Hong Kong listed companies not giving enough to charity, says new website that ranks top givers

Hong Kong’s first philanthropic big data platform is urging the city’s listed companies to give more to charity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 12:09pm

Hong Kong’s listed companies are giving far less to charity than their peers in the United States, according to a new website that ranks companies on what they donate.

Between 2013 and 2015 the total amount contributed by companies listed in Hong Kong grew from HK$7.09 billion to HK$8.86 billion, or US$1.14 billion, according to the Sodata Analytics Foundation Association, which launched its new ranking website on Wednesday in a bid to enhance transparency and encourage philanthropy.

HSBC has been the largest donator for the past four years, with Chinese oil and gas company Petrochina consistently in second place, according to the site.

But Hong Kong’s overall figure is still minimal compared to the record US$18.5 billion – or HK$143.46 billion – contributed by US companies last year, a 4 per cent increase on the year before, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

“There’s still huge scope for improvement in growth,” said Edward Lashinski, an ambassador for the Sodata association.

“Just as the economy [has grown],this process here has grown. We’ve seen the region’s corporate social responsibility space continue to grow ... this is fairly nascent in terms of its beginnings [in Hong Kong].”

Lashinski hopes companies currently donating very little or nothing at all would be motivated to give more after seeing how they stack up against others.

The ranking was not a competition – instead, it was about inspiring companies to donate more, said Michael Yip, one of Sodata’s founders.

Hong Kong’s top 10 red chip donors gave 1.29 per cent of their profits in donations in 2013, but this sunk to 0.57 per cent in 2014 and 0.13 per cent last year, according to Sodata’s figures, collated from data that companies are already making public.

Blue chips, the companies which make up the Hang Seng index, saw the opposite trend, with the top 10 blue chip donors increasing their donations from 0.15 per cent of profits in 2013 to 0.46 per cent in 2015.

Giving to charities doesn’t just help people in need, it also has tangible business benefits, said the association’s ambassador Nathan Simmons.

“These companies [that donate a lot] are seen as being do-gooders in the community and people want to purchase their products and they want to be employed by them.

“Part of the purpose of Sodata is to give companies the platform to enhance that reputation and hopefully to gain back the money they’ve donated.”

The non-profit organisation is currently self-funded by its founders who are graduates from the Chicago Booth Business School’s executive MBA programme, although they plan to look for additional funding in future.

The website was described as “excellent” by David Nesbitt, the founder of private and publicly funded Hong Kong-based Nesbitt Centre which provides education to non-Chinese speaking adults with learning disabilities.

“Is there a big shortfall in Hong Kong on the social welfare side? Yes,” he told the Post.

Nesbitt acknowledged that some causes were considered “more sexy” than others to donate to, but didn’t think this was a concern.

“Is money going to the wrong places? Absolutely not, because the Red Cross or the Community Chest [of Hong Kong] has the skill set and the staff to know what to do with it.”

Hong Kong had 8,044 registered charities in 2013/2014, but 84 per cent of donations were going to just 5 per cent of organisations, Coutts’ 2015 philanthropy report found.

How much Hong Kong’s listed companies gave in 2015

HK$8.86 billion – total amount donated

HK$5.4 million – average donation

364 – number of donations over HK$1 million

1,280 – number of donations under HK$1 million

Source: Sodata Analytics Foundation Association