6 Jan 2005

Corporate Contributions to Help Tsunami Victims

Corporate Singapore Does Its Part To Help Tsunami Victims

Same topic two very different journalistic styles, one in Singapore, the other in the UK. Can you spot the difference kids? For those of you not wanting to think, teacher has highlighted and added comments to enable you to score well in the exam paper....

January 6, 2005

This week in the Singapore Scene, we look at how corporate Singapore is rallying together to do their bit to help in relief efforts in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster.

selfish expansion

So when disaster struck on Boxing Day of 2004, they wasted no time to pitch in, and are doing their part to help in the relief efforts.

Since the Development Bank of Singapore or DBS opened its ATM and internet banking facilities for customers to donate to the Singapore Red Cross, collections have exceeded S$1.8 million in three days. Following its initiative, another bank OCBC has also set up phone and internet banking donations for the Red Cross.

At Exxon Mobil, the company is making a staggering 2 million dollar contribution. (Staggering if you earn S$1500 a month)The organization will also match employee and retiree contributions around the world. (In Singapore) You (not the company)can visit selected Esso and Mobile service stations with AXS machines to donate to the Singapore Red Cross.

City Development Limited has so far collected $90,000 in employee contribution and dollar for dollar match by the company. Its head of corporate communications Belinda Lee.

For more Singaporean Press ass licking of corporations read here.

For a touch of objective well researched journalism read the article below where a real journalists actually goes on-line and looks at the profits of these large companies and compares their income with their contribution.

Another wave of miserliness from Britain's (Singapore's?) super-rich

Corporate donations to the tsunami appeal are stunningly stingy

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday January 5, 2005

Most television programmers like to aim for a balance of light and shade, but the editors of the news bulletins over the holiday period have not really had that option. Instead, and for each evening since Boxing Day, the TV news has been a glimpse of hell. Report after report, from Indonesia or Sri Lanka or some flyspeck island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has brought some new horror. Not the pictures of the mangled buildings and upended ships; it is surprising how quickly we have become inured to those. But the stories - of orphaned children, of babies snatched from their mother's arms, of fathers washed out to sea - seem only to get worse, taking us ever deeper into the calamity.

All that the bulletins have had to lighten the gloom is a related story: the British reaction to the disaster. On this the media have spoken with one voice, lauding the great British public for a generosity that has made us among the most openhanded nations in the world.

The scale of British giving has been moving, especially acts of kindness by those with least to spare: cleaners or pensioners or the unemployed donating sums that either took a week to earn or were a week's keep. People have drawn a legitimate pride in this and in the public's outpacing of government, whose earliest pledge of £1m looked so paltry.

Ministers increased that to £50m and yesterday hinted there would be more if needed. That is welcome, but hardly overwhelming. Others have pointed out the contrast between that contribution, even if it rises to, say, £100m, and the £6bn the UK government found so readily for the war on Iraq. But one need not look so far. The cost of the new national identity card scheme, for example, bringing food and shelter to no one, is estimated at £3.1bn. Next to sums like that, £50m or £100m is, to use a grimly appropriate phrase, a drop in the ocean.

But the government is doing plenty of other things, lending military assistance to stricken countries as well as deploying staff in London and around the world. No, anger, if we feel it, should be directed at the third lead player in public life: not citizens or government, but big business.

Corporate Britain was quick to realise it needed to stand with the public mood and publicise its concern. The major companies doubtless feel proud of their generosity. They shouldn't. They should be ashamed.

Vodafone announced it would be giving £1m and matching all staff donations. A million pounds is a lot of money to you and me, but not to Vodafone, to which it is pocket change. The company's annual profit, registered last May, was £10bn. That means the company made substantially more than a million pounds an hour. Yet that is all they gave - less than an hour's profit. It is less than they gave their new boss, Arun Sarin, for his annual bonus.

Put another way, Vodafone has given a mere one tenthousandth of its annual profit. (Not its total revenue, mind, which would be a larger figure, just its profit.) Think of your own annual income, after you've paid off all your expenses. Now work out what one ten-thousandth of that sum would be. If you had given just that amount to the tsunami appeal, would that be enough? Would you announce it with pride?

Or look at one of the early givers and publicity seekers: the Premiership. It gave the same Vodafone figure, £1m. The Premiership is made up of 20 clubs, so that would have set back each team a grand total of £50,000. That is what Manchester United pays Wayne Rooney for four and a half days' work.

That club alone is worth £700m; its annual profit is £47m. Maybe the Man U players did the maths and felt guilty but, if they did, it was not nearly guilty enough. Between them they raised another £50,000. When you think that Rio Ferdinand earns £80,000 a week, that is scarcely an impressive total from an entire squad. They could each have sold off a couple of diamond ear studs and raised more than that.

The rollcall of shame continues. BP gave a healthy looking £1.6m: fine, until you realise the oil giant's expected profits for 2004 weigh in at £9bn.

Abbey National's trading profit from its core businesses topped the billionpound mark in 2004, even if the company made an overall loss. Times must be tough, though, because when it dipped in its corporate pocket it found just £25,000. I've done the sums: on my comfortable Guardian salary, that's the equivalent of me giving less than two quid.

Tesco is proud that it has sent food, water and hygiene products to Thailand and Sri Lanka - but it's still a shock that, with annual profits of £1.7bn, it only managed to give an anaemic £100,000.

Philip Green, the BHS boss, is a famously generous man, giving serious sums to charity. But even his £100,000 in cash and £1m worth of clothes looks like less of a sacrifice when one notes that his Arcadia group paid him a dividend of £460m last year - and that he spent £5m on a toga party to mark his 50th birthday two years ago.

None of this should really come as a surprise. Battlehardened viewers of Children in Need and Comic Relief will have noted the corporate givers' eagerness to grab free publicity - handing over a cheque on TV - combined with their stunning levels of stinginess. The sums they give are the coppers down their sofa, the lint in their pockets - and we are expected to be grateful.

The problem is not just rich companies, but rich individuals. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the wealthiest 10% of UK income earners give just 0.7% of their household expenditure to charity, while the poorest 10% allocate 3% of theirs.

What explains this institutional miserliness at the very top of Britain's wealth tree? Historically, the argument was always that Britain was so heavily taxed, the rich did their bit by paying whacking sums into the national exchequer. In the US, by contrast, the ultra-affluent knew they were barely taxed so they made up for it with personal and dynastic philanthropy: think Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller.

But that logic no longer applies. Today's British companies enjoy some of the lowest tax rates outside America. Now they have the best of both worlds: low tax and no guilty expectation of philanthropy. They can keep almost all their money to themselves.

Unless we, their customers, say otherwise. This last week has seen a rare and stirring demonstration of people power. Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do - or we will take it off you in tax. Either way, it's time to start paying.


Here atypicalsingaporean picks up on the same topic.


Merv said...

I've said this many times, Corporations have a moral obligation to donate in porportion to their revenue. 1 mil may be a lot to the common citizen, but if you think about it, it is a pittance compared to their earnings.

It is sad that most responses from readers (from my blog and other places) are ones that defend the corporation's right to keep its earnings, answer to their shareholders etc.

It is so obvious to me that Corporations (in Sg) are donating so little, I wonder why this fact has escaped most readers.

Anonymous said...

Precisely because of the way the media reports it in Singapore! You may get it, but most people will just be subverted by how the media portrays it. Which is the main point of what "teacher" is saying. Heh.

soci said...

The corporations seem to constantly get away with shirking their social responsibilities. Governments around the world seem to constantly pander to the corporate needs, yet receive little in return, merely the postponement of the corporation moving itself to even cheaper labour, and less tax demanding countries. The media also seems to ignore the dominance of the corporations because soom CEO might get upset.

Anonymous said...

The use of donation boxes instead of direct donations by corporations. do you think really think it went totally unnoticed? Please bear in mind that many of the corporations you mention are foreign companies. There is such a thing as being polite to the ones who are investing in your country's infrastructure in your report, and having faith that readers who are not morons WILL decipher the cryptic code.

Re the assumption that conpanies have a moral obligation: If we were to liken companies to individuals, the average person should donate about $3,000. That is one month's pay, or the cost of a computer. Since we expect companies to donate more than what their budget can handle, then we should donate an amount which makes us tighten our belts for the next few months as well.

Utama said...

This is the major and biggest problem with Kapitalism: beneficial for one and detrimental to the other.

I most definitely hope this disaster would open the eyes of many, of the exploitation of private, political organizations through out the world, the marketplace, with a immeasurable price tag.

Hope they did not died in vain.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add that a sizable bulk (if not the majority) of donations will be used for purchasing things like medical supplies and reconstruction of the shattered infrastructure. Which all means it'll go back into the pockets of corporations again.

Agagooga said...

If donations are obligatory, that kinda defeats the point doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I believe we can’t measure kindness by the $ and cents. It is the thought that counts. A poor man who could only contribute just a bowl of rice to the needy with much sincerity will definitely be better than a millionaire who contributes millions of dollars with much pride and with the intention of receiving praises. So, be thankful to those who have contributed in big and small and in kind.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to add that the "generous" donations of countries worldwide to the victims come in the form of grants, and loans. They have been merely pledged and not delivered. The help that is offered in the form of military assistance, is more valuable to survivors in the immediate future than distant promises to "rebuild" the land.

Anonymous said...

You know what organizations should do? Nike should pay its child labor more than the market rate of a few cents per day, and NOT pay Micheal Jordan millions of dollars for shooting some hoops. Loreal should NOT conduct animal testing. Oil companies should take extra steps to ensure that they comply with all safety regulations, and do not cause irreversible damage to the earth. That is what companies SHOULD do, as part of being responsible to their stakeholders. (Not shareholders, but all parties which have a stake in the company, which includes society)

It is, however, UNREASONABLE to expect a company to shelve a project to make a huge impromptu donation. That is akin to asking you to put your uni studies on hold, so you may donate one year’s worth of tuition fees to the disaster. That is a reasonable analogy, because companies are set up with the purpose of creating value for shareholders. A company’s Board cannot decide on behalf of the people who own shares, that it will give sums of money so huge that it will create problems in the operation of the company. Just like I cannot decide for you that you should make the sacrifice of giving up a year of studies. It’s as simple as that.

mis_nomer said...

Thanks for the eye-opening article. Found out that Singtel's net profit for 2004 was $1.466 billion, and they are giving out, what? 5000 calling cards?

On the other hand, I don't expect more from them. Corporations are motivated by profit, not charity. So I'll take whatever goodwill proffered, and look elsewhere for inspiring stories of generosity.

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