Philanthropy Made Easy: the Emergence of Donor-Advised Funds in Asia

Inside Philanthropy

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) have become an important giving tool in the U.S. and are rising in popularity in #Asia. CAPS research showed that the trends that characterize its growth in Asia are distinct from those seen in the U.S. What are the distinct characteristics, and how can philanthropists in Asia leverage DAFs to cultivate structured and strategic giving in the region?

Read the article here.

Philanthropy in Asia is becoming more professional

The Economist

Within global philanthropy, the spotlight generally falls on the wealthy West. It is tycoons from the rich world who are lauded for giving away vast sums. The most talked-about trends in giving are set in America, in particular. But with rapid economic growth, a new generation of wealthy donors is emerging in the developing world, too, and nowhere more so than in Asia. Philanthropy in Asia is gradually becoming more strategic, with donors focusing on long-term solutions rather than short-term charity.

Read the article here.

Climate change is an ‘opportunity not a cost’

The head of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society says firms need to start viewing climate change not as a cost, but an opportunity for innovation. Ruth Shapiro and her society will be hosting an event on Tuesday at the Asia Society, which brings together top business leaders to share their insights on climate challenges. Dr Shapiro told Janice Wong that many companies realise the need to tackle climate issues and transform their business, otherwise they may struggle to survive.

Listen to the full interview here.


Arthur Huang
Founder and CEO
Chinese Taipei

Published date: 1 December 2023

Arthur Huang is the Founder and CEO of Miniwiz, a circular upcycling technology company dedicated to transforming consumer and industrial waste into high-performance materials. His expertise in structural engineering and architecture has played a crucial role in Miniwiz’s groundbreaking initiatives in ESG engineering and upcycling since the company’s establishment in 2005. Miniwiz’s efforts have been well-recognized by the international community: It won the Wall Street Journal’s Asian Innovation Award in 2011 and was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2015.  

As part of our “Build Back Greener: Addressing Climate Change in Asia” report, CAPS spoke (virtually) to Arthur in February 2022 to understand Miniwiz’s core values and the process of translating such values into innovative solutions within the ever-evolving environmental, social and governance (ESG) landscape.  

CAPS: Arthur, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Miniwiz is deeply committed to realizing a truly circular economy, one that is based on reusing and recycling to preserve resources and lessen the environmental footprint. Could you share with us the premise behind Miniwiz’s work?  

Arthur: Of course. I would like first to emphasize that the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint is by reusing resources rather than simply recycling them. Recycling invariably presents environmental challenges due to the requirement of waste segregation, which exists in almost all such schemes in developed economies. Unfortunately, this process not only devalues waste materials but also causes secondary pollution as additional processing is needed, leading to a trash conundrum.  

This is precisely why Miniwiz has tasked itself with reusing as much of the original configuration as possible when turning waste into scalable resources. It is essential to understand that technology plays a pivotal part in achieving this objective, and it works hand in hand with environmental activism to build a fairer and more sustainable planet. These two elements should be linked together, albeit they are often perceived as separate.  

CAPS: How have you put these ideas into practice?  

Arthur: We strive to unlock the potential of upcycling, which involves reusing waste in its current state and refurbishing it to create a higher-quality product. Drawing from my own experience in structural engineering, we convert low-value waste into high-performance building materials and modules as alternatives to existing carbon-intensive products.  

For example, commissioned by the Nan Fung Group in Hong Kong, we have conducted a series of experiments to transform post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles into 3D-sublimated textile fabric designed for interior spaces. The material exhibits not only splash- and abrasion-resistance but also acoustic and antibacterial qualities, marking critical technological breakthroughs. 

** In a follow-up with Arthur in November 2023, CAPS learned that this collaboration successfully repurposed over 140,000 disposable water bottles as curtain wall systems for the newly opened AIRSIDE mall in Hong Kong. The surfacing itself contributed to a carbon footprint reduction of more than 48,000 kg.  

CAPS: Do you collaborate with other companies to help grow the circular economy? 

Arthur: Yes, we do. Interestingly, several of our innovative ideas have stemmed from collaborations with the Fubon Group, a conglomerate with diverse business interests including banking and telecommunication. A case in point is making wireless phone chargers out of recycled surgical masks, with each charger composed of nine recycled masks at a low cost. The Group even invited us to display the manufacturing process in front of its employees as part of their ESG initiatives. All of this points to how ESG demands can organically expand the notion of a circular economy. 

Our business partnerships go beyond Taiwan to all corners of the world, and one such instance is the previously mentioned collaboration with the Nan Fung Group in Hong Kong. Other leading property developers there such as Sino Group have also embraced our upcycled materials as their ESG solutions in the design and construction of shopping malls. 

CAPS: Speaking of ESG, what related trends have you observed in Taiwan and other economies you work in? 

Arthur: There is a notable trend in which the governments of Taiwan and Singapore are increasingly incorporating ESG themes into procurement and development projects. In Taiwan, this is particularly noticeable in initiatives related to public land development. This shift is likely motivated by public institutions seeking to showcase their ESG commitment to constituents, such as reducing emissions and benefiting the local economy. 

In the private sector, smaller companies often face resource, knowledge and capacity constraints when implementing ESG programs. Larger consumer companies, with whom we have partnered, intend to do good but struggle to have full control of their supply chains. This lack of control poses increased difficulties for them to effect meaningful ESG impact. On the other hand, the banking and real estate industries have shown significant interest in ESG initiatives, primarily due to the long-term nature of their projects. 

CAPS: How have these changes impacted Miniwiz?  

Arthur: Taken together, these shifts reflect a growing market demand for our sustainable products and services. While Miniwiz operates in various economies, we have refocused on Taiwan since the pandemic. This decision allowed us to engage in the previously discussed ESG-oriented procurement contracts with the government and the largest real estate developer in Taiwan. We could bid on these contracts at market prices comparable to typical technology companies, and these projects amounted to over US$1 billion.  

Such tremendous ESG procurement opportunities have, in turn, allowed us to reshape our business model. We have invested more resources in waste collection and enhanced our technological capacity to transform waste into sustainable materials locally. Seen this way, these substantial procurement volumes can translate into a significant force in influencing local transformation, ultimately disrupting long-established supply chains.  

Another way of looking at these procurement contracts is that the profits generated can be redirected to our operations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, gradually expanding our global reach. 

CAPS: Finally, with respect to the private sector, what do you think could be done to drive impactful ESG outcomes?  

Arthur: One positive step corporates can take is to integrate ESG components into their current research and development (R&D) projects. This way, R&D can serve as a means to promote not only technological progress but also industry transformation towards greater sustainability. This also brings us back to the idea I said earlier in our conversation – harnessing technology for doing good. 

Building Back Greener: Addressing Climate Change in Asia

Climate change and environmental degradation are increasingly impacting our society and have highlighted the necessity for collective action by individuals, governments, and the private sector. However, in a region where most economies are still emerging, striking a balance between ambitious environmental efforts and development goals adds a layer of complexity.

This report examines the ways in which Asian private capital—from corporations, investors and philanthropists—is being brought to bear on environmental challenges. Drawing insights from interviews with 163 individuals and experts from companies, foundations, and nonprofits across 10 Asian economies (Mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Chinese Taipei, and Thailand) we look at what actions local companies and organizations are taking to adapt to and mitigate environmental challenges. It provides unique Asian perspectives on climate action and offers recommendations for public and private sectors.

The report identifies four characteristics of the ways in which funders push resources towards environmental challenges, identifies the challenges companies and organizations face when doing so and presents recommendations and next steps for funders in this space.

Dr. Ruth Shapiro on China-US bilateral ties at APEC

CGTN America

CGTN’s Sean Callebs talks to Dr. Ruth Shapiro, Chief Executive at The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society in the U.S. hosting the 2023 APEC meeting.

Watch the full interview here.

Community philanthropy on the rise in China, driven by ultra wealthy families

Alliance Magazine

Philanthropy and other forms of private social investment are becoming commonly accepted and even expected in China, leading to a positive shift in the way philanthropy is viewed.  That’s according to a report published by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society analysing ultra-high-net-worth giving in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

Read more here.

The Tao of Giving: Insights into Ultra-High-Net-Worth Giving in Greater China

In late 2022 and early 2023, CAPS surveyed 135 ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals—those worth more than US$30 million—across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei.  Respondents answered questions about their philanthropy and other private social investments as well as their sources of advice, the impact of philanthropy on their personal lives and families, and their interest and engagement on social and environmental issues.  

This report draws on the analysis of these findings, building on CAPS’ studies and observations on philanthropy in the region. Findings show that UHNW individuals and families in Greater China are actively doing good and that philanthropy and social investments are seen as benefiting UHNW families across generations.  

在2022 年末至 2023 年初期间,CAPS向135 位来自中国内地、香港和中华台北拥有超过 3,000 万美元家族凈资产的高凈值个人或家族成员代表进行了问卷调查。受访者就财富管理、公益慈善事业、私人社会投资、获得专业建议的信息渠道、公益慈善事业对个人生活和家族的影响,及他们对社会和环境议题的关注点等方面回答了一系列问题。

本报告基于对调查结果的分析、CAPS 过去十年对整个亚洲的慈善家的研究和观察,以及广泛的文献综述。我们的研究表明,在大中华地区,超高凈值个人和家族将社会投资视为财富管理、家族传承和对社会的承诺的一部分。在此基础上,我们得出了四个主要洞察。这些发现构成了本报告的主要内容,随后的章节将探讨这些发现对亚洲私人社会投资和财富管理所产生的影响。

DAF interest in APAC rises but tax incentives not main draw

Citywire Asia

According to CAPS ‘ report, tax benefits, often touted as the primary motivation behind setting up donor-advised funds, are not a top priority in mainland China, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.

Read more here.

DECODED: Donor-Advised Funds in the Asia-Pacific

Our DECODED series unpacks, explains and crystallizes issues critical for social investment in Asia. It draws upon our expertise in research and access to an extensive network of sector experts and philanthropists in 18 Asian economies enabling us to identify emerging trends in the region. Through DECODED, we translate these concepts into digestible insights.

This edition of DECODED looks at the emergence of donor-advised funds (DAFs) in the Asia-Pacific and identifies the different models and motivations for setting up this type of fund in the region. While yet to become mainstream in most Asia-Pacific economies, donors, sponsoring organizations and social innovators have a strong and growing interest in the potential of DAFs to facilitate strategic philanthropic giving in the region.