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?

16 September 2019 - 29 September 2019

THE GIVERS

Five heirs from wealthy Asian families focus on the environment. In this Bloomberg article, wealthy Asian heirs and philanthropy experts discuss their efforts, and the challenges they face, in environmental activism and impact investing. Asia is home to three of the five most-polluting countries in the world, but government and philanthropic efforts to combat climate change are lagging behind. However, as wealth is transferred to a younger, more environmentally aware generation, attitudes are starting to change. The efforts and challenges discussed in the article include climate awareness campaigns, green bonds, and ESG investing. 

THE THINKERS

UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank launch the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children. The Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children (GMPFC), a joint initiative of UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), will help enable multiple forms of Muslim philanthropy. The Fund offers a coordinated and structured mechanism through which Muslim giving can be channeled to children and young people. This includes obligatory giving such as Zakat and voluntary giving such as Sadaqah donations and Waqf endowments. This funding will contribute to humanitarian and development programs in the 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Fund aims to raise US$250 million from private and public foundations, Zakat agencies, and individual donors.

THE BUSINESSES

Indian companies are putting purpose before profit. Indian businesses are increasingly tweaking their policies, premises and operations to be more socially and environmentally conscious. Underlying these developments are young customers and employees preferring companies adhering to certain values, as well as a broader shift in capitalist focus from pure profit to a broader more inclusive and purposive business approach. These ideas are not new to Indian business. Former director at Tata Sons underscores this in the article, giving nod to Jamsetji Tata who–over a century ago–emphasized that the community is not just another stakeholder but the very purpose of business. Among the companies implementing new initiatives are Godrej companies, which adopted a gender affirmation policy, and Mahindra group, which reduced the amount of energy used to produce vehicles by 83% in 8 years.

Grab launches social impact program to upskill Southeast Asians. Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab announced the launch of its Grab for Good program, an initiative that aims to create more opportunities for Southeast Asians in the digital economy. Through partnerships with governments, companies, educational institutions, and nonprofits, the Grab for Good program sets out to help 5 million micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses digitize their workflows and processes and bring digital inclusion and literacy to 3 million Southeast Asians. Grab group CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan stated, “If the private sector actively creates programs for local communities, technology can be within reach for many, and the learning of new skills can immediately improve the livelihoods for many more people in Southeast Asia.”

Manila Water Foundation named Asia’s Community Care Company of the Year. On September 20th, Manila Water Foundation (MWF), the social development arm of Manila Water, was awarded Asia’s Community Care Company of the Year award in recognition of its work in bringing water access, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to marginalized communities. MWF’s Integrated WASH programs focus on providing access to clean and potable water to rural and marginalized communities as well as encouraging behavioral changes to improve hygiene and sanitation practices. Asia’s Community Care Company of the Year Award is part of the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability (ACES) award and given to companies leading significant, innovative and inspirational corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns. 

THE INNOVATORS

Japan’s US$1.5 trillion pension fund to go all in on green bonds. Green bonds raise money for climate and environmental projects, and they can be issued by private companies, international organizations, and governments. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, “Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) will begin allocating substantial amounts of money to bonds with an environmental purpose as early as the fiscal year beginning next April.” The GPIF is Japan’s largest public investor by assets, managing ¥159 trillion (US$1.5 trillion). While the GPIF already owns a small amount of green bonds, this move has the potential to influence other institutional investors by deepening the market for these bonds. This move comes amidst the Fund’s new focus on environment, social, and governance (ESG) investing. 

Aavishkaar Group raises US$37 million in fresh financing from Dutch development bank. One of the world’s largest impact investors, Aavishkaar Group currently manages assets of about US$1 billion. The Mumbai-based social capital investor recently raised US$27 million in fresh financing from Dutch development finance institution FMO. According to the chief executive of Aavishkaar Group, a substantial portion of proceeds from this new round will be used to build the groundwork for expanding its operations to Africa and Southeast Asia. FMO said in a statement, “With this investment into the group, we hope to help the Aavishkaar Group reduce the vulnerability of India’s, Southeast Asia’s, and Africa’s low-income population…We will work with Aavishkaar to help them build their own institution so that they can focus on what they do well: building companies, backing entrepreneurs, and unlocking innovative ideas.”

Levelling Up: Shattering Myths About Philanthropy in Asia

Campden FB

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What is the Doing Good Index (DGI)?

Wealth & Society

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Impact investment in Asia: rising trend, lagging reality

Philanthropy Impact Magazine

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Paying It Forward: Merle Hinrich And Asia’s Next Generation Of Leaders

Hong Kong Tatler

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The skills that youths will need to succeed in the 21st century

The Japan Times

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Philanthropy is still the backbone of social action

Financial Times

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Crowdfunding for charity: why mainland China leads Hong Kong in online giving

South China Morning Post

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