Corporate Australia giving large through COVID-19


Australian corporates have reached into their pockets to support the community during COVID19, with a recent analysis revealing more than $150 million has been contributed by largest companies to aid relief efforts.

A recent financial analysis by Strive Philanthropy, authors of the annual GivingLarge report, has discovered the significant investment coming from many top public and private Australian companies to support areas of need during the pandemic.

The research focused in on Australia’s 50 leading corporate givers from the latest GivingLarge dataset, uncovering their publicly disclosed philanthropic commitments towards COVID-19.

When it came to cash donations the $152 million total came from 22 corporates that disclosed a figure publicly. Notably, most of the cash amount came from just 6 companies whose contribution exceeded $135 million, more than 88% of the total.

Research author and Strive Philanthropy Founder, Jarrod Miles said “The contribution from these companies is vitally important and has benefited many community organisations that desperately need these funds. There is clearly a need for business to support all their stakeholders during this challenging period and that certainly includes their community”.

The largest contributions came from mining giants BHP, Rio-Tinto, Newcrest and South32. With combined contributions over $100 million.

BHP CEO Mike Henry said: “We are stepping up in establishing the Vital Resources Fund, which will provide support in a range of areas such as health services and resilience building during this difficult time.”

The $50 million fund will help to support regional Australian communities in BHP’s areas of operation and includes support for local and regional health networks, essential community services, community mental health and resilience and social partners and community leaders to support rural Indigenous communities.

Other big givers included Macquarie Group, contributing $20M through their foundation and Woodside Energy setting up a $10M COVID-19 community fund.

Macquarie Group Chief Executive Officer, Shemara Wikramanayake, saying: “The COVID-19 crisis is placing sudden and significant human and economic stress on communities around the world. The decision to make this additional donation, over and above the Foundation’s usual activities, is in recognition of the exceptional challenges that COVID-19 is presenting right now, and will present in the medium term, as communities turn their focus to economic recovery.”

More than 20 top corporates disclosed cash donations with many more companies also confirming their ongoing commitments to existing community partners despite the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Now is not the time for us to abandon our community partners. Companies like ours can play a crucial role in maintaining stability now and driving the economic recovery after the health crisis passes,” said Peter Coleman, CEO of Woodside Energy who have pledged to assist those organisations that will support the neediest in our communities as we get through the economic ramifications of COVID-19.

It’s these ramifications that drove the majority of companies to contribute towards areas within health, social/public welfare and education, with institutions like University of Queensland & Doherty Institute receiving donations for medical research and non-profits such as Royal Flying Doctor Service, Lifeline, Foodbank and the Smith Family all receiving donations to support their on the ground relief work.

Notably the Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT) received significant funding from companies like Macquarie who committed $1 million to the research.

ASCOT Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Steven Tong, Royal Melbourne Hospital infectious diseases clinician and co-lead of clinical research at the Doherty Institute thanked the Macquarie Group Foundation for its generous support saying, “This funding commitment will assist us significantly with the rapid implementation of ASCOT, which will help in the validation of an effective treatment pathway for COVID-19.”

Of the Top 50 GivingLarge companies, 66% committed to some form of community investment during the period with the types of contribution varying from direct cash donations to product and service provision to support those in need.

“Importantly while the remaining 34% of companies didn’t disclose any specific giving, this doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t contributed or won’t in the future” said Miles.  “Understandably, not all companies are able to quickly secure extra funds to donate to the community, given the significant economic impact to some industries. In those instances, it is pleasing to see companies confirming their existing commitments and supporting the community with other non-cash contributions”

While the cash donations may reach the headlines, Mile said they’ve also seen a significant amount of
community support through the provision of free product and pro-bono services. These contributions can be tricky to put a dollar value on but can still be very impactful.

Common examples of product and service provision include supermarket food donations, contribution of real estate space and access to interest and fee free bank loans for families and businesses doing it tough.