundraising by running ultra marathons to helping sailors with physical disabilities, the work of local volunteers was celebrated at the ceremony, and medals and cash awards were given by Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Former mosque chairman jailed for siphoning SG$371,000 in donations. A former chairman of a mosque management board in Singapore was sentenced to jail for two years and three months for siphoning around SG$371,000 (approximately US$300,000) from donations over seven years. While delivering the sentence, District Judge Ong Chin Rhu highlighted that the use of the money was perhaps the most controversial aspect, as the former chairman had used some of the donations to pay off personal expenses and donated other large sums to charities for which he worked for and drew a monthly salary from. The judge underscored the detriment of any crime involving the misuse of charity funds and its consequent of public distrust in the charity sector as a whole.

Who’s Doing Good?

4 March 2019 - 10 March 2019

THE GIVERS

British Asian Trust announces new partnership with British Telecom (BT) to launch program in India. The British Asian Trust, which was founded by Prince Charles in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia, will launch a three-year program in partnership with BT to employ digital technology to improve girls’ education in India. Working with local sector leaders and social delivery organizations, the new partnership will explore innovative ways in which technology can be used to break down social barriers and help improve education and employment opportunities for around 500,000 young girls. The program will work in and around BT’s India operations in Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, and Kolkata. BT Group’s chief executive, Philip Jansen, expressed enthusiasm for the new partnership, “The world of work has changed enormously during the 30 years BT has been in India. We recognize that digital technologies have the potential to transform opportunities for this and future generations of girls.”

THE THINKERS

Despite strong philanthropic momentum, India still falls short on funding needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bain’s India Philanthropy Report 2019 heralds the growth of social sector funding over the past five years. The report highlights an increase in private funding at a rate of 15% per year and public funding at a rate of about 10% per year. Funding by individual philanthropists grew the most, increasing by 21% per year. Even if India continues to sustain its current funding growth rate and channels all philanthropic capital into the SDGs, the country will still face an annual shortfall that augurs poorly for achieving the SDGs. While domestic private philanthropy is burgeoning and outpacing public funding growth in India, the report calls on domestic corporations and India’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals to enhance the level and nature of their giving.

Collaboration and women empowerment underscored as key factors of effective philanthropy in India. In response to the release of Bain’s India Philanthropy Report 2019, leaders in the philanthropic sector called for more collaborative action and women empowerment. Roopa Purushothaman, chief economist and head of policy advocacy at Tata Sons, encouraged stakeholders to look at building a “carer economy,” which supports caregivers of children and elders. Anant Bhagwati, a partner at Bain and director at Dasra, a foundation focused on strategic philanthropy, highlighted the critical role of collaborative action for India’s philanthropic spending to reach its full potential. Philanthropist Rohini Nilekani echoed Bhagwati’s views, emphasizing the need for civil society, markets, and government to collaborate for better results.

Why investing in women and girls will take off in 2019. New research published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review delineates the economic benefits of gender parity, highlighting that women could raise global GDP by up to US$28 trillion or 26% in 2025 if they were to attain equal participation. A McKinsey report estimates that advancing women’s equality in Asia-Pacific countries would raise their collective GDP by US$4.5 trillion in 2025, a 12% increase over the business-as-usual trajectory. While growth in gender lens investing is constrained by a sparse pipeline of investees as well as a lack of well-defined metrics, a better understanding of the benefits of gender impact investing, celebrating success stories, and supporting women-focused intermediaries can all help drive more investing in women and girls in the Asian region and boost global prosperity.

THE NONPROFITS

Nonprofits focus on “secondary needs” in efforts to rebuild communities in Tohoku. Monday marked eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered a tsunami and nuclear disaster and devastated coastal communities, most notably in the Tohoku region. While Japan’s Reconstruction Agency announced in December that full restoration of the region would not be complete by March 2021 as originally scheduled, nonprofits and volunteers have been playing a major role in helping with recovery. In addition to physical reconstruction, nonprofits and local government are also focusing on “secondary needs” of reconstruction, including emotional and social well-being. One nonprofit, Playground of Hope, is working to restore a sense of community and strengthen emotional and social support by providing outdoor play equipment for children and holding community workshops.

THE BUSINESSES

Google launches a free mobile application to teach English and Hindi to children in India. Google’s new offline mobile application, Bolo, is designed to help children in rural areas with poor mobile coverage improve their English and Hindi. The application uses speech recognition and text-to-speech technology with friendly cartoon characters to make language learning more fun for children. Google has developed and released Bolo in the name of philanthropy, stating that it is not looking to monetize the application and that the application is completely safe for children to use. A recent study showed that only 44% of grade five students in India are capable of reading books written for grade two students, and in response, Google stated that its reading-tutor application can help improve these numbers. In the pilot scheme with almost 1,000 children, results showed that 64% of participants improved their reading skills after using the Bolo application.

Lessons from SK Group on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Asia. Companies and institutional investors play a major role in driving innovation, and Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, sheds light on the group’s recent initiatives that focus on accountability and innovation. One example he highlights is the group’s “Double Bottom Line” (DBL) initiative, by which the group reports all of its 17 SK affiliates’ contribution to social value alongside operational profits. Another CSR program, “Social Progress Credit,” was highlighted for its support for social enterprises through cash incentives. With an early acknowledgment of its responsibility in Korea, the SK Group has been a leader in CSR, and its deep-rooted commitment to social good is an exemplar for other companies in the region looking to cut through the noise and be recognized in the CSR space.

THE INNOVATORS

Recognition of social enterprises in Asia needed first before regulation. Social enterprises have proliferated across Asia over the past decade, and governments are increasingly recognizing the role that social enterprises play in solving social, economic, and environmental challenges. Last week, Thailand passed a social enterprise act that gives tax breaks and other incentives to registered profit-generating ventures with a social impact mission. This act puts Thailand among the few countries in the region with legislation aimed at such ventures. Romy Cahyadi, chief executive at Indonesia-based Instellar, a company offering incubation and acceleration programs for social entrepreneurs, highlights that recognizing social enterprises as legal entities can offer greater clarity to the sector. However, for many countries where the social enterprise sector is still nascent, there is a greater need for awareness of and education on social enterprises first.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Chinese end-of-life care volunteers bring comfort to the elderly. In 2018, China had 249 million people aged 60 and above, accounting for 17.9% of its total population. With the fastest-growing elderly population in the world, among which nearly 50 million are critically ill, there is a high demand for elderly services and care. One nonprofit, Love and Companion Center, provides end-of-life care for those in need and enlists volunteers from a 500-member group chat on WeChat every week. Since it was established in 2014, the nonprofit has provided over 10,000 hospice services for the elderly and their families through the help of its volunteers.

Who’s Doing Good?

04 February 2019 - 10 February 2019

THE GIVERS

Mukesh Ambani tops Hurun India Philanthropy List 2018. From October 2017 to September 2018, Ambani and his family donated Rs 437 crore (approximately US$61.4 million). Reliance Industries’ chairman was followed by Piramal Group’s chairman, Ajay Piramal, whose son recently married Ambani’s daughter. Piramal donated Rs 200 crore (approximately US$28.1 million) during the same period, in addition to giving Rs 71 crore (approximately US$10 million) for Kerela flood relief. Other notable philanthropists on this year’s list include the Premji, Godrej, and Nadar families.

Prince Charles unveils US$100 million fund for women empowerment in South Asia. The proposed fund, led by the British Asian Trust (BAT), will channel bond investors’ money to give half a million women and girls access to better education, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunities over the next five years. The BAT will seek funding from the charity units of big banks for the initial risk investments and from national governments and other big donors for underwriting the final payment. Announcing the initiative, Prince Charles, called it the BAT’s “most ambitious venture to date.”

THE THINKERS

The Foundation Center and GuideStar merge to create Candid, a mega data portal. Two leading nonprofit and philanthropic intermediaries merge to create a data portal with a worldwide reach, combining years of research and experience in the social sector. The merge has been a decade in the making with top funders including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Lodestar Foundation, and Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative. Brad Smith, president of the Foundation Center, will be president of Candid., and Jacob Herald, president of GuideStar, will serve as executive vice president. Operating with a budget of approximately US$38 million, Candid. will leverage both organizations’ complementary missions, datasets, and networks to be at the forefront of information-sharing in the nonprofit sector.

Rohini Nilekani and Vidya Shah call for more philanthropic giving at The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019. According to a recent Oxfam report, Indian billionaires have added Rs 2,200 crore (approximately US$307 million) per day to their wealth, however in the “commitment to reducing inequality index,” India ranked 147 out of 157 countries. Rohini Nilekani and Vidya Shah, two leading female entrepreneurs and philanthropists, brought light to these numbers at The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019, and they advocated for more giving to causes such as healthcare, education, and social protection. In accord, they encouraged greater engagement in philanthropy, calling on community members to devote more time and money to causes that address the country’s glaring inequality.

How nonprofits can help donor-advised fund philanthropists listen and learn. The use of donor-advised funds (DAF) has increased in popularity over the years as philanthropists seek greater impact through more organized and thoughtful forms of giving. As DAF donors work to enhance their giving portfolios, they should listen to feedback from the communities and individuals they seek to help. This enhanced communication between donors, intermediaries, and communities is an emerging trend in philanthropy, and DAF donors are poised to advance the practice of listening. The article highlights new approaches such as test-and-learn gifts, volunteering, survey and focus groups, and expert consultation.

THE NONPROFITS

Five Hong Kong charities that save the environment. Hong Kong Tatler highlighted five nonprofits for their work in environmental protection: Clean Air Network, EcoDrive Hong Kong, Ocean Recovery Alliance, Project C: Change, and The Nature Conservancy. As Hong Kong faces air quality and waste management challenges, awareness, education, and policy change will be pertinent in mitigating deleterious effects on the environment. Together, these nonprofits are raising awareness, connecting key stakeholders, and building more sustainable solutions for the future.

Nonprofits join in a campaign to reduce financial support for forest-risk businesses. According to new data released by the Forests and Finance campaign by the nonprofit Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Malaysian banks were the biggest funders of forest-risk activities and the least likely to have internal policies restricting environmental damage. RAN is joining forces with two nonprofits, TuK Indonesia and Profundo, to campaign for less financial support for forest-risk businesses including unsustainable palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, and timber developments, thereby reducing their negative impacts on the environment.

THE BUSINESSES

Marriot, the world’s largest hotel operator, partners with Generation Water to offer a sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. According to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, as much as 60% of the plastic found in the ocean comes from five Asian countries including Thailand. The growing tourism industry in Thailand is taking a detrimental toll on the environment, and industry leaders are recognizing their need to take responsibility. Marriot International’s director of operations for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar stated that the company understands its greater obligation and responsibility as its global footprint grows, and the hotel operator has partnered with the startup, Generation Water, to implement water plants that collect 4,000 liters of water a day from vapor condensation. Marriot has now been producing its own water for four months—reducing its number of used plastic bottles by more than 100,000 plastic bottles—and plans to expand water plants to all Marriot resorts in southern Thailand.

THE INNOVATORS

Venture fund, Quest Ventures, helps social organizations create and scale impact. A recent report by the Global Impact Investing Network has highlighted the significant growth of Southeast Asia’s impact investing ecosystem over the past decade, with US$904 million invested in the region by private impact investors. The venture fund firm, Quest Ventures, is joining other impact investors through its new impact fund to support startups addressing real-world problems. In the upcoming year, Quest Ventures plans to roll out their new fund and invest in 60 companies, 50 of them being social enterprises, in Southeast Asia to help entrepreneurs create and scale social impact in their communities. In addition to capital, the firm aims to support founders through their networks and mentorship services.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Number of volunteers in China hits hundreds of millions. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 100 million Chinese have registered as volunteers by the end of 2018. Specifically, approximately 12,000 volunteering organizations were registered by the end of 2018, collectively providing more than 1.2 billion hours of community service. A statement from the China Volunteer Service Federation said that more efforts will be made to encourage volunteers’ participation in public service and social governance, as well as improving the quality of their service.