We're right to scoff at AWB executive Charles Stott's impoverished definition of "donations" as requiring a "potential benefit in the future" (The Age, 9/2/06). This is not foremost in most individual's minds when donating. But what about companies? Corporate philanthropy - whether cash donations or staff fence-painting days - provides numerous "soft benefits" such as brand building, community goodwill, team bonding, political lobbying, employee morale and tax concessions. Indeed, it's difficult to reconcile purely altruistic donations with corporations law: directors must maximise shareholder value or risk jail. (Of course, what shareholders do with their dividends on disbursement is up to them.)
In light of this, which publicly listed company can honestly claim to make donations without any possibility whatsoever of "potential benefit in the future"? Perhaps BHP and AWB should be judged by the standards of their peers.