Philanthropy: feel-good factor or business opportunity?

Philanthropy may not necessarily be feel-good money gone down the drain. It can be used as social investment and 'patient' capital by businesses that want to develop ‘shared value’ solutions. Social business advisor Tania Ellis explains how.

Philanthropy has been considered  – and in many cases rightly so – a “nice-to-have” add-on to business, or a feel-good buzz that creates purpose for the company’s employees but adding no real value to the company.

But does it have to be this way? The short answer is no. 

In the pursuit of developing a sustainable business case for corporate social responsibility, many companies have embarked on a journey in which they try to develop solutions that create value to both society and themselves.

My experience as a practitioner over the last decade has, however, proven to me that a solid business case for corporate responsibility and sustainability often requires long-term, serious efforts before social and economic returns of those efforts can be measured. 

In other words: pioneering takes time. And time is a precious commodity in a business environment fixated on the short term, where market demands dictate quick decisions, impatient shareholders rule, and quarterly earnings dominate.

Philanthropy - if used strategically - can provide space for long-term sustainability efforts and experimentation with new ‘shared value’ business solutions that can generate both value for society and the bottom line without the constraints imposed by short-sightedness.

Here are three examples from IBM, Danone and Coloplast  >>

Tania Ellis, Special Advisor and Managing Director, The Social Business Company, contributes regularly to - the award-winning online publication for news, opinion, advertising and marketing services for Asia's sustainable business community.

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