Big business is being urged to do more to support schools as a new study reveals that the world’s top companies spend just 13 per cent of their combined charitable budgets on education.
Of the Global Fortune 500 companies with the largest revenue in the world, fewer than half – 218 – spend any of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) money on education at all, according to research by the Varkey Foundation.
London Mayor Boris Johnson and Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, have backed the foundation’s call for businesses to do more.
The foundation – the philanthropic arm of GEMS, a global private schools chain – is running a Business Backs Education campaign which is challenging companies to commit a fifth of their CSR budgets to education by 2020.
Its report says that 95 of the Fortune 500 companies have already achieved that target. If the other 405 joined them, education CSR spending would increase from $2.6bn to $4bn, which the foundation claims could allow 3 million extra children a year to go to primary school.
Mr Johnson, who is due to host a summit to support the campaign, said: “If more companies come forward to invest in young people, not just here, but around the world, think of the difference it could make. In the long term it makes sound business sense.”
Ms Bokova added: “This report signals the sizeable potential that exists for major companies to increase their corporate social responsibility spend on education.
“Their sights should be set on tapping the youth dividend in developing countries because there is no more powerful link than that between an educated, skilled workforce and sustainable economic development.”
The report is further evidence that education is a poor relation when it comes to corporate giving. A 2012 study found that the US private sector contributed 53 per cent of its total philanthropic budget to health projects.
The Brookings Institution, a respected US thinktank, reported in 2013 that “corporate giving to global health is 16 times what it is to global education”.
Of the corporate education giving that does take place, today’s report found that a third went to higher education, nearly a fifth to vocational education, 16 per cent to primary education and just 14 per cent to secondary education.
Andreas Schleicher, OECD education director, called on companies to be “a lot more creative as sponsors and providers of learning opportunities”. “Making lifelong learning a reality for all is only going to work if education becomes everybody’s business,” he said.