Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Irony Labeling for Foundations

What if Foundations had to really disclose what they were made of? Right now, they report on their finances but only die-hards who read 990 forms (which doesn't include most board members who aren't on the investment committee) know what kinds of financial investments they're really making. If a self-identified environmental funder is granting $1 million per year for land conservation but has 10 million shares of stock in major home building companies are they really trying to save the environment? What about health funders and tobacco, alcohol or processed food company shares?

Maybe we need an "Irony Labeling" on Foundation Annual Reports, similar to the nutritional labels found on food packaging.

Ingredients: Financial investments
Environment $100 million in oil, gas, corn farms, and paper plants
Health $25 million: corn syrup processing and soda production
Education $20 million Disney Co.

Ingredients: Grants Paid
Environment: $1 million for land conservation
Health: $500,000 to fight obesity
Education: $500,000 after school programs for low-income children

After all, companies are starting to open up about what goes into their products, e.g. "no artificial sweeteners" or made with "all organic cotton."

Timberland, the shoe and boot manufacturer includes a "nutritional label" on its shoeboxes, revealing the environmental impact of the shoes' production. (Outside, Nov 2006)

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