Major companies reserving part of their revenue for community projects will cumulatively contribute annual spends going into the millions.
Out of the seven listed companies questioned by Business Today this week, only banking giants HSBC and BOV were willing to divulge how much money was actually spent on community projects last year.
None revealed whether or not their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budgets are expected to take a slump next year.
MSE listed companies GO, Middlesea Group, Simonds Farsons Cisk, RS2 and MaltaPost all said Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key priority to their operation, but opted not to quantify their annual spend and projections.
Amazingly, BOV and HSBC alone invested almost €1.5 million in community programmes, with €990,000 of which attributable to BOV alone.
“This was the largest single Community Programme implemented by Bank of Valletta to date and it represented over 1 per cent of the Bank’s pre-tax profits from the previous year in the form of direct support towards a diverse number of initiatives under seven pillars of activity,” a BOV statement reads.
“The seven pillars of activity around which the Bank’s Community Programme is built are arts and culture; heritage; the environment; education; the social aspect; sports; and support towards business and professional associations.”
Major Philanthropic Organisations such as Caritas, Razzett tal-Hbiberija, Hospice Movement and Dar Tal-Providenza each received support from Bank of Valletta for particular projects. The Bank also assisted over 50 individuals who needed urgent medical care both in Malta and overseas.
On its part, HSBC said it supports the communities in which it operates “both through the involvement of our employees and through donations. The Group’s policy is to focus its efforts on education – particularly for young people – and on the environment. In Malta, this is also extended to heritage.
“Our community giving is channelled mainly through our three Funds: HSBC Cares for Children Fund, HSBC Cares for the Environment Fund, and HSBC Cares for Malta’s Heritage Fund. Each fund has its own governance structure which includes independent, non-executive directors,” a bank spokesperson said.
Total CSR expenditure for the bank by year-end 2008 is expected to be in excess of €500,000.
“HSBC as a Group remains particularly active in environmental issues. In 2007, HSBC launched the HSBC Climate Partnership - a five-year US$100 million partnership with world-class environmental charities to tackle the threats of climate change. HSBC employees in Malta benefited from special training under this programme to be able to exchange environmental good practices in schools and the community at large through hands-on participation in tangible projects, courses, fun activities and competitions,” he added.
Albeit limited, new kids on the block RS2, who have not yet closed their first financial year as a plc, have also started working on a CSR policy, which they soon plan on launching officially.
“However, we are committed to carry out our corporate social responsibility functions,” a company spokesperson said. “In fact, we have embarked on initiatives which support the community. For example, RS2 recently supported the Kavallieri Handball Club.
“The company’s staff is also very motivated to organise initiatives to support the Maltese community. Last Saturday, RS2 employees donated blood. In a bid to support the arts, the social committee is currently holding a photographic competition.”
Asked how much RS2 intends spending next year, the company spokesperson, side-stepped the question and instead gave a description of what initiatives are planned.
“The company feels it is its duty to be a good corporate citizen and has various plans in the pipeline for 2009, including initiatives which support society, the environment and the arts,” he said. “In addition, for RS2, training and development is of utmost priority and the company is committed to investing in education, in the knowledge that its human resource base it its greatest asset.”
When a public relations representative was pressed for RS2’s CSR expenditure forecasts, we were told that the company is not yet in a position to announce exact figures, but assured that they do take the issue seriously.
A GO spokesperson said the company has invested millions of Euro in CSR over the past five years, without going into the specifics of what was spent last year and what is planned for next year.
“GO’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme covers diverse areas and stakeholders - namely employees, customers, society, environment and shareholders. The company is currently drawing up a detailed report of its CSR initiatives and will be setting objectives for the years to come. We believe that as a local company we have a very important role to play in terms of improving our various stakeholders’ wellbeing. GO believes as well that CSR is an important measure of how a company operates,” he said.
“Some CSR initiatives are embedded in some of our services such as Telecare, Tafda and the Pink Card - which provide telecoms services for people with particular needs, disadvantaged families, as well as elderly people.”
Middlesea Group, known to be very active in CSR initiatives, also ignored our questions on how much money was spent on community programmes last year and how much is planned for next year. Instead, a senior official of the group, gave a detailed description of what actions Middlesea has taken in the regard.
“CSR is a priority for the Group and wherever possible the Group is willing to provide assistance to improve social and environmental issues. The Group’s CSR policy revolves around seven pillars: the Community; Education; National Heritage; Research and Health; Arts; Sports; and the Environment.
“It also deems CSR initiatives as worthy on the grounds that they encourage other companies to emulate them and serve to enliven group morale.”
In 2007, the Middlesea Group continued to support the Community by renewing its commitment to, among others, The Malta Community Chest Fund in addition to Caritas Malta’s Children’s Project and Community Outreach Programme.
Farsons plc Company Secretary and Group HR Manager Arturo Muscat told Business Today that Farsons does not measure CSR
“just in terms of allocation of funds but more through so many activities in favour of employees which go beyond what is required statutorily.
“For example Farsons organises training courses so employees cope with their retirement, has in employment people with special needs, gives good medical assistance to employees. Farsons also engages in work practices which respect the environment. Farsons maintains overall very good conditions of employment beyond the mere salary.”
Avoiding the mention of pounds shillings and pence, Muscat said: “Apart from these core CSR issues Simonds Farsons Cisk plc also dedicates funds in support of good deserving social cases, culture in general and associations engaged in voluntary work.”
In their replies to our questions, MaltaPost plc said it has “oriented its activities throughout the year towards supporting its employees with development programs, educational and cultural activities for the employees and their relatives as well as the consolidation of a staff welfare fund whose main objective is to ensure the financial support of employees and their families who find themselves in difficulty.”
Other community activities undertaken by Maltapost were aimed at supporting various voluntary and charitable organisations as well as participating in programmes and initiatives of a philanthropic nature.
Additionally, MaltaPost has also taken various environmentally friendly initiatives.