Global Brands Urged to Invest CSR Budgets in Education

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Business Backs Education 2015 Top 10 Global 500 CSR Education

According to a new study (the world’s first) on global corporate education CSR spending, Fortune 500 companies only spent $2.6bn (13%) of their total $19.9 billion corporate social responsibility budgets on education-related activities.

What’s more, the report also revealed that that less than half (218 companies) of the Fortune 500 allocate any of their CSR budgets towards education in the community, including emerging markets—where the need is greatest.  

So hats off to Banco Santander for topping the list as the Global Fortune 500’s highest education CSR spender at $197m per year.[more]

Business Backs Education

And kudos to the rest of the top 10: IBM ($144m), Telefonica ($130m), Exxon Mobil ($116), Target ($95m), GlaxoSmithKline ($87m), Microsoft ($87m), Toyota ($84m), Rio Tinto Group ($82m), Wells Fargo ($82m).  

The investment by the top ten spenders on education-related CSR pales, however, in comparison to their overall investment in CSR generally.

The top ten total CSR spenders overall (as an average of 2011-2013) in the Global Fortune 500: Oracle ($2.26bn), AstraZeneca ($1.2bn), Halliburton ($1.2bn), Microsoft ($920m), Wal-Mart Stores ($852m), Merck ($739m), Wells Fargo ($341m), Samsung Electronics ($316m), Abbot Laboratories ($306m), Rio Tinto Group ($306m).

Oracle, AstraZeneca and Halliburton all spent over a billion dollars on CSR, despite ranking 294, 413 and 410 respectively in the Global Fortune 500.

The report comes out a week ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise awareness of the Business Backs Education campaign, launched in 2014 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 global corporate citizenship campaign launched last March with the goal of rallying the private sector to support education by increasing their investments in philanthropy, sustainability, social impact and corporate citizenship.

“Demand for an educated and skilled workforce, has never been higher, and the stakes never greater, as we strive to achieve sustainable development and build lasting peace,” commented Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. “Innovative alliances with business and investment from the private sector will be key to tipping the balance and making quality education accessible to all. Business is a vital part of the equation.”

According to UNESCO, while business provides an estimated $548 million per year to support education in developing countries, there is a $26 billion annual funding gap in order to achieve basic education for all children in low-income countries. 

Interestingly, corporate giving to global health is 16 times the amount given to global education, according to the Brookings Institute. Yet the BBE’s co-chair sees a tremendous need for skills training and education, particularly in digital and technology, in order to get jobs and get ahead.

“Young people are lacking the digital skills companies are looking for,” commented Jim Hagemann Snabe, Co-CEO of SAP and Co-Chair of the Business Backs Education campaign. “The private sector needs to team up with the public sector immediately to fill this skill gap.”

In one promising sign, the New York Times reports that Silicon Valley is increasingly turning its eye to education, with funding of ed-tech companies rising to nearly $1.87 billion last year, up 55% from 2013, according to CB Insights.

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