The billionaire benefactors club

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News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

22nd December 2015 at 12:37pm

The press and Facebook were recently full of the news that Mark Zuckerberg will put 99 per cent of his Facebook shares, now worth about $45 billion, into a new philanthropy project focusing on human potential and equality.

Mark and his wife Chan wrote an open letter which they shared on the social media platform he established, where they spoke of creating a better world for their first child, Max, and future generations.

The proud parents, vowed to use their wealth to cure disease, harness green energy, reduce poverty and promote equality through forming the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Putting their money where their mouth is

The Zuckerberg’s are not alone in their quest to invest in a better world. The idea of investing in companies to tackle social issues has gained a lot of traction amongst a merry band of billionaires, many of whom have found fame and fortune in the world of technology.

Bill Gates, easily the most famous philanthropist among the tech elite, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife in 2000. The aim of this nonprofit organisation is to improve U.S. education and global health. To date, he’s donated $29.5 billion to what is now the world’s largest private foundation. Gates also launched ‘The Giving Pledge’ with his wife, Melinda, and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett. The initiative encourages the world’s wealthiest to give the majority of their fortunes to charity.

Building on early foundations

But this wish to invest in a better world is by no means a modern manifestation, and these tech titans are actually standing on the shoulders of previous industrial giants such as John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, who back in the early 1900’s forged the path for these current benefactors.

Carnegie, labelled “the father of modern philanthropy”, was among

“To try to make the world in some way better than you found it is to have a noble motive in life.”

Andrew Carnegie, The Empire of Business

the wealthiest and most famous industrialists of his day. Through the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an innovative philanthropic foundation he established in 1911, he formed an institution dedicated to the principles of “scientific philanthropy,” investing in the long-term progress of our society

The work of the Corporation and its grantees has helped shape public debate and policy for more than one hundred years. And millions of people have benefited from Carnegie’s foresighted generosity — a legacy of real and permanent good.

Rockefeller left his mark too through the Rockefeller Foundation, its mission, unchanged since 1913, is to improve the well-being of humanity around the world. Through the years the foundation has expanded greatly in scope. Historically, it has given more than $14 billion in current dollars to thousands of grantees worldwide.

And while this was all happening across the water, we had some homegrown philanthropy occurring too. A nice example being the wealthy Cadburys family doing their part to sweeten the lives of workers in Victorian Britain.

George Cadbury, the son of the UK Chocolatier, was an important philanthropist in the 19th Century. George was driven by a passion for social reform, wanting to create clean and sanitary conditions for his workers in contrast to the usual grim reality of factories in Victorian Britain. He set new standards for living and working conditions and gave the Bourneville estate to the Bourneville Village Trust in 1901. The trust was founded to develop the local community and its surroundings.

The Bourneville Village Trust is now one of the largest and most respected housing trusts in the country specialising in development, communities, supported housing, special needs and urban regeneration.

An ethical investment

Investing ethically or funding good causes is not just the domain of the wealthy; you don’t need to be a member of the billionaire benefactors club to play your part. There are ways you can align your values with your investments and match your principles with your money.

Ethical investing is a type of values-based investing. It offers the opportunity for investors and savers to filter their investment choices. They can choose to avoid companies involved in activities they don’t want to support. And choose to invest in those operating within a moral framework that reflects their own values.

Being an ethical investor isn’t always straightforward, since deciding where to invest can be a very personal decision. However, for those who want to invest their money in an ethical way, there are a lot more options than there used to be, offering the potential for healthy returns. Profit and principle could go hand in hand.

Your social standing

By applying socially responsible and ethical criteria to your investment decisions, you are making a stand for change. You may not be pledging lucre like Zucker, but you are balancing making a return from your money with concern and respect for wider social and environmental issues. And getting it right could combine good returns with peace of mind.

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The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice and is based on our understanding in December 2015. As with any investment the value of your investment can go up or down and may be worth less than what was paid in.