17.03.2014 - UNESCOPRESS

Business Backs Education

Maysa Jalbout, Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, interviews Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2014 “Meet the Mentor” session

A new campaign, Business Backs Education, challenging business to commit 20 per cent of its global Corporate Social Responsibility spending to education by 2020 was launched at the Global Education Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on Monday 17 March.

The GESF campaign is backed by UNESCO and the Global Business Coalition for Education. It is designed to bring business in line with Government and NGO education spending targets. UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) recommends that Governments should spend 20 per cent of their budget on education and that 20 per cent of Official Development Assistance should go towards education initiatives. 

“This campaign comes at exactly the right moment,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Demand for an educated and skilled workforce, has never been higher, and the stakes never greater, as we strive to achieve sustainable development and build lasting peace.

“Innovative alliances with business and investment from the private sector will be key to tipping the balance and making quality education accessible to all. Business is a vital part of the equation.”

Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Gems Foundation and convener of the Global Education Skills Forum, held in Dubai from 15 to 17 March,   stressed that:  “Business can and should play a much greater role in developing the public sector’s ability to improve education access and learning quality in the both the developing and said developed world. Not only because Education is a public good but because if business is unable to secure future talent then it will harm economic growth worldwide.”

According to the GMR, an additional $26bn  is needed annually to achieve basic education for all children, but current annual  philanthropic spending by global businesses on education in developing countries is only an estimated $548 million. Recent research by the Brookings Institution shows that corporate giving to global health is 16 times the amount given to global education.

SAP, Crescent Petroleum, PwC, Honeywell Group, Majid Al Futtaim, Jumeirah Group and Equity Bank, Kenya have initially signed up to the Business Backs Education campaign with many more expected to sign up at five summits to take place in London, New York, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Dubai over the course of the year.

The Business Backs Education campaign will:

  • Challenge the private sector to double its CSR spend on education initiatives (from estimated $548 to $1 billion) by March 2015, prioritizing countries and groups most in need.
  • Challenge the private sector to allocate 20 per cent of total global CSR spend on education initiatives by 2020, prioritising countries and groups most in need.
  • Encourage companies to work with the public sector on core areas of education needs such as access to quality education, 21st century skills, global citizenship, and professional development of education professionals.
  • Encourage companies to join the Global Business Coalition for Education.
  • Encourage companies to embed ‘The Framework for Business Engagement’, developed by UNESCO, the UN Global Compact, UNICEF and the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
  • Establish a more robust baseline on global corporate giving to education and a sharper analysis of where spending is going in terms of countries and education areas that benefit.

Each individual company that signs up to the campaign will be assigned a ‘Business Backs Education’ kite-mark and must adopt the following principles:

  • Commit to 20 per cent of their CSR spend towards education initiatives by 2020, prioritising countries and groups most in need.
  • Commit to working with the public sector on core areas of education need such as access to quality education, 21st century skills, global citizenship, professional development of education professionals
  • Embed ‘The Framework for Business Engagement’, developed by UNESCO, the UN Global Compact, UNICEF and the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education

The first year initiatives of the campaign include:

Five summits to take place in Dubai, London, New York, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. Collectively, the Summits will contribute towards a report that outlines a route map for how businesses can increase their CSR spend on education.

Publishing a list of the top 30 listed companies ranked by their investment in education on each of the major financial exchanges

Publishing a guide for businesses to have more effective and meaningful engagement with the K-12 education sector.

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  • The Business Back Education campaign is under the auspices of the Global Education & Skills Forum. For further information please click here.
  • The full framework for Business Engagement developed by UNESCO is available here.



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