More and more companies, from small local businesses to multi-national corporations, are starting to instigate corporate social responsibility strategies and are doing all they can to publicize the fact.
Though philanthropists have been active for centuries and especially since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the latest crop tends to have set its sights on a somewhat broader set of targets. These include being more environmentally aware and educating their employees and those of their suppliers on subjects such as planting trees to provide a sustainable source of timber; maintaining viable habitats for indigenous species of animals and plants; investing in projects to develop cures for a whole range of diseases, most notably cancer and malaria; and improving the living conditions of the local communities in which their companies operate.
Of course, in many cases, there has to be a benefit to the philanthropists, who are after all primarily in business to make money. Today’s customers are more environmentally aware than ever before and want to know how and where the products they purchase are sourced and manufactured. They expect the farmers and producers working in developing countries to be paid a fair wage and the manufacturing processes involved to have a minimal impact on the environment. As a result, if they are to remain competitive and profitable, companies must be able to clearly demonstrate that they have in place and are operating a corporate responsibility strategy. If they fail to do so, they are sure to experience a fall in sales that could ultimately prove unsustainable.
Maintaining a contented and loyal workforce is essential to any business, no matter what its size, and studies have found that involving staff in voluntary projects in their community or donating funds to local charities suggested by their employees are great ways of achieving these aims. What’s more, by advertising such activities on social media sites and elsewhere, existing and prospective customers and clients tend to feel a greater connection with the business.
When it comes to naming philanthropists, the best known has to be Bill Gates, founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is worth some $43bn. The trust is dedicated to finding cures for polio, malaria and a whole host of other life-threatening diseases around the world. Warren Buffet, arguably the most successful investor ever, joined the foundation in 2006 with a pledge of $30bn of his own money. Today, in addition to its work in the field of medicine, the foundation has also begun to look at climate change and clean sources of energy.
On the other side of the world, Sukanto Tanoto, the founder and chairman of RGE, a global resource based manufacturing group with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Nanjing and Beijing, set up the Tonoto Foundation in 1981. Operating in the plywood and wood-pulp sector, Tanoto soon became acutely aware of the poverty afflicting communities in which many of his employees lived. Recognizing the need to educate them on farming techniques and improve their living conditions, he uses his foundation provide the funding required.
No matter what the motivation behind becoming a philanthropist, everyone is a winner. The philanthropist’s company is seen in a positive light by its customers, thus improving profits, while charities, needy causes and poverty stricken regions of the developing world receive the much needed funding that they would not otherwise have access to.