October 31, 2023

Bridgespan Research Surfaces Three Ways for Asia’s Wealth Holders to Support Social and Environmental Causes

Common approaches include using businesses to create impact, establishing operating foundations, and collaborating with governments.

SINGAPORE—NOVEMBER 1, 2023—Asia’s steady economic growth over recent decades has placed it at the forefront of global wealth creation. A new report published today by The Bridgespan Group aims to inspire wealth holders in the region to consider three approaches to giving that shape a uniquely “Asian way” of philanthropy.

As part of its report, Bridgespan studied the philanthropic endeavours of the 67 wealthiest individuals and families in Southeast Asia’s six largest economies—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—and Hong Kong. Collectively, these groups control over US$618 billion in wealth.

The three approaches that surfaced build upon Asia’s rich cultural heritage, which deeply values charitable giving, the importance of relationships, and the role of government as an agent for social good:

  • Using business as a platform to create social or environmental change, largely through corporate foundations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. People in Asia believe in the concept of “what’s good for business should also be good for society.” Ninety-four percent of the 67 individuals surveyed give through CSR programmes, making it by far the most prevalent form of giving.
  • Establishing philanthropic operating foundations that design and carry out programmes. Sixty-seven percent of the foundations affiliated with the families we studied operate their own programmes.
  • Building lasting partnerships with governments around complementary strengths to achieve scalable social change, what leaders in the region call “nation building.” Forty percent of interviewees explicitly cited government collaboration as a critical lever in their work. In a companion report, Bridgespan dives further into approaches Asian philanthropists adopt to effectively collaborate with governments.

Said Xueling Lee, Bridgespan principal and coauthor of the study: “All three of these approaches would benefit from an infusion of greater resources. With the wealthiest funders having both the aspiration and the means to give more, the issue is not how, but how much. By sharing what we’ve learnt, we hope to inspire them to commit more resources to help address pressing social and environmental problems in the region.”

There are more billionaires in Asia than in the United States or Europe, according to Nikkei Asia. As the Doing Good Index 2022 has indicated, up to US$701 billion in philanthropic funding could be unlocked if Asia were to match the United States.

Keeran Sivarajah, Bridgespan partner and coauthor of the report, said: “The number of millionaires in the Asia-Pacific is projected to increase from 9.7 million in 2022 to 15.4 million in 2027, according to UBS and Credit Suisse. Wealth holders in the region have an opportunity to use their considerable wealth to do even more good.”

Read the full report at https://bspan.org/45N2lmP.

# # #
About The Bridgespan Group

The Bridgespan Group (www.bridgespan.org) is a global nonprofit that collaborates with social change organizations, philanthropists, and impact investors to make the world more equitable and just. Bridgespan’s services include strategy consulting and advising, sourcing and diligence, and leadership team support. We take what we learn from this work and build on it with original research, identifying best practices and innovative ideas to share with the social sector. We work from locations in Boston, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco and Singapore.

Creative Commons License logo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available in our Terms and Conditions.
The Bridgespan Group would like to thank the JPB Foundation for its generous and ongoing support of our knowledge creation and sharing work.