Corporate citizenship study sheds light on corporate philanthropy in Germany

Corporate citizenship study sheds light on corporate philanthropy in Germany

Expert opinion

Corporate Philanthropy is one of the many “niches” in the world of giving. There are not many reliable numbers on corporate foundations but if they are just a bit in line with what New York based CECP reports on overall Corporate Giving around the world ( then this is a component of corporate engagement to look out for. The corporate foundation these days is a staple in the overall Corporate Citizenship toolbox of companies. That this is true is confirmed by the study “From Good Intentions to Real Results – Corporate Citizenship of Germany’s DAX 30 Companies“, that Berlin based Beyond Philanthropy published in collaboration with the management consultancy goetzpartners last week (

The study analyzes the corporate citizenship activities of Germany’s DAX 30 companies, focusing on four dimensions: strategy, resource deployment, implementation and results. The analysis was based on surveys of the DAX 30 companies, comprehensive secondary research and discussions with experts.

For the followers of Philanthropy Impact a short excursus on corporate foundations, as part of the study, may be of special interest. It turns out that 67% of all DAX 30 companies have set up foundations that are associated with them. In Germany foundations are independent legal entities and the government’s supervisory bodies keep a close eye on the foundations independence. This may also explain why in Germany corporate foundations are endowed in a way that would be considered unusually high in the Anglo-Saxon world. In this context corporate foundations often are not just lean giving vehicles but full-fledged operations like their counterparts in private philanthropy. By the way, the majority of these foundations has corporate executives on their boards, supervisory committees.

One surprising fact is that 33% of the DAX 30 companies are associated with more than one foundation. Allianz actually has initiated a network of 14 foundations. There are often historical explanations for multiple foundations but the example of BMW shows that focus may also be an issue of the future in this field. BMW merged two corporate foundations to the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt.        

The corporate citizenship study suggests that the work of corporate foundations often is not in line with the other corporate citizenship activities of the DAX 30 companies. There is a need for additional research on whether this observation is confirmed by an in-depth look. Research than also has to explore the reasons for this development in Germany. Again, in the Anglo-Saxon world we have seen over the years a very strong alignment of corporate foundations with the overall societal engagement of companies. Both approaches may be rooted in different corporate traditions. Both approaches may also be based on different legal traditions and history may also be an explanation.

In our corporate citizenship study we support a more integrated approach of corporate citizenship with the core business of a company. Corporate foundations in such a development could be the accepted outliers or they may develop into a component of a value change that strives for positive social change in a certain field. Then corporate foundations would not be a niche anymore. 

Michael Alberg-Seberich is currently the CKX Philanthropy in Canada Fellow and a Mercator Fellow based in Toronto. He is an executive partner at Berlin based Active Philanthropy, and a managing director of Beyond Philanthropy. Michael is a member of the Board of Trustees of Philanthropy Impact since 2016.