Putting the “Love of Humanity” Back in Corporate Philanthropy: The Case of Health Grants by Corporate Foundations

Journal of Business Ethics 178 (2):415-428 (2021)
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Abstract

With the growing call for private sector actors to address global challenges, it is necessary to first assess whether regions with the greatest needs are accessing corporate philanthropy. In this paper, we ask whether corporate philanthropy is reaching those with the greatest health-care needs. Drawing on economic geography and corporate homophily, we argue that corporate philanthropy tends to exacerbate health inequality as grants are destined for counties with fewer health problems. We test and find support for this hypothesis using data on health grants made by US corporate foundations and county-level health data. Our results that corporate health grants are less likely to go to counties which have a lower proportion of medical service providers and insured citizens suggest that corporate foundations are unwittingly complicit in worsening the resource gap between small, poor, rural counties and large, wealthy, urban counties. From an ethical perspective, we provide some guidance as to how this may be corrected.

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