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?

23 December 2019 - 5 January 2020

THE GIVERS

Charity campaign “Operation Santa Claus” raises HK$9.7 million (approximately US$1.2 million) for 13 Hong Kong charities. Now in its 32nd iteration, the annual campaign offers financial and non-financial assistance to a curated set of beneficiaries. This year’s beneficiaries include social delivery organizations working with children and youth, community, and people with physical and mental disabilities. First-time partner, Hong Kong Stock Exchange, helped launch the campaign in November and contributed HK$500,000 (approximately US$64,000) to its tally. The campaign housed auctions, corporate volunteering, and singing and sporting events.

Thai rock star’s charity run raises Bt$18 million (approximately US$600,000) for regional hospitals. Athiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Khongmalai led more than 20,000 participants in the 10.4-kilometer run held in the Muang district of Chiang Mai. This was part of the “Kao Khon La Kao” charity run campaign spanning nearly 300 kilometers across 5 provinces in total. Donations received during the campaign will help buy medical equipment for seven regional hospitals. Khongmalai, a popular musician, is an active runner for good: his 2215-kilometer run in 2017 amassed donations worth approximately US$45 million for 11 public hospitals, while his 400-kilometer run in 2016 collected approximately US$2 million.

THE THINKERS

Rising public awareness set to buttress philanthropy in China. Researchers from the IMD Global Family Business Center give insight into the past, present, and future of Chinese philanthropy. This article highlights how the nation’s response to the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake galvanized the sector, as the public’s response resulted in a 30-fold increase in charitable giving by the end of 2008. The Center also points to key trends in Chinese giving, such as employing technology as a catalyst for doing good, channeling funds towards historically overlooked areas like climate change, and rising volunteerism. They add that while a lack of trust among the public and poor career prospects are inhibiting the potential of philanthropy in China, rising awareness and more opportunities for giving back augur well for the sector.

Strategic waste management central to sustainable consumption and a pressing challenge for Asia in 2020s. Pat Dwyer, founder and director of The Purpose Business—a network of sustainability consultants—notes that ballooning consumption and lagging strategies on mitigating waste have led to a precarious situation in Asia. According to research from UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the region is set to miss all 17 SDGs by 2030 at its current pace. For Dwyer, strategic alignment with this problem is an opportunity no Asian business can afford to waste. Dwyer suggests that businesses play their part by targeting any stage of their product’s lifecycle—from design and production to collection and disposal—to mitigate the problem. Dwyer goes on to highlight emerging examples from the region such as India and Thailand, where plastic waste has successfully been repurposed for road construction. 

THE BUSINESSES

ESG investment starts to gain a foothold in China. Fiona Reynolds, CEO of Principles for Responsible Investment, spotlights the rise of Chinese companies focusing on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors. Reynolds highlights that despite China’s slower developments in embracing ESG factors, the country has seen an increase in number of Principles for Responsible Investment signatories—those who agree to invest according to the six ESG-based principles. According to Reynolds, there is great opportunity for ESG to take hold in China over the coming years. In her Nikkei Asian Review article, she points to upcoming regulations that will make disclosure of environmental factors mandatory for 3,000 of China’s listed corporations and primary bond market issuers, as well as other developments that augur well for ESG integration. 

THE INNOVATORS

Results of Hong Kong’s SFC’s Survey on ESG and Climate Change in Asset Management. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued the results of its Survey on Integrating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Factors and Climate Risks in Asset Management. Survey respondents included 794 firms active in asset management and 14 asset owners. The results offer a snapshot of the evolving ESG landscape across the Asia-Pacific region, including examples of ESG integration and existing practices in the asset management industry. The results also reveal gaps between the expectations of asset owners and the ways that asset managers are responding, as well as insights into trends that may shape the future of ESG practices in the industry. 

Aavishkaar’s Anurag Agrawal on investing for social change. Aavishkaar Group, founded in 2001, is one of the world’s largest impact investors. Under its equity investment arm—Aavishkaar Capital—the Group has launched six funds across India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In this interview, the Group’s COO and Partner, Anurag Agrawal, gives insight into what he has learned from his social impact investment journey. Agrawal discusses the nuances of taking a venture capital approach in the social impact field, noting, “We are not investing in the next Google or Uber of the world. We are investing in tried and tested models and taking them to difficult geographies.” Agrawal also shares examples of the fund’s successful impact investments and discusses the fund’s plans for the coming year.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Singaporean companies that give employees time to volunteer. Channel News Asia spotlights companies that offer volunteer leave for their employees. One example is bank UOB, which, in 2019, increased volunteer leave entitlement from two to three days and gave its first employee volunteer of the year award. In the first 11 months of 2019, UOB employees completed 56,000 volunteering hours, a 7% increase from the same period in the previous year. The article highlights other companies that offer volunteer leave, but it notes that such volunteer schemes remain a rarity in Singapore. According to a 2017 survey by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), only 30% of companies that engaged in volunteering offered paid volunteer leave. 

Who’s Doing Good?

25 November 2019 - 9 December 2019

THE GIVERS

Forbes announces Asia’s 2019 Heroes of Philanthropy. In its 13th iteration this year, the list honors Asia’s leading philanthropists who are helping solve some of the region’s most pressing challenges through donations and their personal involvement. The unranked list features 30 individuals including Azim Premji from India, Jack Ma from China, and Theodore Rachmat from Indonesia. Broadly, 6 individuals from China, 4 from India, 3 each from Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, and 2 each from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Thailand are featured. Korean singer and actress Lee Ji-eun, 26, known by her stage name IU, is the youngest honoree on the list.

Seal of Love Charitable Foundation donates HK$40 million (approximately US$5 million) to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The gift, channeled into the “Seal of Love Foundation Innovation Service Fund,” is aimed at empowering HKUST students to solve real-world problems through innovation and technology. The fund’s first donation is to the pre-existing Student Innovation for Global Health (SIGHT) project, which has been devising creative and affordable solutions to global health issues since 2014. Inventions by SIGHT include a mobile electronic health record system for slums and rural areas in Cambodia and Ghana. The Seal of Love Charitable Foundation was established in 2010 by Lawrence Chan, the heir to Chan Chak-Fu, a pioneer in the global hotel industry.

THE THINKERS

Asia home to the majority of people fleeing ‘climate chaos,’ Oxfam study finds. The study examines the number of people displaced within their home countries by climate-fueled disasters between 2008 and 2018. While the study looks at the impact of ‘climate chaos’ globally, it offers timely insight into displacement finding that 80% of all people forced from their homes by weather disasters over the last decade were in Asia. The report also finds that people are three times more likely to be displaced by environmental disasters (such as cyclones, floods, or fires) than by conflicts. Large populations in some Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka, live in areas threatened by cyclones or flooding. For example, this past May, Cyclone Fani alone led to the displacement of 3.5 million people in Bangladesh and India.

THE NONPROFITS

Piramal Foundation and Gates Foundation join hands in tribal health collaborative. The partnership leverages support from the Gates Foundation and other stakeholders including the Indian government to achieve SDG 3, “ensure healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.” India’s tribal communities are home to more than 150 million people and have poorer health standards than the national average. For instance, the average maternal mortality rate in India is 130 per 100,000 births while it can be as high as 230 deaths per 100,000 in tribal communities. The goal of the partnership is to build a high-performing and sustainable health ecosystem to address the needs of these marginalized populations. Speaking at the occasion, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “Given the complexity and magnitude of the problem, we believe that partnerships with like-minded, values-based organizations such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that seek to complement the Government’s efforts, will provide the much needed impetus.”

THE INNOVATORS

Hong Kong millennials are investing family wealth sustainably, but the learning curve can be steep. Young heirs of family wealth want their money to do more than just generate returns—they want to make a difference. But doing so has not been straightforward. According to Michael Au, the managing director of District Capital, “One of the hurdles is the lack of advisers who understand the contemporary impact investing dialogue from an Asia perspective.” On the other hand, Ronnie Mak, the managing director of RS Group, states that they have been able to build and manage a fully sustainable portfolio and achieve a net annual return of 5 percent over the last 10 years. The old-guard is viewing these experiences with caution, according to Au, since they continue to believe that generating returns and doing good are mutually exclusive. CAPS’ newest report, “Business for Good: Maximizing the Value of Social Enterprises in Asia” challenges this perception. Viewing social enterprises as a critical vehicle for doing good, it offers actionable strategies to investors and philanthropists to maximize their impact.

World Bank’s catastrophe bonds provide US$225 million cover to the Philippines for dealing with natural disasters. Two tranches of the catastrophe-linked bond (CAT bond), the first of its kind, were released last week. The bond will provide immediate liquidity and insurance cover to the Philippines for three years. Issued by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, up to US$150 million will be channeled towards tropical cyclone-related losses while the remaining US$75 million will cover losses from earthquakes. The bond transfers risks related to natural disasters from developing countries to capital markets. According to Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, the CAT bond “demonstrates the Philippines’ capability to develop innovative financial solutions to mitigate impacts of extreme climate and weather-related events as well as major earthquakes.”

UNDP and Government of India launch accelerator to champion innovative approaches to development challenges. The India chapter of “Accelerator Labs,” a new UNDP initiative, will be part of a global network of 60 labs where innovative and homegrown solutions to global challenges such as climate change and inequality will be tested and scaled. The labs will employ real-time data and experimentation to quicken progress towards meeting the SDGs by 2030. The Government of India’s Atal Innovation Mission, part of a national effort to harness the potential of entrepreneurship, serves as the lab’s key partner in the country. At the launch, Mr. R. Ramanan, Mission Director of the Atal Innovation Mission said, “We remain committed to finding local solutions that can be scaled up not only in India, but also across the Accelerator Lab network.” The launch also featured #DateForDevelopment, a matchmaking activity aimed at fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. Policymakers, impact investors, experts from civil society, scientists, and members of the private sector interacted in the activity to iterate over proposed innovations.

Social stock exchange in the works in India. A 15-member working group, constituted under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), is likely to present a blueprint for a stock exchange for the social sector this month. According to Vineet Rai, co-founder of Avishkaar, a pioneering social enterprise, the social stock exchange will help potential donors find and fund credible organizations that are doing good. As these efforts proceed apace some concerns have also arisen. Former Sebi chairman, UK Sinha, opines that robust impact measurement will be a critical ingredient in the exchange’s success, and yet there are few metrics that combine social impact and financial success and can serve as an effective basis for qualification on the exchange. Despite these hurdles, however, Sinha agrees that the social stock exchange is a step in the right direction.

IN OTHER NEWS…

China’s star healthcare crowdfunding portal, Waterdrop, mired in scandal. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that an undercover media report has shed light on a series of lapses and wrongdoings on the part of Waterdrop and its staff. SCMP reports that Waterdrop staff asked hospital patients to initiate crowdfunding projects and exaggerate their stories to garner sympathy. Waterdrop’s model incentivizes project creations according to one staff member who said he would lose his job if he did not meet the target of 35 projects initiated per month. The report also states that the financial situations of targeted families was not being verified and patients were not required to submit proof of how they were using the donated money. According to SCMP, verification and supervision are the most frequently raised issues about crowdfunding platforms in China. Shen Peng, 32, founder of Waterdrop, has vowed to transfer ownership of the platform to an NGO if he cannot manage it better in the future. Waterdrop had raised CNY1 billion (approximately US$145 million) in June this year.

Environment for NGOs likely to become grim under Sri Lanka’s new president. In an interview for the The Diplomat, Taylor Dibbert, an adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum, opines: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see NGOs throughout the country–particularly in the heavily militarized north and east–getting visits from security personnel. Offices may be raided.” Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as the island nation’s eighth president earlier this month.

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?

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?

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?

5 August 2019 - 18 August 2019

THE GIVERS

Li Ka-shing donates HK$500 million (approximately US$64 million) to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Hong Kong’s richest man and notable philanthropist Li Ka-shing is helping establish the city’s first synthetic biology institute through his most recent donation. Synthetic biology is a cross-disciplinary area of research in which genomes are designed and modified to help resolve challenges in life sciences. Advances in the field can impact key areas of human development such as manufacturing, medicine development, and food production. The need for innovations in such areas is urgent: current and future increases in global population are straining resources and necessitate the development of alternatives. Speaking on the occasion, Li underscored the vision behind his gift, “Just as synthetic chemistry and petroleum was central to the 20th Century, synthetic biology and DNA are the technology engines of this century, bringing disruption to traditional manufacturing and new opportunities in the industrialization of biology.”

Mano Amiga Philippines and She Talks Asia co-founder, Lynn Pinugu, discusses why she gives back to society. Lynn Pinugu traces the roots of her philanthropy to a financial crisis her family went through when she was in university. Her writing skills helped her win a journalism competition, which awarded her with a scholarship that supported her studies. She realized that children who lacked basic education would struggle to access such opportunities. After graduating, Pinugu volunteered in Mexico where she came across Mano Amiga, a network of low-cost schools transforming the lives of underprivileged students. She replicated their model in the Philippines in 2008, impacting over seven hundred lives since. Pinugu further expanded her work and founded She Talks Asia to support women in her country who are confined by traditional gender roles. Through She Talks Asia, Pinugu is offering them a safe space to discuss these issues. She concludes that humility and an eagerness to learn have kept her motivated in this journey.

THE THINKERS

Singapore falls quite behind Malaysia in responsible investing, according to Blooomberg. Singapore edges its regional competitor in several metrics such as efficiency and quality of life. In fact, CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018 found that Singapore is one of Asia’s three economies doing the most to catalyze private social investment—Malaysia ranked a tier below. But a new Bloomberg report finds that fewer asset managers in Singapore have incorporated environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into their investment decisions relative to their Malaysian counterparts. In fact, nearly twice as many asset managers in Malaysia have developed their own ESG scoring models as compared to Singapore. These discrepancies, according to Ben McCarron, founder of sustainable finance analysis firm Asia Research & Engagement, are attributable to Malaysia’s clear regulatory push towards responsible investing. As a global center for Islamic finance, Malaysian investors are also more familiar with the use of social factors to guide their investments. Overall, however, Asia still lags behind financial centers in Europe and the United States when it comes to responsible investing.

The Economist Intelligence Unit profiles the impact investing landscape in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa in new report. Commissioned by Standard Chartered Private Bank, the report aims to create knowledge for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) on sustainable finance and its intersection with philanthropy. The goal of the study is to help HNWIs decide how to allocate their portfolios to achieve the best return against their requirements. The report—based on desk research and in-depth interviews of eight experts—focuses on Asia, the Middle East, and Africa as these regions are witnessing the highest growth in either receiving or propelling sustainable finance, impact investing, and philanthropy. One of the report’s five main observations concerns definitions: there are often very subtle differences between terms such as impact investing and sustainable investing. The report recommends HNWIs to set clear parameters and objectives to navigate gray areas in the definitions.  

The path to scale is broken for nonprofits. In an opinion piece published by India Development Review, Dhananjay Rohini argues that the support ecosystem surrounding nonprofits may be failing them in their pursuit of scale. Nonprofits often find themselves solving “inherently harder” problems such as those arising out of market failures or weak institutions. Amid these challenges, nonprofits must also bear the high transactional costs of seeking funding for one project at a time. The successful delivery of projects may improve the chances of future funding, but “donor fatigue” could still be an impediment. This situation is quite contrary to the private sector where multiple mechanisms exist for raising funding and where unremarkable but stable companies often succeed in attracting funding. Among the strategies Rohini lays down to alleviate some of these failings are: donors paying the entire costs of programs, and funding large-scale initiatives instead of individual projects. Non-pecuniary support in payroll management, reporting, and HR can also help nonprofits focus on the core problems they seek to solve.   

THE NONPROFITS

Founder of nonprofit helping trafficking victims named among 2019 Class of Asia 21 Young Leaders by Asia Society. Ta Ngoc Van is the chief lawyer at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit based in Hanoi which rescues Vietnamese women and girls who fall victim to human trafficking. Van is credited with helping 800 trafficking victims and has provided legal representation to nearly a hundred. Human trafficking affects over 40 million women, children, and men and according to the International Labour Organization, citizens of the Asia Pacific region are twice as likely to be at risk as those of a developed country. The Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam reports that about 80% of human trafficking victims end up in China. According to the article, this is in part due to the country’s gender imbalance, which is seen to exacerbate the issue. Van’s fellow honorees are playing their part in alleviating the region’s challenges through journalism, policy advocacy, and technology among others.  

THE BUSINESSES

KKR’s Global Impact Fund exceeds US$1 billion fundraising goal. The global investment firm, which manages assets worth US$148 billion, announced the Global Impact Fund as its first impact-focused fund in 2018. This new fund employs UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide investment decisions. The actual “investment playbook,” concerning the type, duration, and commitment to value-add, however, remains the same. The Global Impact Fund joins the likes of TPG’s US$2 billion Rise Fund, the world’s largest impact investing pool, and similar funds from Bain Capital and Partners Group. Co-head of KKR Global Impact, Ken Mehlman, states that the fund will allow KKR to access investment opportunities that previously had to be let go due to their size; the new fund will prioritize deals worth US$100 million or below. The fund has already deployed two investments: US$32.4 million in Singapore-based energy-saving company Barghest Building Performance, and about US$510 million in Indian environmental management company, Ramky Enviro Engineers. The latter investment is understood to have been funded in part from the Global Impact Fund and KKR’s 2017 Asian Fund III worth US$9.3 billion.

THE INNOVATORS

Korea’s SK Group developing blockchain donation platform. The donation platform will enable direct, low-cost, and peer-to-peer foreign currency donations that will be settled immediately without requiring any input from external or intermediary institutions. Cross-border money transfers are subject to various fees if sent through traditional intermediaries, and blockchain technology has emerged as a promising solution to the problem. This application of the technology, however, is yet to achieve mainstream approval despite its merits. While no firm deadline has been quoted for the project, SK Group has committed that the platform will be open sourced. Interested developers will be able to replicate the platform and alter parameters such as transaction terms. Donations on the platform will be settled in Korean won through the Social Value Coin (SVC), which will be pegged to the won in a 1:1 ratio. Another token, Social Value Power (SVP), will be distributed as reward to donors at the ratio 1:1000 SVCs (or Korean won).

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.