Shakeel A Malik
THE people of Pakistan at individual and community levels have been sharing government’s burden by making donations for several social causes. It is not coincidence that Abdul Sattar Edhi rose to a stature in Pakistan equalled by few in the world. The World Giving Index Report 2016 published by UK-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) ranked Pakistan at number seven in the category of number of people making donations and placed the country at 8th rung in the category of number of people helping a stranger.
In addition to charity by the general run of people, the corporate heads and their business groups are in the forefront in dishing out generous donations in cash and kind. The corporate philanthropy which is considered extrapolation of corporate social responsibility shows consistently upward trend in quantity, quality and variety. It is inspired by a sense of socio-religious obligation, and motivated by desire to extend helping hand to the government, civil society and non-profit sector in charitable pursuits.
Giving back by businesses in our country differs from corporate philanthropy elsewhere in the world which pursues it as a marketing tool to promote companies’ image and credibility in highly competitive business environment.
It is not so in Pakistan where corporate foundations are merging business and social strategies as they believe that the interests of society and business should have equal weight in their decisions. The business leaders are looking at themselves more as corporate citizens who are acquiring role as stakeholders alongside government and civil society in addressing social issues. The companies now consider their contributions more as investment in social development. The businesses are thus emerging as key game changers in social development and crucial partners of the government and nonprofit sector. This role which is not adequately highlighted is in fact the bedrock of country’s resilience in the face of socio-economic challenges.
A latest survey of fifteen years (2000-2014) published by Islamabad-based Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) on ‘Corporate Philanthropy’ revealed that public list companies (PLCs) constituting only one percent of the entire corporate sector donated around Rs. six billion in 2014, the highest in any year rising by 26 percent from Rs. 228 million in 2000. The study launched on 7 February 2017 found that 54 percent PLCs active in corporate giving contributed Rs. 34.5 billion during one and a half decade. These figures neither take into account in-kind and in-time donations, nor reflect un-reported donations. Another research by PCP for the year 2015 covering public listed and unlisted/private companies showed a contribution of Rs. 1.8 billion by small sample of public unlisted and private companies (33 to 35%) inflating the total donations to Rs. 7 billion – around 30 times growth since 2000.
According to the Centre, corporate philanthropy in 2014 exceeded government’s public sector development program budget for expansion of college education. The donations coming from business foundations were calculated to be more than twice the amount of Rs. 2.3 billion allocated by the government to improve human development indicators in the country. One of the leading business groups in the country, Nishat Group’s PLCs are among top 25 companies identified by PCP survey on the basis of absolute volume of donation and percentage of profit-before- taxation (PBT) donation. The share of total donations of these top 25 companies spiked to 83% in 2014 from 69% in 2000. The Group with a vast array of commercial interests from textiles to banking and from retail commerce to power generation is engaged in several charitable causes and projects of social welfare related to healthcare, education, disaster relief, skill development, community empowerment, low-cost life insurance, and environment conservation. The Group’s companies are part of the leading 20 sub-sectors ranked by PCP study including commercial banks, cement, electricity generation, textiles and insurance companies.
Launching PCP report last month, President Mamnoon Hussain emphasized on the need for public private collaboration for maximizing the dividends of philanthropy. There is no lack of desire and enthusiasm in the business community to share government’s burden in the social sector. On their part the policy planners in the government should come up with workable modalities for partnerships between the business sector and the government. The writer is an Islamabad-based free lance contributor.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.