Who’s Doing Good?

3 February 2020 - 16 February 2020

THE GIVERS

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increases donation to US$100 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Having initially pledged US$10 million to help combat the novel coronavirus, the Foundation recently announced it is increasing its spending to US$100 million. A statement by the Foundation said that its funds will be used to “find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread, and improve the detection and treatment of patients.” US$20 million will be immediately directed to groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organizations. Funding will also be allocated to public health agencies in China and other affected countries. Prominent business leaders also continue to pledge millions, including Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun who recently contributed US$1.8 million to relief efforts in his home province of Hubei—the epicenter of the outbreak.

THE THINKERS

Encouraging businesses to give back to society. CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro discusses the upcoming Doing Good Index 2020 in The Annapurna Express. The index examines philanthropic environments across 18 Asian economies through the lenses of regulations, tax policies, procurement and societal ecosystems related to private social investment. Shapiro states, “By compiling the DGI, we want to understand what enables the giving and receiving of money and other resources, and what holds it back.” Shapiro also highlights the importance of philanthropy, and how it goes beyond charity, “Philanthropy is more systematic. We are trying to bring about system change instead of a one-off reaction. So philanthropy is a more strategic way to help others.” Doing Good Index 2020, which covers three extra economies (Nepal, Bangladesh, and Cambodia) compared to the inaugural 2018 edition, will be released in Spring 2020.

THE BUSINESSES

Corporate China opens its wallet to fight coronavirus outbreak. Nikkei Asian Review reports on the rise of charitable contributions by Chinese companies amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Around 130 listed companies have pledged ¥725 million (US$104 million) in cash or in-kind donations, according to a Nikkei Asian Review tally of official disclosures on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchange websites. Some companies are leveraging their global networks to source in-kind donations ranging from masks and protective suits to free meals and drinking water. While companies are driven by a desire to help during uncertain times, the article highlights that over 20 companies have indicated hopes that their donation will help reflect their commitment to social responsibility and raise their social profile.

KKR closes US$1.3 billion global impact fund. The leading global investment firm announced the final closing of the KKR Global Impact Fund at US$1.2 billion. The Fund is “dedicated to investment opportunities in companies whose core business models provide commercial solutions to an environmental or social challenge.” The Fund is focused on identifying investment opportunities in lower middle market companies that contribute measurable progress towards at least one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A KKR partner noted, “We are thrilled to see our investors’ shared enthusiasm for the tremendous opportunity we see ahead for KKR Global Impact and will build on this to help set the new standard across investing, value creation and measuring success in the space.”

THE INNOVATORS

Tech startup Village Link is improving yields for farmers in rural Myanmar. Founded in 2016, Village Link focuses on strengthening Myanmar’s agriculture sector, which is estimated to account for 38% of the country’s GDP. Since agricultural productivity in Myanmar is still relatively low, the tech startup launched an app, Htwet Tow, for farmers to connect and learn from agriculture experts. For example, farmers can upload photos of their crops for a “diagnosis” and receive advice on best practices. The app also connects farmers to distributors and buyers, and offers updates on weather changes, market prices of crops, and best crop cultivation techniques. According to the startup, the app has gained around 46,000 monthly active users as of December 2019 and recently became the first winner from Myanmar in the ASEAN AgTech category at the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) unveils venture platform to invest in impact technology startups. ADB Ventures will support and invest in startups offering impact technology solutions focused on the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia-Pacific region. ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1—the facility’s anchor trust fund—has a target size of US$50 million. Unlike traditional venture capital funds, ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 has a three-year US$12 million technical assistance program through two arms. ADB Ventures SEED is a grant program to de-risk technology pilots and promote expansion into emerging markets. ADB Venture Lab is a suite of corporate innovation programs, industry, and accelerators, which will support these startups and help generate technology pilot opportunities.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Food charities in Singapore get wave of help following appeal. Food banks and other volunteer-run charities are facing challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Singaporean nonprofit Food From The Heart saw 90% of its volunteering sessions cancelled as companies suspended their CSR volunteer programs for employee safety reasons. Monetary donations are also declining in this uncertain climate. The nonprofit Free Food For All estimated a 50% drop in donations received, but its founder said that “asking for donations during this time is a thorny issue.” Luckily, individual volunteers are stepping up to fill this gap. One food charity saw a surge in offers to help from schools, corporations, and even the Singapore Land Authority. Singapore’s National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) has also set up a centralized platform to “give all donors and volunteers a single point of reference for the most pressing needs during this period of the COVID-19 outbreak.” Here, charities can appeal for volunteers and share their fundraising efforts.

Who’s Doing Good?

20 January 2020 - 2 February 2020

THE GIVERS

Jack Ma donates US$14 million to develop coronavirus vaccine. CNN reports that China’s richest man Jack Ma has donated a total of ¥100 million (US$14.4 million) through his eponymous foundation to help develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The Alibaba founder has earmarked ¥40 million (US$5.8 million) for two Chinese government research organizations, while the remainder will support prevention and treatment measures. Alibaba has also announced a ¥1 billion (US$144 million) fund “to buy medical supplies for Wuhan and Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.” According to the China Daily, other Chinese companies are also donating funds and offering measures of support to coronavirus treatment efforts.

Chinese tech giants and global philanthropists donate to help fight coronavirus outbreak. In addition to Alibaba, Chinese tech giants Baidu, Tencent, Huawei, and ByteDance are also offering support to help combat the novel coronavirus. Together, Baidu, Tencent, and ByteDance have pledged ¥800 million (US$115 million) to research new treatments and help authorities in the most-affected areas. Huawei has contributed by supporting the construction of the new Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan. Other companies from Chinese sportswear brand Anta Sports to large multinationals in the U.S. and Europe are also joining the effort. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would commit US$10 million to support first responders in China and Africa, including US$5 million for treatment and vaccine development.

THE THINKERS

Philanthropists save their legacy, but the next generation saves the world, according to new report. A new Campden Wealth report, Global Trends and Strategic Time Horizons in Family Philanthropy 2020, reveals little variation in environmental priority for philanthropists globally. Educational causes remained the biggest beneficiaries of average philanthropic portfolios—with Asia-Pacific families being the biggest allocators to education. But next-gen philanthropists are shifting priorities as they move into decision-making roles in their families’ charities. Campden Wealth’s director of research noted, “Beyond next-gens’ strong influence in the sustainable investment space, they are also set to significantly affect philanthropic giving. This can result in more meaningful funding for certain important causes, such as the environment.”

THE NONPROFITS

Gates Foundation launches new agriculture-focused nonprofit. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Agricultural Innovations, or Gates Ag One, is a new nonprofit subsidiary of the foundation. It will focus on helping smallholder farmers—the majority of whom are women—adapt to climate change. As the president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Growth & Opportunity division noted, “While smallholder farms are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the private sector is not incentivized to bring promising early-stage discovery to development in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.” Gates Ag One will work to not only accelerate agricultural research and development, but also make early-stage discoveries more accessible and affordable to smallholder farmers. 

THE BUSINESSES

SK Chairman Chey Tae-won advocates social value measurement model in Davos. Mr. Chey has advocated corporate social value creation since 2013, when he first proposed the concept at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It is not an option but an obligation to change the goals and systems of corporate management from the interests of shareholders to those of stakeholders,” Chairman Chey said. At this year’s forum, he discussed SK’s developments in this area including the Group’s social value measurement model, which has been used to measure social value created by social enterprises since 2014 and by SK affiliates since 2018. In addition, SK Group has joined forces with the OECD, World Bank, the world’s four biggest accounting firms, and other companies to form the nonprofit Value Balancing Alliance and develop a standardized measurement model that can be accepted internationally. 

Top Indian companies’ CSR arms join forces to combat climate change. The philanthropic arms of leading Indian corporates announced a new partnership to combat climate change: the India Climate Collaborative (ICC). ICC will work to “strengthen the climate community locally, build a climate narrative, and drive solutions that will ensure both the natural world and people thrive.” The collaborative includes industry leaders such as the Tatas, Mahindras, Godrejs and Premjis. Vodyah Shah, Rohini Nilekani, and Harmendra Kothari are also part of the 40-member collective. Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata had this to say about the ICC, “Our collective leadership through the ICC will indicate to the world that Indian philanthropy is ready to be a leader in climate action.”

THE INNOVATORS

Malaysia urged to make social enterprise scheme simpler. Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on the 22 social enterprises in Malaysia who received accreditation this month through a new government-backed scheme. The accreditation officially recognizes social enterprises and offers tax deductions and access to grants. Entrepreneurs expressed hope that accreditation will help raise awareness among the public and businesses. However, some said the registration process was too cumbersome. Analysts warn that regulations can sometimes have the unintended consequence of hindering the growth of social enterprises. This article urges Malaysia to make its new social enterprise registration simpler and to offer greater financial incentives to boost the growing sector.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Local Red Cross under fire over China coronavirus donations remaining in warehouse. Aljazeera reports on recent allegations against the Wuhan Red Cross and Hubei provincial Red Cross over their distribution of donations. A report from Hubei’s Red Cross revealed that only 200,000 of 2 million masks donated from across China had been delivered to hospitals. It was also revealed that hospitals designated to treat coronavirus-infected patients were receiving fewer supplies than others. A Red Cross official explained their decision, stating that the masks were “KN95” standard rather than the “N95” standard required for frontline medical workers. Wuhan Red Cross is also being questioned about the ¥390 million (US$56 million) cash donations it received, of which only 13% has been spent on supplies. According to the article, Hubei Red Cross later apologized on its official Weibo account, saying it was “deeply regretful” about what had happened. Some hospitals are now only accepting direct donations and bypassing intermediaries.

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?

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?

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?

14 October 2019 - 27 October 2019

THE GIVERS

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

THE THINKERS

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

THE NONPROFITS

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

THE BUSINESSES

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

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

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

THE INNOVATORS

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

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

Who’s Doing Good?

30 September 2019 - 13 October 2019

THE GIVERS

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

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

THE THINKERS

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

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

THE BUSINESSES

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

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

THE INNOVATORS

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

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