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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 16:11 GMT
Charities slam 'corporate stinginess'
Drop the Debt campaign poster
The general public is more generous than companies
The largest 100 UK companies give less than half a per cent of their pre-tax profits to charities and community projects, according to a survey by the charity consultancy Directory of Social Change.

That is less than half the average donated by US firms.

"Less than 5% of the total charitable and voluntary sector donations made each year in Britain come from the business sector," reported the Guardian newspaper which had commissioned the survey.

Cherie Booth, president of the children's charity Barnardos
Cherie Booth is the president of the children's charity Barnardos
"Only 10 of the Top 100 managed to donate at least 1% of their profits last year".

And, with the threat of an economic downturn growing ever more intense, the proportion could fall.

"Without any commitment to maintain community involvement, companies have carte blanche to close their community affairs departments and slash their community contributions at any whiff of financial trouble," the Guardian quoted Alison Benjamin, the editor of the Directory of Social Change's magazine Corporate Citizen, as saying.

Generous people

The general public is far more generous than business, contributing 5.3bn to charities, compared with companies' contributions which are worth just 680m, the survey revealed.

Caprice undressing for Multiple Sclerosis
Caprice's sartorial MS campaign was sponsored by Yahoo
The Guardian found the survey "disturbing reading" given "the huge rise in corporate profits in recent years."

It pointed to a "Scrooge-like mentality in Britain's boardrooms".

Some companies were more generous than the average, however, with the "Giving List" being topped by the supermarket chain Sainsbury's, the insurer Royal & Sun Alliance and the mortgage bank Northern Rock.

People not money

The report came as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies urged the World Trade Organisation to let "humanitarian concerns... prevail over commercial concerns" during its forthcoming talks in Qatar.

Federation president Astrid Heiberg stressed the importance of making medicines available to poor people and said it is holding talks with the drugs industry.

The call for greater compassion from companies reflected the view of about half the people questioned in a recent Mori poll.

They believed that companies should show a high degree of social responsibility in difficult economic times.

See also:

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