Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Corporate giving in the UK slammed as 'shocking'

According to the founder of Whizz-Kidz, corporate altruism in the US puts UK companies to shame. Anita Pati reports.

Companies' CSR policies are often nothing more than "a PR figleaf" according to Mike Dickson, founder of children's disability charity Whizz-Kidz.

In his new book, The More You Give, The More You Get, Dickson slams the poor level of corporate giving in the UK, comparing it unfavourably with the US, where corporate altruism is five times greater.

Corporate giving in the UK currently stands at 0.2 per cent of pre-tax profits - about £1bn a year - which equates to 4 per cent of total charity income.

"I find this really shocking and worthy of a rant," Dickson says. He points to Business in the Community's Percent Club, the member companies of which commit to invest 1 per cent of pre-tax profits into their communities.

Twenty years after its launch, he says he is "amazed" it has attracted only 130 members.

Although Dickson showers praise on a handful of enterprising companies, such as Reed Elsevier, Argos and Richer Sounds, he says of UK companies generally: "Most give little thought, much less money, to charity and their community. The vast majority of companies and businesses in the UK are playing at giving and hiding under the cloak of ineffective charity-of-the-year schemes, waffly corporate responsibility programmes and questionable marketing initiatives."

However, Dickson, who now advises businesses on CSR, is anxious not to condemn companies out of hand. He wants firms to be aware of the business case for an enlightened CSR programme, claiming it can enhance shareholder value, inspire employees and improve communications and job satisfaction.

He cites the success of Tesco, one of the UK's largest corporate donors, which has improved both sales and its community profile from its "inspired" Computers for Schools programme.

Charlotte Drain, community investment manager at Microsoft UK, says: "We would disagree with his claim that UK plc isn't focused on community investment. At Microsoft, we are increasingly aligning our business strategies with our citizenship strategies to build prosperity, often through partnerships with charities."

And Mike Kelly, head of corporate social responsibility at KPMG, says of Dickson's comments: "I would regard them as the views of a critical friend - they aren't entirely fair, but of course businesses could do more, as could communities and individuals."

KPMG donates 2.6 per cent, or £4.4m, of its profits to charity.

anita.pati@haynet.com

KEY POINTS

- In his new book, The More You Give, The More You Get, Whizz-Kidz founder Mike Dickson criticises UK corporate giving, which currently stands at 0.2 per cent of pre-tax profits

- He says the vast majority of UK companies are hiding behind "waffly" corporate responsibility programmes and "questionable marketing initiatives"

- Dickson says companies do not realise an enlightened CSR policy enhances shareholder value

- Microsoft and KPMG agree that community investment is important and believe their own CSR schemes add value to society.

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