Some months back, on another blog, I had written about the likely pit-falls of Development through Philanthropy (which would include large number of the corporate CSR efforts, funding agencies, "foundations", etc., etc.)...
- "...the top-down nature of these initiatives can (and often does) make them vulnerable to many undesirable consequences. Often such blanket initiatives neglect the local issues, and divert the attention to more symptomatic solutions. For instance, a drip irrigation scheme may be advocated as a solution, while the actual local problem is the lowering ground-water level due to its extraction by commercial interests. Similarly, an AIDS prevention program can neglect that the larger causes of death are due to hunger and not disease. Often these initiatives can (and do) also become the vehicles for dumping of obsolete technologies and harmful drugs, or even in empowering non-democratic power-structures at the grass root level."
- "Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb... An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Companies ranked among the worst U.S. and Canadian polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Co. and Tyco International Ltd.
- Many of the world's other major polluters, including companies that own an oil refinery and one that owns a paper mill, which a study shows sicken children while the foundation tries to save their parents from AIDS.
- Pharmaceutical companies that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat.
But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it "the cough." People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation....
...The makeshift clinic at a church where Justice Eta was vaccinated and the flares spewing over Ebocha represent a head-on conflict for the Gates Foundation. In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, a Times investigation has found, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works...
...The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.
...Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes. In 2005, it granted nearly $1.4 billion. It awards grants mainly in support of global health initiatives, for efforts to improve public education in the United States, and for social welfare programs in the Pacific Northwest.
It invests the other 95% of its worth. This endowment is managed by Bill Gates Investments, which handles Gates' personal fortune... By comparing these investments with information from for-profit services that analyze corporate behavior for mutual funds, pension managers, government agencies and other foundations, The Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.
...In addition,... the Gates Foundation endowment had major holdings in:
A well-meaning friend of mine who works with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with whom I shared this news-item, wrote back:
- "Yes. Quite depressing, in fact. Anyway they are now planning to review their investments and take some decisions."
er... no!, this posting is not about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That is just an example. Unless we look (and introspect) at the overall system of this issue of "doing business/living a good life" and "contributing to society" - and the trade-offs therein - this kind of inadvertant hypocracy will continue...
... at our own individual level, it often gets translated into personal paradoxes/ contradictions, e.g.,: