HSBC launches a global $10m initiative in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages – the world’s largest NGO for orphans. Briefing talks to the international bank and its community partner about the aims of the project.
The HSBC Global Education Trust launched Future First in November, a global $10m initiative running from 2007-2012 in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages to provide education, healthcare, counselling and shelter to hundreds of thousands of street children, children in care and foster children.
Malini Thadani, head of public affairs for HSBC in India, tells Briefing that the project has its roots in the two pillars that the bank supports in corporate responsibility initiatives around the world – education and the environment. “For street children, education is the acquisition of a life skill that can help to provide them with a livelihood, a chance to enter the mainstream of society and to become useful and valuable members of their communities,” she says.
HSBC chose to support SOS Children’s Villages because of its global reach – projects in 124 countries, of which HSBC is present in 47. “Of the global NGOs that we studied and evaluated, we found that SOS had three qualifying factors: a good geographic overlap; SOS deals with a population that if they were not cared for would end up on the street; and most importantly, SOS is a very well run and managed organisation,” Thadani says.
There is certainly a compelling case for supporting charities for orphans. According to UNICEF, every year over half of all births in the developing world, excluding China, go unregistered, denying more than 50 million children a basic birthright: recognition as a citizen. UNICEF and WHO estimates show that 100m children spend a large portion of their lives on the streets, where they are exposed to abuse and exploitation.
For SOS Children’s Villages too, there is a good fit, both geographically and strategically. The charity is keen to work with companies with an international presence and the fact that caring for orphans is “fairly uncontroversial” means that such projects are particularly attractive to companies such as HSBC, Dr Andrew Kate, chief executive of the charity, tells Briefing.
“Although we run 190 schools, hospitals and social centres, the bulk of work that we do is for children who don’t have parents to care for them – in areas of work that are fairly uncontroversial. We’re not into advocacy or politics, which may be seen to upset the natural balance of things,” Kate says.
The partners have not yet identified the type of projects that they will be working on.
“We have numerous projects around the world that we will be going through and discussing with HSBC to find the best fit. We haven’t yet got a detailed list of projects.”
As yet there are no specific performance targets for the project, explains HSBC’s Thadani. “At the moment we have a broad target – a dream, if you like, to benefit one million children around the world.”
It is crucial that staff get involved. “There has been an overwhelming, enthusiastic response from colleagues around the world,” Thadani says. “It’s not just some small group of people doing corporate social responsibility… we want staff and our businesses involved.”
Involvement depends very much on the individual countries and projects in question, but broadly HSBC staff will be helping train NGO staff to be counsellors, administrative assistants, book-keepers and teachers.
SOS is extremely keen to involve local staff: “The thing that is difficult as an NGO is the idea that people are flying across the world to help in order to volunteer on local projects in developing countries. It’s also an opportunity for local people to feel more a part of the work with children there,” Kate says.
HSBC believes strongly that is has a huge role to play in the community where it operates. “We encourage economic activity in every country where we are participating. If in fact we can help people at the bottom of the pyramid then we are helping to build a more sustainable economy,” Thadani says.