Corporate Philanthropy


While thinking of the word ‘Philanthropy’ and generosity of task for any social cause, it reminds me of an incident. My home town is a small district in India, quite famous for brass work. A number of small and large-scale local enterprises are running this business for generations. A few of them are really doing well and have their presence not only in national but in international market also.

 One enterprise, relatively large-scale had grown substantially and expanded their business verticals to new domains. The story starts from here, they sought Government help and subsidy to build a middle school (non – profit) for underprivileged children. They adopted a virgin area of the city and also developed and maintained a public park in the nearby area to the school. A number of billboards proudly boasted their achievement towards society, stating that the park was maintained by them. It became the talk of the town and people started praising the group for this work and with the changing dynamism of education the school has become the most sought after school in the nearby area and by that time their non profit venture has converted as costliest institute.

All was going well for the group. But after some time when they upgraded their school, what they did was really shocking. They expanded the school building on the space compromising public park which was built on the land which did not actually belong to them. In other words, they illegally captured that portion of the land in a very organized way!

This came in to public notice when it is actually investigated and published in the news papers, by the time many years have passed and people actually forgot the actual story and the group won the legal battle also. 

This story registered in my mind and I often think of this type of philanthropic practices followed either by big or small corporate.

 Philanthropy in its essence will have purely unselfish meaning. It is seen as an activity where one gives without expectations of any tangible benefits. This is where the debate gets fuelled. How does then one justify philanthropy by a corporate? Use of the firm’s resources for any activity should ideally translate into benefits for its stakeholders and here is where philanthropy in its pure avatar can be seen conflicting with stakeholder’s interests.

Recent decades have seen a reasonable rise in contributions made by the private sector for achievement of social goals. The issue of social giving is even more pertinent to the developing countries, where Government resources are insufficient to bring about the desired social change. The hope and the responsibility then rest with the private enterprises.

A lot has been done by Government, NGO’s, international institutions and individual donors in terms of social upliftment but a lot still remains to be achieved. Private enterprises are in spotlight because of their growing power and presence in developing countries. Critics are demanding higher levels of social engagement and contribution from firms. The world is witnessing increased social activity in terms of philanthropy, CSR initiatives for fulfilling the needs of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The question still remains before the enterprise as to where to contribute. Many may choose to contribute to various charitable causes, through trusts they set up or through making donations to various NGOs. Context focus philanthropy will lead to a win-win situation. This needs to be understood that philanthropy should not be treated like a PR or a goodwill generation tool, being context focus will make it beneficial for the organizations even when nobody knows about it. Moreover organizations can work with other organization even with competitors, operational in the same area to bring about even more significant social change. It will also add to strengthen the cluster where they operate.

Some may still argue that there should not be any adulteration of philanthropy with business objective. But the truth holds that context focused philanthropy is capable of a broader social change and at the same time it is beneficial for the organization too.

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2 Responses to Corporate Philanthropy

  1. Abhinav Sinha says:

    Hi Arun,

    This indeed gives another perspective to otherwise percieved innocuous act of philanthrophy.

    The incident that you’ve dsscribed is surely uncalled for but what I want to see if this is just a one off incident. As an aberration, there will be some corporate that will attempt to exploits the social advantage for private gain. But can we ignore the contributions of a number of others (like the Tata group).

    How does one distinguish and differentiate?

    • Arun Yadav says:

      Hi Abhinav,
      Context focused philanthrophy makes all the difference. The social cause needs to be understood and should be tackled well. The impressions of such philanthrophic practices are very much significant to spark any social change. To your query the differentiating onus lies with us. We need to follow wisely and play a part only where our belief lies.

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