Zuckerberg's Charitable Pledge Reminds Traders That Wall Street Can Also Be Good
This week, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over the course of their lives in a philanthropic gift that has been named the largest in the world to date.
The couple's shares are currently valued at $45 billion, and they plan to spend them on their new foundation, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC. The organization will fund nonprofit organizations and make private investments in order to further its mission to propel research into "personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities."
Zuckerberg and Chan's promise to commit much of their fortune to a good cause is a nice reminder that although Wall Street often gets a bad rap for corporate greed and a "profit-at-any-cost" attitude, there are many big name companies, investors and CEOs who are using their power for good rather than evil.
Here's a look at nine big names on Wall Street that have proven they are committed to philanthropy.
1. Bill and Melinda Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have set a high bar for philanthropists on Wall Street. The two have promised to donate 95 percent of their personal fortune to Melinda's own charity, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most recently, Gates has focused his charitable efforts on solving the clean-energy problem, saying that the cost of eliminating carbon emissions has been a setback in the world's efforts to cut down on harmful pollution.
In order to help break down that roadblock, Gates has said he will set up a $2 billion clean energy fund that will work with countries around the world to research clean-energy options.
2. George Soros
Fund manager George Soros has donated some $8 billion so far in his lifetime. The billionaire has shown an interest in making social change and has made some controversial investments in causes he believes are worthwhile.
He recently pledged to invest $1 billion in Ukraine in an effort to help the country redevelop. His company, Soros Fund Management LLC advises the Ukrainian Redevelopment Fund, which aims to invest in young, promising Ukrainian companies that have the potential to build an open society and help the nation move forward.
Soros is also behind the Open Society Foundation, a charity that funds projects aimed at building democracy around the world. The OSF was recently banned from operating in Russia, as its aims were deemed a threat to the Russian Federation.
3. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
With all the negative press that surrounds Wal-Mart, it may be surprising to find the discount superstore on a list for philanthropy.
However, the company was responsible for charitable donations worth about $3.3 billion in 2014. Wal-Mart has been active in fighting hunger both in the United States and abroad and has donated food as well as cash in order to help solve the problem.
Most recently, Wal-Mart has promised to give up to $1.5 million to a charity that provides hospitalized veterans and their families with housing. Wal-Mart has initially donated $500,000 to the Fisher House Foundation, and the company has promised to donate an additional $100 for every video of a holiday greeting posted to social media under the hashtag #Sing2Salute.
4. Gordon Moore
Intel founder Gordon Moore has donated around $6.8 billion to his and his wife's charity, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has donated funds to a wide variety of projects, though much of Moore's focus has been on environmental conservation.
The foundation has provided grant money to non-profits working to protect marine environments including wild salmon ecosystems as well as land conservation projects from the Amazon to the San Francisco Bay Area.
As one of the largest companies in the world, tech giant Google has made a name for itself as one of the most charitable firms as well. The company boasts one of the largest corporate giving programs, with the company's charitable arm spending around $100 million each year on philanthropic projects.
The company doles out grant money to projects it feels are making good use of technology in order to tackle social, environmental or economic issues.
Google also supports charitable work among its staff members – the company allows all of its employees to spend 20 percent of their time on non-work related activities, making it easier for them to volunteer with non-profits the firm is supporting.
6. Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM)
Another unlikely name on this list is energy superpower Exxon Mobil Corporation. While oil companies are typically painted in a gloomy light because of their environmental impact, Exxon has made an effort to offset its negative impact by giving back through charitable contributions.
The company set up the ExxonMobil Malaria Initiative, which works to prevent deaths caused by malaria. The company is also focused on advancing education, particularly in science and math, around the world. Over the past few years, the firm has given some $125 million to the National Math and Science initiative, a program aimed at improving student performance in those subject areas. The company also contributes to the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, a professional development camp that gives third to fifth grade teachers the tools they need to better instruct their students.
7. Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett has made his name in the business world through shrewd business decisions and savvy investment choices, but the billionaire has also earned accolades for his efforts to ramp up philanthropy on Wall Street.
Together with Bill Gates, Buffett has convinced many of the world's richest people to promise to donate at least half of their fortunes to charity through an initiative called The Giving Pledge.
Created back in 2010, The Giving Pledge has attracted some of Wall Street's finest including Tesla's Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Netflix founder Reed Hastings. Buffett himself has also committed to the pledge, and so far, he has donated over $17 billion worth of Berkshire stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
8. Kroger Co (NYSE: KR)
Supermarket chain Kroger is another of Wall Street's most charitable firms; the company made a name for itself in the philanthropic world back in 2010 when it donated 10.9 percent of its pre-tax profits, a whopping of $64 million.
Over the past few years, the company has been focused on everything from cutting down on its environmental impact to breast cancer research.
Kroger has also raised eyebrows in the towns and cities where it operates, as the firm allows shoppers to choose local charities where the supermarket will donate. Shoppers select their favorite charity and their local Kroger donates between 2 and 5 percent of their shopping bill to the chosen organization.
9. Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT)
Retailer Target has been a constant fixture in the world of corporate philanthropy. The company encourages its employees to donate their time to chosen charitable projects and rewards them for logging service hours.
The firm has also been committed to improving education throughout the United States and pledged to spend $1 million to improve the American educational system by the end of 2015.
Target uses grants to donate to a wide variety of K-12 educational programs, though its most recent focus has been on teaching kids about wellness and healthy living, particularly in low-income communities.
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