OPINION: Can businesses be altruistic?

DEBRA ALLCOCK TYLER, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

Some members of corporate community feel their contribution has been misrepresented in the league tables of corporate giving published by The Guardian some weeks ago.

But according to NCVO, less than 5 per cent of charitable giving comes from the private sector. So why should we care about how upset they are?

Charities often feel they have to suck up to mighty corporations to gain their support. But do we really have to be like Dickins' Uriah Heep - "ever so 'umble

- bowing and scraping and looking suitably grateful for any scraps thrown to us from the corporate banqueting table? Charities and local community groups generally can't criticise these organisations because they need whatever help they can get. Fair enough. It's stupid to bite the hand that feeds you.

But isn't it a sad indictment of our society if businesses will only fund an organisation where there is a "business case

or even worse, a marketing or PR opportunity? What ever happened to doing good for the sake of doing good? I don't believe the line that it is not the job of profit-making enterprises to be charitable and sustain and support communities.

Nonsense. They have most of the money and power in the world, in many cases more than governments and entire economies. That fact alone brings with it an enormous social and moral responsibility.

We should stop talking about businesses making decisions. Businesses don't make decisions - people do. Remember the wonderful Wizard of Oz - that little old man operating machinery to make himself look more powerful?

There are lots of Wizes out there, hiding behind their corporations, saying things like "the shareholders wouldn't like it

when they could, if they wanted to, make giving decisions truly altruistically.

To be fair, there are businesses that do hold to those values and support our sector simply because it is the right thing to do, without expecting us to "prove

some kind of business case. But wouldn't it be refreshing to see the media coverage of so much spurious corporate philanthropy go down and the proportion given go up?

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