Education & Family

Global firms urged to invest in education

Pupils in Tanzania Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are still 58 million children who have no access to school, many in sub-Saharan Africa

Major international businesses are failing to spend enough on supporting education, according to a global education campaign.

An analysis of 500 top global firms showed that only 13% of their philanthropic and social investment budget was targeted at education.

At the top of global spending on education were Santander, IBM and Telefonica.

In the UK, GlaxoSmithKline, Rio Tinto and HSBC were the highest ranked.

The Business Backs Education campaign wants education to be a higher priority for "corporate social responsibility" spending.

Extra funding could help tackle global concerns such as providing places for 58 million children in developing countries without any access to primary school.

Higher priority

These Global Fortune 500 major firms spend about $20bn (£13.2bn) annually on such social investment projects - with about $2.6bn (£1.7bn) spent on education.

This analysis shows that less than half of this education spending goes to high priority regions where provision is weakest, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Santander gave the most financial support to education projects

The report has been published by the Varkey Foundation, set up by the founders of the Dubai-based GEMS education group, with partners including Unesco.

The report, claimed as the most comprehensive attempt to evaluate such global corporate support, is part of a campaign to encourage businesses to allocate 20% of their philanthropic spending to education by 2020.

Business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos next week will be urged to back the campaign as delivering life-changing chances to young people and boosting economic development.

This type of spending can include direct cash support for projects, scholarships, setting up trusts or delivering services in kind, such as computer systems or software.

The firms at the top of the donations already give much more than 20% to education. Santander spends 79% of its corporate social responsibility budget on education, IBM allocates 72%, Toyota gives 41%.

The Spanish banking firm, Santander, gave about $197m (£129m) to education; US technology firm IBM gave $144m (£95m) and Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica gave $130m (£85m).

Long-term investment

The UK, on average spending per company, is one of the biggest spenders on education in the world. Although US companies, with more firms in the top 500, give the biggest overall amount.

There are 26 UK companies in this group of global giants, contributing about $331m (£218m) of their corporate social responsibility budgets to education projects.

This is much more than the donations of 89 Chinese companies, which between them were identified as giving $47m (£31m) to education, almost all of which was spent within China.

While UK top 500 firms have an average $102m (£67m) annual spend on corporate social responsibility, in China the average is $5m (£3.3m).

"The world's business leaders need to take a fresh look at their philanthropic spend," says Vikas Pota, chief executive officer of the Varkey Foundation.

"I would urge them to re-examine how much they currently commit to improving the education of children around the world. How much is helping children learn the skills to raise themselves out of poverty and dream of better lives? How much is equipping children with the knowledge to compete in tomorrow's world?"

Unesco director general, Irina Bokova, said the report showed the size of the potential for funding from major companies - and that such spending on education would boost economic growth.

"There is no more powerful link than that between an educated, skilled workforce and sustainable economic development. It is an investment that makes sense now for business, for youth and for building more equitable and prosperous societies."

Biggest spenders on education in Global Fortune 500 firms
1. Santander
2. IBM
3. Telefonica
4. Exxon Mobil
5. Target
6. GlaxoSmithKline
7. Microsoft
8. Toyota
9. Rio Tinto
10. Wells Fargo
11. Goldman Sachs
12. Westpac Banking
13. Cisco
14. Migros
15. HSBC
16. BHP Billiton
17. Chevron
18. AT&T
19. Anglo American
20. Samsung
21. Deutsche Bank
22. Pertamina
23. Royal Dutch Shell
24. Prudential Financial
25. Siemens

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