Who’s Doing Good?

6 January 2020 - 19 January 2020

THE GIVERS

Heroes of Philanthropy 2019: Azim Premji is Asia’s biggest giver. Forbes India released its 13th annual Heroes of Philanthropy list, which honors 30 individuals across the Asia-Pacific region for their philanthropy. The list focuses on individuals who go beyond just donating money and are personally committed to achieving a long-term vision for society. Azim Premji became Asia’s most generous philanthropist in 2019 by donating US$7.6 billion worth of Wipro shares to his eponymous foundation, raising his total lifetime giving to US$21 billion. The list also includes Jack Ma, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Atul Nishar, among others

Chinese tycoons have a duty to follow Jack Ma into philanthropy, says Asian philanthropist. In this Nikkei Asian Review piece, Chairman of Wahum Group Holdings James Chen shares his journey in catalytic philanthropy to advance eye care solutions in China. Chen calls on China’s business elite to understand the role they can play in growing the economy and addressing social problems via philanthropy. This is especially important as China’s wealthy now outnumber their American counterparts, according to research by Credit Suisse. Mr. Chen underscores that Chinese tech leaders are well-positioned to do more as they have both the skills and capital to drive solutions to the country’s most pressing social issues. 

THE THINKERS

Bangladesh’s dynamic duo battle global health inequity. In his latest Gates Notes, philanthropist Bill Gates profiles Dr. Samir Saha and Senjuti Saha, a father-daughter team working to reduce child mortality in Bangladesh. Senjuti, a microbiologist, works with her father at the Child Health Research Foundation, an organization he helped found. They are using data, state-of-the-art diagnostics, and vaccines to battle infectious diseases and close the gap in healthcare delivery between low-income and high-income countries. Gates gives insight into the impact of their work and the importance of this type of research for Bangladesh and other countries that lack many of the resources needed to diagnose and treat illnesses. 

THE BUSINESSES

Chinese companies get to grips with tougher ESG disclosures. Financial Times reports that authorities in China are urging companies to say more about their environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s call for the development of “green finance” to attract more foreign investment. Hong Kong’s latest move will require all exchange-listed companies to disclose the board’s consideration of ESG risks, as well as materiality assessments. The stock exchanges of Shanghai and Shenzhen are expected to follow Hong Kong’s lead this year. At the same time, issuers of bonds are also coming under increased scrutiny as foreign investors remain wary of China’s “green bonds.” In the third quarter of 2019, only 40% of green bonds from Chinese issuers were in line with international norms on the use of proceeds, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative, a London-based nonprofit organization. 

Takeda and MIT School of Engineering join to advance research in artificial intelligence and health. The MIT-Takeda Program will support MIT faculty, students, researchers, and staff who are working at the intersection of AI and human health. The program will offer them access to pharmaceutical infrastructure and expertise from Takeda Pharmaceuticals, one of Asia’s largest pharmaceutical companies. It will be housed within the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic), leveraging the combined expertise of both programs, and it will aim to “fuel the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) capability to benefit human health and drug development.”

THE INNOVATORS

With 3 big exits, 2019 was marquee year for Pierre Omidyar in India, says MD Roopa Kudva. Impact investor Omidyar Network profitably exited three portfolio companies in India this past year. These exits show that social investments can yield high portfolio returns, as managing director Roopa Kudva notes, “The exits we did last year highlight our ability to not just create a social impact, but also make money.” The fund, started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has been investing in India for 10 years now and has deployed US$300 million to date. It intends to invest a further US$350 million over the next five years. While 75% of Omidyar’s investments are in the form of equity, the remaining is given as grants to fund research and social initiatives, such as Teach for India.

Asia-Pacific’s first-ever multi-country listed gender bond series gains new support from the United Nations. Impact Investment Exchange (IIX)’s award-winning Women’s Livelihood Bond Series (WLB Series) has gained new support from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and The Rockefeller Foundation. Private investors in the WLB Series will benefit from first-loss capital provided by The Rockefeller Foundation and a 50% loan portfolio guarantee provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Rockefeller Foundation’s managing director notes that this is a prime example of catalytic capital, “where risk-tolerant, impact-prioritizing funding is leveraged to unlock private sector capital.” Through this form of innovative finance, the WLB Series aims to create sustainable livelihoods for over 2 million women across Asia.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Questions raised over charity’s handling of donations after death of Chinese student Wu Huayan. BBC reports on corruption allegations against China Charities Aid Foundation for Children (CCAFC) following Wu Huayan’s death. Charity 9958, a project under the CCAFC, collected US$144,000 in online donations for Ms. Wu’s heart surgery. Official records seem to suggest that just about US$2,900 was paid towards her hospital bills, and according to the BBC article, the surgery never took place. The charity responded saying that it was holding onto the money on her family’s request and that Ms. Wu had not met the criteria needed to undergo the surgery—official media reported that she weighed less than 30kg when she died. As different allegations surface over the issue, BBC gives insight into how past scandals related to the misuse of donations have had negative repercussions for the charitable sector.

Who’s Doing Good?

10 December 2019 - 22 December 2019

THE GIVERS

UBS Optimus Foundation launches Singapore office. Swiss bank UBS has opened its Singapore office to expand its foundation’s philanthropic offerings in Asia. The new office will engage clients on philanthropic initiatives related to education, health, and child protection. The foundation also has offices in Beijing and Hong Kong, and approximately 40% of its grant making is in the Asia-Pacific region. Chairman of the UBS Optimus Foundation Singapore stated, “We expect unprecedented amounts of wealth in Asia to be transferred across generations over the next 20 years. This will be a significant boost on philanthropy as many entrepreneurs are committed to using their wealth to create a legacy that has a positive social impact.”

THE THINKERS

Tatler asks CAPS Chief Executive to weigh in on the state of philanthropy in Asia. CAPS Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro gives insight into new philanthropic trends in the way people, government, and companies are addressing challenges across the region. Shapiro highlights growing interest in impact investing and support for social enterprises, both of which are examined in CAPS’ newly released study, Business for Good: Maximizing the Value of Social Enterprises in Asia. She notes two trends specific to Asia, public-private partnerships and the role of government, illustrating each with examples from across the region. She also discusses increased commitment to ESG (environment, social, and governance) goals, broadened notions of corporate social responsibility, and other ways in which private sector entities are blurring the lines between profit and purpose. 

THE BUSINESSES

100 female scholars in rural Cambodia complete inaugural Girls Learning & Leading Program.  Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido partnered with The Asia Foundation earlier this year to launch the Girls Learning & Leading Program (GLL). The program aims to empower marginalized young women by offering academic support, soft-skills development, and mentorship. Mentors include local Cambodian leaders as well as senior Shiseido staff, including Jean-Philippe Charrier, president and CEO of Shiseido Asia Pacific. With the success of the first pilot GLL program in Cambodia, Shiseido and The Asia Foundation plan to expand the program to more high schools in Cambodia in 2020, as well as other Southeast Asian countries in the longer term.

Microsoft and Humana People to People launch digital classroom project in India. Development organization Humana People to People India has joined hands with Microsoft, Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission, and the Government of Chhattisgarh to introduce the Digital Learning Programme. Under its school learning component, the program aims to “enhance the learning levels of students through the strategic use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), while simultaneously developing their critical thinking and creativity.” The adult literacy component of the program aims to “promote and enhance functional literacy among the illiterate adults of both the districts.” The program is launched under the corporate social responsibility arm of Microsoft India, and it will be rolled out in 16 schools in Raigarh and Mungeli districts of Chhattisgarh.

THE INNOVATORS

Moral Money Special Edition: Hiro Mizuno, Japan’s $1.6tn man. Financial Times’ Moral Money interviews Hiro Mizuno, chief investment officer of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF)—the world’s largest pension fund at US$1.6 trillion. Since his appointment in 2015, Mizuno has helped spark change by moving more largesse into domestic and global equity markets and by embracing ESG principles. In the interview, Mizuno discusses his initiatives for building a healthier investment climate. This includes the GPIF’s announcement earlier this month that it would “stop lending its global equity stocks to short sellers, arguing that it was antithetical to ESG.” 

U2’s Bono unveils blood-by-drone delivery service plan in Philippines. A day before U2 was set to perform in the Philippines, the band’s lead singer Bono announced a new drone-based blood supply delivery service for the Philippine Red Cross. This initiative for on-demand and emergency blood deliveries by drone is a partnership between the Philippine Red Cross and Zipline, an American automated logistics company, of which Bono is a board member. Through this service, health workers can place orders via text message and receive deliveries in about 30 minutes. The blood-by-drone service aims to bridge the delivery gap for millions of Filipinos living in geographically disadvantaged areas. It is expected to launch summer of 2020 with its first of three distribution centers in the Visayas.

Who’s Doing Good?

11 November 2019 - 24 November 2019

THE GIVERS

Seoul City facilitates donation procedure upon death for unaffiliated persons. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has set forth a new initiative that encourages unaffiliated individuals—citizens who have no heirs or are living in isolation from heirs—to bequeath their wealth to society. Unaffiliated individuals will receive assistance from KEB Hana Bank and the Korea Federation of Centers for Independent Living of Patriots with Disabilities to aid in this process. The Bank will be in charge of the contract and operation of the will-only trust, and the centers will be in charge of the donation system and supervision of the management subject to the donation. All individuals using self-help living centers in Seoul are eligible for support.

THE THINKERS

Shift gears and accelerate: SDGs 2030 depend heavily on India’s progress. Neera Nundy, co-founder of Dasra, highlights the need for a step increase in Indian philanthropy to realize the SDGs. India faces a US$60 billion price tag to achieve just five of the 17 development goals, and the country contributes to 20% of the global SDG gap in 10 of the 17 goals. According to Nundy, philanthropy can play a key role by prioritizing investments in the most vulnerable; focusing on outcomes; and taking an aggregated approach. While the government continues to be the largest development player for India, Nundy calls on philanthropy to be a positive disruptor by supporting fresh perspectives, testing innovations, and taking proven solutions to the government for systemic integration. 

Do mobile payment games spur green living? Alipay’s social game Ant Forest has received praise—and two United Nations awards—for scaling up public climate action. The app, which has more than 500 million users, gamifies climate action: users participate in “low-carbon action,” like walking and biking, to gain “green energy.” After feeding virtual trees with “green energy,” users can have Alipay plant a real tree or adopt a patch of protected land. As of August, Ant Forest has planted 122 million trees offsetting 7.9 million tons of carbon emissions, according to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. As other countries begin to replicate this model, this article explores its strengths and limitations as a platform for public climate action.

THE BUSINESSES

Tata Power and The Rockefeller Foundation partner for 10,000 microgrids in rural India. The Rockefeller Foundation has been working with a network of partners in India to increase access to power and energy for rural communities. Its most recent partnership with Tata Power to develop 10,000 microgrids in India will help 25 million households, especially those in rural areas, gain access to affordable electricity. The Rockefeller Foundation is also exploring opportunities to step up collaboration in the health space and to invest in India’s startup space.

Southeast Asian companies jump on impact investment bandwagon. According to the chairman of the Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, Asia-focused funds accounted for half of the approximately US$14 billion raised in impact and ESG investments globally between 2016 and 2019. Asia is now also home to 10 exchanges that require listed companies to report ESG investments—more than in Europe where ESG-linked lending is more common. Asian businesses such as Olam International, the Thai Union Group, and Singapore’s state-backed investment fund, Temasek Holdings, are among those leading the charge. As Asian businesses grow conscious of their impact, a wave of new strategies is emerging. Olam International, for example, announced plans to sell business units in sugar, rubber, and wood products and use the anticipated US$1.6 billion in proceeds to establish “greener” businesses.

Honda Foundation donates motorcycles to Philippine Red Cross to boost life-saving services. The corporate social responsibility arm of the leading motorcycle manufacturer donated a total of 21 motorcycles last week to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC). The Honda Foundation has committed to donating a total of 104 motorcycles to PRC offices nationwide. This commitment follows Honda’s “ONE DREAM” campaign, which aims to “make Honda products serve as tools in achieving one’s dream and to unite Filipinos through meaningful action.” The PRC, the country’s premier humanitarian organization, will use the motorcycles to bolster on-time delivery of services, particularly in emergency situations. Similarly, as featured in the last edition of Who’s Doing Good, Korean conglomerates Samsung and LG have been donating their own signature products to meet societal needs in more tangible ways.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Once beneficiaries themselves, Singaporean volunteers pass on the baton of “doing good.” The Straits Times profiles two individuals—Mr. P. Ramesh and Ms. Callie Ng—who received guidance from volunteers and are now giving back to society themselves. Mr. Ramesh grew up in a troubled neighborhood, but at 15, he met his mentor at a football intervention program for youth. He credits his mentor for teaching him important life skills and guiding him. Three years later, Mr. Ramesh volunteered at a similar initiative and, now 39, has continued his commitment to giving back ever since. Ms. Ng, 17, now volunteers at the “Light Up Children’s Initiative,” through which she met her mentor when she was in school. Ms. Ng stated that she is committed to having the same positive impact on her mentee.

THE INNOVATORS

Rabo Foundation partners with USAID Green Invest Asia to cut global carbon emissions. The partnership will pilot a carbon monitoring methodology in Indonesia, one of the world’s top five greenhouse gas-emitting economies. Results from the pilot will assist the Rabo Foundation in shaping climate mitigation policies for loans it offers to cooperatives and to small- and medium-sized businesses. The Rabo Foundation’s portfolio of such investments spans 22 economies across the globe, including seven in Asia. The USAID Green Invest Asia platform, which was launched in 2018, is mobilizing investments worth US$400 million to reduce global carbon emissions by 20 million metric tonnes. The platform supports companies sourcing sustainably and connects companies to funders investing in sustainable agriculture businesses in Southeast Asia. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

India’s federal police raid local Amnesty International offices. Reuters reports that according to the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s federal investigative agency raided the Bengaluru and New Delhi offices of Amnesty International earlier this month. The federal agency explained the raid as a probe into alleged violations of foreign funding rules. It noted that the Indian offices had received contributions from Amnesty International UK, despite government restrictions under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010. Amnesty has issued a statement questioning the motivation behind these raids.

Who’s Doing Good?

28 October 2019 - 10 November 2019

THE GIVERS

RS Group and Convergence launch US$3 million blended finance funding window for natural capital in Asia. Convergence, a global network for blended finance, and RS Group, a Hong Kong-based family office, have launched the Asia Natural Capital Design Funding Window to support “practitioners who are finding new ways to enhance and protect the world’s stock of natural assets, including water, land, soil, air, plants, and animals.” By using blended finance solutions, the Window aims to draw new investors into this underfunded development area. Channeling investment into natural capital is especially important for bridging the US$200-300 billion annual funding gap in preserving the world’s last healthy ecosystems. 

Programs by National Parks Board and donation from billionaire Peter Lim will help young Singaporeans develop green thumb. Together with partner organizations, National Parks Board (NParks) will create more opportunities for young Singaporeans to learn about greenery and biodiversity. These efforts are bolstered by billionaire Peter Lim’s SG$10 million (approximately US$8 million) donation to NParks’ Garden City Fund–the single largest donation by any individual to the fund. Thanks to Lim’s generosity, students from less-privileged backgrounds will have access to NParks’ programs including the new Green Friends Forum and Youth Stewards for Nature. NParks offers programs for students from pre-school to university. 

THE THINKERS

The Macquarie Group Foundation and Seefar Enterprise launch new report on forced labor in Asia. Seefar Enterprise, a social enterprise that conducts research and supports vulnerable groups in Asia, recently launched their report, “Making Migration Work: Understanding forced labour amongst migrant domestic workers in Asia.” The report focuses on the forced labor of migrant domestic workers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Funded by the Macquarie Group Foundation, the study surveyed over 3,000 returned and current migrant domestic workers, of whom 77% reported indicators of forced labor. The report shares migrant workers’ perspectives and compares recruitment processes and working conditions across the four economies. 

THE BUSINESSES

Philippine private sector responds to Mindanao earthquake. Through the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), the Philippine private sector has provided air and ground transportation, relief goods, water, and sanitation support to those affected by the magnitude 6.5 Mindanao earthquake. Private sector actors who have stepped up include Aboitiz Foundation/Aboitiz Power, the Ayala Foundation, Globe Telecom, Manila Water, and Air Asia, among others. Ayala Corporation Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who is also co-chair of PDRF, stated, “The private sector is committed to helping people affected by the Mindanao earthquake. Through PDRF, we are extending assistance and mobilizing resources for relief and recovery.”

DBS Asia Hub 2 opens Digital Literacy Centre in Hyderabad, India. In partnership with the NASSCOM Foundation, DBS Asia Hub 2 opened its Digital Literacy Centre in Hyderabad. The center aims to facilitate training infrastructure in support of the National Digital Literacy Mission initiative by the Government of India. This includes teaching basic computer and digital skills as well as empowering beneficiaries to leverage the power of social media and the internet. Alex Woo, CEO of DBS Asia Hub 2, stated, “Digital Literacy Centre aligns with the larger ethos of being purpose-driven and making a positive impact on lives. This initiative is a step towards fulfilling our vision to become the best bank for a better world.”

Samsung and LG reach out to society by donating electronics. The Korea Herald highlights how Korea’s leading conglomerates are donating their signature electronic devices to meet societal needs in tangible ways. Samsung Electronics plans to donate a total of 1,000 sets of thermal imaging cameras and other equipment to every fire station across the country. This came to fruition after a fire department official took park in the company’s new CSR program, “Samsung Tomorrow Solution,” and proposed the idea of developing thermal imaging cameras and telecom equipment. LG Group had earlier announced plans to donate over 10,000 air purifiers to schools across Korea in response to heightened concerns about unprecedented levels of fine dust. 

Hong Kong companies rank highest in Asia for environmental sustainability. According to Refinitiv’s inaugural “Financing a Sustainable Future in Asia” report, companies in Hong Kong recorded the best overall performance in Asia for environmental sustainability. The report is the first in a series which examines the ESG (environmental, social, governance) performance of the largest companies across Asia. Asia’s regional average score—based on emissions, resource use, and innovation—scored slightly higher than the global average. While Hong Kong leads the region in adopting emissions policies, Japan ranks the best for emissions reductions targets. China has the largest gap between intention and action, where 77% of companies have emissions policies but only 8% have reduction targets. The report also highlights the notable growth of green finance in Asia.

THE INNOVATORS

Temasek-backed ABC World Asia closes inaugural fund for impact investing at US$385 million. ABC World Asia is a private equity fund for impact investing established by Temasek Trust, the philanthropic arm of Singapore investment company Temasek. It will invest in companies that commit to generating measurable social and environmental impact, alongside a compelling risk-adjusted return. The fund will focus on themes including financial and digital inclusion, health and education, climate and water solutions, sustainable food and agriculture, and smart and livable cities. Investments will be made in China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.

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.”

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?

8 July 2019 - 21 July 2019

THE GIVERS

Philanthropist Merle Hinrich helps develop the next generation of Asian leaders in trade. In conversation with CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro for Hong Kong Tatler, Merle Hinrich discusses the importance of scholarships to his philanthropy. The founder and executive chairman of Global Sources established his eponymous foundation in 2012 to promote and build leadership in sustainable trade. Hinrich explains how the Foundation collaborates with scholars, employers, and university faculty to nurture the next generation of global trade leaders. The Foundation involves other companies in designing its scholarship program as well as university faculty in developing education for careers in trade. In the interview, Hinrich ultimately reflects on the importance of company involvement in the education of future employees–a value his foundation embodies through its initiatives.

Blue book on Chinese charity in 2018 released. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released the China Blue Book (2019) on July 13. The report is devoted to the history and development of China’s charitable sector. It provides new perspectives, methods, and materials that have been previously leveraged for national reforms related to the sector. The 2018 iteration highlights that the total amount of donations in China is estimated to be ¥112.8 billion (approximately US$16 billion). However, this is a decrease of about 26% in the total amount of social donations since 2017. On the other hand, the report highlights an increase of more than 50% in contribution value of volunteer services from 2017. In documenting the evolving characteristics and trends over the past ten years, this report offers insights into China’s modern philanthropy. 

THE THINKERS

Bill Drayton underscores social entrepreneurship as key to India’s success. Known as the pioneer of social entrepreneurship, Bill Drayton sheds light on social responsibility and “change-makers” in conversation with Forbes India. The founder and CEO of Ashoka comments on how the business and social sectors are experiencing a structural revolution as they grow more interconnected. On the topic of social entrepreneurship in India, Drayton states that “Leading social entrepreneurs are central to India (or any country) succeeding,” and adds, “India has a huge opportunity to be a world leader by adapting an ‘everyone a change-maker’ culture.” According to the article, Drayton underscores that if India can harness the potential of social entrepreneurship, the country will be poised to lead the world in areas like climate change, technology, and health.

THE NONPROFITS

Singapore’s smaller charities to benefit from governance and fundraising training curriculum. Smaller charities in Singapore will soon have access to training opportunities that can help them meet national standards on governance and fundraising. Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities has signed an agreement with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to jointly develop a training curriculum that will equip charities with skills like fundraising, leadership, and volunteer management. This course costs SG$100 (approximately US$75), and 30 participants will join the inaugural program set to start on August 17. The Commissioner of Charities has also issued an annual report template to further assist smaller charities in writing their own annual report. Grace Fu, Singapore’s Minister of Culture, Community, and Youth, highlighted the importance of these initiatives in raising the standard of the charity sector. According to The Straits Times, she noted, “This partnership with SUSS is a step toward raising the capabilities in the sector so that it can serve more beneficiaries and continue to gain public trust.”

THE BUSINESSES

Students in the Philippines gather for the Aboitiz High School Scholars General Assembly and Career Clinic. The Manila Bulletin highlights how the Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, has evolved its CSR initiatives “from one-time donations to carefully designed programs that empower its beneficiaries to pursue their aspirations.” Earlier this month, the Aboitiz Foundation held its annual Aboitiz High School Scholars General Assembly and Career Clinic, which convened hundreds of secondary students. This event aims to support high school students by providing lessons related to their post-secondary academic careers. This program, which equips scholars with practical career-related knowledge and coaching, also includes plenary sessions facilitated by guest speakers on topics such as digital citizenship. In addition to programs like this, the Aboitiz Foundation is currently developing and implementing CSR 2.0 projects that are aligned with the Group’s core competencies.

Companies are driving teacher development in India through innovative interventions. Companies have been leveraging digital technology to improve teacher quality and learning outcomes in rural India. Korea-based tech company TagHive designed and piloted a comprehensive off-line digital solution–Class Saathi. The app gives administrators real time access to statistics on teacher performance and analysis of student learning outcomes. Companies outside of the education sector, including Tata Steel, Dell, and Feedback Infra, are also supporting these efforts through their CSR initiatives. For example, Tata Steel developed a Bridge Language Inventory (BLI) app for Odia and Hindi speaking teachers to improve communication with children in Ho and Santhal communities. Tata Steel’s CSR Division has also installed computers in education resource centers and residential bridge courses and has distributed 250 tablets for 125 projects.

Korea’s top steelmaker POSCO raises US$500 million through ESG bonds. Korea’s POSCO announced that it has raised US$500 million by selling ESG (environment, social, governance) bonds. This type of sustainability debt instrument aims to finance corporate activities that improve and advance corporate performance in environmental, social responsibility, and governance areas. Through this bond issuance, POSCO’s CEO Choi Jeong-woo intends to “beef up our renewable energy business and material business for electric vehicle batteries.” It was also stated that the funds will be used to support the growth of the steel industry and other environmental projects. According to the article, “the five-year debt carries an interest rate of 2.874 percent and will be listed on the Singapore Exchange.”

Citibank Taiwan awarded “Best Corporate Social Responsibility Award.” Citibank Taiwan has earned the “Best Corporate Social Responsibility Award,” from Excellence Magazine, for the third year running. In this year alone, Citibank Taiwan has initiated several public welfare initiatives, the most noteworthy being its assistance to the International Paralympics Committee. One of its environmental initiatives involved helping the St. Camillus Long-Term Care Center in Yilan County to install a solar energy system and apply for a Taiwan Renewable Energy Certificate. This system allows the Center to sell produced energy on an energy certificate exchange platform, while reducing carbon emissions by 10 tonnes per year. Citibank also started the “Pathways to Progress” program in 2016, and it has supported skills development for around 800 youths. Over 650 of these young learners have gone on to access education or employment opportunities. According to the Taipei Times, Citibank has been deeply invested in Taiwan for more than 50 years.

THE INNOVATORS

Can venture philanthropy turn on Southeast Asia to clean energy? Philanthropist Eileen Rockefeller Growald is using her family’s money to help the world transition to clean energy. At the AVPN Conference 2019 in Singapore, she shared about the importance of leveraging venture philanthropy to aid the clean energy movement in Southeast Asia. She established the Growald Family Fund with her husband to fund and scale innovative ventures in clean energy. In Southeast Asia, where coal is gaining share in the energy mix, the Fund has also been informing policymakers of the pressing need to switch to clean energy. The Fund’s climate finance director for Southeast Asia, Athena Ronquillo-Ballesteros, stated, “If we are serious about stopping carbon-intensive infrastructure, the finance side of the conversation has to shift significantly.” She added, “We see a big opportunity in working with Asian philanthropists and high-net-worth individuals to create change together.”

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?

27 May 2019 - 9 June 2019

THE GIVERS

Donations by Chinese philanthropists up by 50 percent in 2018. According to the China Philanthropy List, released annually by the China Philanthropy Times, the volume of donations by Chinese philanthropists and enterprises hit a record high of ¥27.63 billion (approximately US$4 billion) in 2018. China Daily reported that this is a 50 percent increase from the previous year. Donations were made by 744 philanthropic enterprises and 274 philanthropists, with donations from individual philanthropists totaling ¥9.53 billion (approximately US$1.4 billion). Although the majority of charitable giving in China comes from private corporations, the country’s philanthropy boom has encouraged more wealthy donors to participate. The recent increase in charitable giving by individual philanthropists has also been highlighted in the Hurun Report’s Hurun China Philanthropy List 2019.

Disney in India makes donation to aid Cyclone Fani relief efforts. Disney in India has donated ₹20 million (approximately US$300,000) to aid Cyclone Fani relief efforts. The money will be donated to Save the Children in India to support disaster response and provide resources for affected communities in the Indian state of Odisha. A Disney India representative said this donation will support families affected by Cyclone Fani by providing them with critical shelter. The country manager of Disney and Star India Sanjay Gupta stated, “Our hearts go out to those affected by this severe cyclonic storm Fani. The families and communities impacted by this devastating calamity need our support as they begin to rebuild.” Disney and Star India had also supported disaster response efforts in August 2018, aiding those affected by the Kerala floods.

THE THINKERS

Philanthropy in Singapore goes mainstream. Singapore is one of the top givers among its regional counterparts, and The Business Times article highlights the transformation of the country’s philanthropy landscape over the past few years. Citing CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018, the article underscores Singapore’s position in the “Doing Well” cluster, leading in the index alongside Japan and Taiwan. Singapore’s favorable tax deduction policies and relatively simple registration process are among several factors which have helped boost the country’s performance in the index. But in the face of persistent social and environmental challenges, philanthropy needs to take a more solutions-focused approach to giving. While the upward trend is promising, philanthropy in Singapore still has room to improve.

Harvard course helps next-generation philanthropists do good. A course titled, “Impact Investing for the Next Generation,” convenes heirs to some of the world’s greatest family fortunes. The course, run jointly by Harvard and the University of Zurich in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, has been equipping next-generation philanthropists to be more impactful since 2015. For some of Asia’s wealthiest millennials, inculcating a culture of impact investing is a formidable challenge. Despite holding one-third of global wealth, Asia only contributes a small portion of its total wealth to impact investing. However, notable alumni, such as Hyundai heir Kyungsun Chung who co-founded Root Impact, have worked to promote a culture of impact investing in Asia since taking the course.

THE NONPROFITS

Myanmar nonprofit to give 10,000 bikes to students in need. Following the collapse of bike-sharing companies ofo and oBike in Singapore and Malaysia, many bikes have been left unused in scrapyards or warehouses. Lesswalk, a Myanmar nonprofit, bought 10,000 bikes from the failed bike-sharing companies to give to students in need. The total cost of buying, shipping, and refurbishing the bikes is between US$350,000 and US$400,000, but half is expected to be paid by sponsors. More than 3,000 bikes have already been shipped to Myanmar to be given to students, and the rest is expected to arrive by the end of June. Lesswalk founder Mike Than Tun Win stated, “This movement is not about buying a new bicycle, which is actually a very straightforward process. It solves a waste problem and gets new bikes for needy children at a cheaper price.”

THE BUSINESSES

Singapore’s Temasek sets up Asia-focused private equity fund for impact investing. Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean investment company, has established ABC World Asia under its philanthropic arm Temasek Trust. Headquartered in Singapore, ABC World Asia is a private equity fund dedicated to impact investing, primarily in South Asia, South-east Asia, and China. Chief executive officer of ABC World Asia David Heng highlighted the opportunities for impact investing in Asia, where the industry is still nascent. Heng stated, “The complex social and environmental challenges in our region present the potential for investors to achieve substantial impact.” The new impact investment fund will allow Temasek Trust to move beyond traditional grant-making to fulfill its mission of “ensuring sustainable funding for the long-term well-being and security of communities.”

Korea’s Hyundai Oilbank promotes culture of philanthropy. Korean petroleum and refinery company Hyundai Oilbank is aiming to promote a philanthropic culture among its staff. Through its 1% Nanum Foundation, more than 95 percent of the firm’s employees donate a portion or one percent of their monthly salary to charitable work. The foundation had raised about ₩11.2 billion (approximately US$9.5 million) in the last seven years to support its expanding number of charitable projects. One of the noteworthy projects, the “1% Nanum Lunch Room,” equips senior welfare centers across Korea with an annual meal plan of ₩50 million (approximately US$45,000). Other initiatives include providing heating oil for low-income families during the winter season and building schools and libraries in Vietnam and Nepal.

The Ritz-Carlton staff and guests raise funds for children with cleft conditions. International hotel chain The Ritz-Carlton raised close to US$450,000 for charities under the Smile Asia alliance. In May, over 10,000 staff and guests of The Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts across Asia Pacific participated in the sales of over 14,600 cakes. The money raised will go to Smile Asia–a global alliance of independent charities working across Asia–which deploys medical volunteers to provide corrective and reconstructive surgeries for children living in remote areas. This annual fundraising initiative is part of the Smile Asia Week started by The Ritz-Carlton in 2014, and it has garnered great support over the years. In addition to this initiative, staff from the hotel chain can volunteer in medical missions across Asia Pacific.

THE INNOVATORS

China’s new model of blockchain-driven philanthropy. Stanford Social Innovation Review covers the rise of blockchain-driven philanthropy in China, and its role in ensuring transparency and accountability in the social sector. Blockchain enables donors to monitor the entire movement of their money and the platform, monitored by the public, ensures a trustworthy framework. Pioneers in blockchain-driven philanthropy in China include the charity platform of Alibaba’s fintech arm, Ant Love. Since adopting blockchain technology in March 2017, Ant Love has enabled 190 million Chinese individuals to donate US$50.5 million to 799 blockchain-supported projects. The decentralized, autonomous platform is breaking ground in the philanthropic sector as it encourages collaboration and employs community resources to address social challenges. While more oversight is still needed to monitor the people involved and the data that are recorded to the platform, China’s blockchain-driven philanthropy has significantly helped expand the sector’s role in Chinese society.

Indonesia leads by mainstreaming the SDGs in country’s development agenda. Indonesia’s integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into national policies offers lessons for the rest of Asia. The Indonesian government has showcased its commitment to the SDGs by linking them to midterm national plans, aligning national budgets and tax policies with crucial SDGs. Indonesia recently implemented two financial programs in efforts to bridge the gap in financing the SDGs: SDG Indonesia One and Islamic Finance. Employing these two finance programs will help diversify funding sources by tapping into an array of investors. Additionally, the Indonesian government also recognizes the importance of decentralizing the implementation of SDGs across all levels of government and collaborating with key stakeholders to achieve the SDGs by 2030.