Big increase in firms' charity handouts

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The Independent Online
INDIVIDUALS may be tightening their belts, but corporate Britain is more generous than ever, according to a survey published yesterday. More than 200 companies have increased their charitable contributions by at least 100 per cent since the study was last carried out two years ago.

Total donations from 1,430 of the UK's biggest companies amounted to pounds 169m compared with pounds 134m in 1991. That in itself was a 50 per cent increase on the previous study carried out in 1989.

The average donation from the 300 biggest contributors, which between them give 89 per cent of the total, had increased 19 per cent. Despite that, contributions still represent only about 0.26 per cent of company profits. Individuals contribute much more.

Companies digging deeper into their pockets include Guinness, which stumped up pounds 2.66m, a 50 per cent increase on the pounds 1.77m it gave to charities last year. Grand Metropolitan gave pounds 4.04m against only pounds 867,000 two years ago.

Michael Eastwood, of the Directory of Social Change, who edited the Guide to Company Giving, warned: 'Although company giving appears to date to be holding up well, figures for most of the companies listed relate to 1990-91 profits, so the full effects of the recession are yet to be seen.'

He added that companies were increasingly turning to non-cash gifts to give something back to the community. Other contributions include secondment of staff to charities and the provision of loans and facilities.

Big providers of charitable contributions include BT, which gave a total of pounds 14.5m last year, BP ( pounds 14.1m), National Westminster Bank ( pounds 11.7m) and British Gas ( pounds 10m).

Mr Eastwood attributes much of the increase to privatisations which have placed highly profitable companies in the public eye. British Telecom and British Gas between them provided nearly pounds 25m in contributions last year compared with just pounds 1m in 1988.

The recently privatised electricity companies feature strongly in the list of increases.

At the other end of the scale, just over 100 companies included in the survey had reduced their charitable giving by at least 50 per cent since the previous study. The names of some of those will come as little surprise. Speyhawk, AB Electronics, Higgs & Hill and Pilkington were all preoccupied with their own internal problems.

Other laggards have less obvious excuses. Pentland's charitable donations slipped from pounds 145,000 to pounds 61,000 over the period of the survey despite having a huge cash pile from the sale of its stake in the sports shoe group Reebok.

Norweb, the regional electricity supplier, has the distinction of being the only such company in the list of less generous companies.