HSBC, Telus show the generous side of corporations

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 – Submitted by Tony Gallagher, The Province

Sometimes when people try to portray corporations as these big irresponsible companies that don’t care about people, you’d like to show them the face of some of the real classy ones and then get them to preach their drivel.

With respect to the changeover of the HSBC high school basketball tournament and dance competition sponsorship to Telus this year after 11 years of carrying the ball by the bank, these people should know how the real world works in many cases.

After pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the sponsorship of this tournament started by Doug and Howard Kelsey, Lars Hansen, Ron Putzi, and a host of other driving forces behind this event from the outset, the bank found they couldn’t continue given their shift in charitable focus. But according to Telus CFO Bob McFarlane, his company may not have been able to pick up the tournament and keep it going the way things were structured for this year given they’re already in for a whack for the high school championships in March. But the fact HSBC offered to continue to fund their scholarships in an event they won’t get credit for in the media ended up lowering the new title sponsor’s burden and now the tournament can go forward under its present format.

“We have been changing the nature of our focus a little bit with the $2.17 million we’ve committed UBC downtown to go ahead with their program of going into the Downtown Eastside and helping out with people down there,” said HSBC vice-president of corporate affairs Ernest Yee. “After 11 great years we wanted to make sure we kept up our commitment to help 30 young people continue their post-secondary education every year. “

“We didn’t have the money in this year’s budget to make it happen until they stepped up and continued with the scholarships so we could go ahead,” McFarlane said Wednesday. “It’s really quite amazing to see a company do that to keep the tournament flourishing for what we hope will be many years to come.”

McFarlane’s company of course is one of those corporations the Occupy types don’t like to think about, one that has 11 different boards across the country which has given away over $245 million since 2000 and with the employees and retirees has provided over 4.1 million volunteer hours for various charities in that time. Talk about an inconvenient truth. TELUS was named 2010’s “Most Philanthropic Corporation” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a group of 30,000 members out of Arlington, Va., that monitors companies and philanthropists around the globe. And they won after having been nominated by one of the groups they support, thus becoming the first Canadian company to win the award. Not sure how I as a shareholder feel about that yet, but long term it’s almost certainly a very good thing.

“We are already supporting the competitive finals in both the girls’ and boys’ events but one of the things that really encouraged us to come on board with this one was the inclusive nature of the event,” said McFarlane. “We like how everyone has to play and the fact the scholarship determination is determined by both academics and athletic ability together and they don’t necessarily go to just the best athletes.”

“The fact they were able to get together like that was huge for us,” said Howard Kelsey, who does much of the work along with Putzi for the tournament that starts next Saturday and Stephanie Kennedy who oversees the abundantly energetic dance competition at the Richmond speed skating oval.

“They’re donating $30,000 a year for 30 scholarships all the while losing the title sponsorship and as far as I know that’s pretty much unheard of. So obviously we’re thankful to both these two players as well as all our other sponsors.”

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