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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.