Australian CSR Strong on Education
Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 10:19 am
Australian companies are spending more than the global average on education-related CSR and are excelling in reporting their efforts, according to a new analysis of the world’s top 500 corporations by revenue.
The US-based Varkey Foundation has published what it describes as the world’s first comprehensive study into global corporate education CSR spend.
The eight Australian Fortune Global 500 companies in the analysis spent US$980m on CSR activities with US$151m (15.4 per cent) of that going to education-related CSR activities, while collectively the 2013 Global Fortune 500 companies only spent 13 per cent ($2.6bn) of their total $19.9bn CSR budgets on education-related activities, based on an average for the years 2011-13 inclusive.
The eight Australian companies included in the study were made up of four banks, mining company BHP Billiton and other conglomerates. 61 per cent of the identified CSR and 96 per cent of the education CSR contributions came from the financial services and materials sectors.
According to the report, Australia’s banks tended to focus their education-based CSR efforts on financial literacy programs.
“Part of the reason that Australian companies…do well in our analysis is the excellent reporting of their CSR activities, particularly in the banking sector. We were able to obtain data across all three years with each of the eight companies for CSR, and with five of them for education CSR,” the report said.
“Some also provided rich data into which priority areas their contributions went to. Australian companies spend locally and on vocational education. [They] tended to focus their activities within their local communities and with indigenous aboriginal rehabilitation programs because of the greater barriers to success they face.
“For example, law firm DLA Piper partners with The Smith Family, providing support for solely indigenous Australian girls to get into the law profession.”
The report also revealed insight into the trends shaping CSR in Australia.
“Employee engagement in the CSR process is also important for Australian companies, similarly to the UK. Employee volunteerism and engaging small, local projects is more important for Australian companies than any other country,” according to the report.
“Cash makes up the majority of the channel of CSR spend in Australia, followed by employee volunteering at 18 per cent. Of the 73 per cent cash from corporations, operating foundation or trust figure, 48 per cent is cash from companies but 25 per cent is from a foundation or trust.
“Both employee volunteering and cash from foundation/trust figures are higher in Australia than any other country. This reflects a strategic approach to corporate philanthropy. Employee volunteering and some cash grants involve small amounts of money, but address local needs and increase engagement.”
Globally, the report found that less than half (218 companies) of the Fortune 500 spend anything on education-related CSR. Of the 500 companies, the top ten spenders of education related CSR contribute 42 per cent of the total Global Fortune 500 education-related CSR spend.
“The findings provide strong evidence that corporate giving to education is considerably below spending on other areas such as health. A 2012 report by the Center for Global Prosperity found that the US private sector contributed 53% of their total philanthropic spend towards health related projects,” the report said.
The report was published ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise awareness of the Business Backs Education campaign, launched by the Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO and Dubai Cares, which challenges business to commit 20 per cent of their global CSR spend on education by 2020.
The initiative is designed to bring business in line with Government spending targets, with UNESCO recommending that Governments should spend 20 per cent of their budget on education and that 20 per cent of Official Development Assistance should go towards education initiatives.