Over at Business Week, I read the following about Nestle's approach to corporate philanthropy:
"Nestle SA Chairman Peter Brabeck- Letmathe said he opposes corporate philanthropy because it misuses shareholders’ money and said government, business and civic groups should team up to tackle society’s problems. 'I’m personally very much against corporate philanthropy,” Brabeck said in a television interview in London. “You shouldn’t do good with money which doesn’t belong to you. What you do with your own money, this is absolutely fine.'
Nestle’s strategy in corporate and social responsibility focuses on areas that are key to its own business strategy and that boost shareholder value as well as helping society, 65- year-old Brabeck said. The maker of Nescafe, based in Vevey, Switzerland, has three main areas of action: helping boost productivity among the more than 500,000 farmers it works with, reducing water use and developing more nutritious products."
I'm curious as to what readers think about Brabeck's comments. He has a point that companies shouldn't be using shareholder funds without their agreement/support. The question, it seems to me, is how one interprets the question of how philanthropy fits with a firm's strategy, and how it relates to long term shareholder value. One can interpret that very narrowly, or much more broadly. That is where things get tricky.