The whole idea of corporate philanthropy is pretty straightforward: A large company becomes profitable enough that it sets aside a certain sum each year to funnel toward the charity or cause of its choosing. Despite the fact that this formula has come under fire for serving as a cover-up for companies whose supply chains and manufacturing practices do far more damage to society and the environment than a couple cool millions can rectify, businesses persist in following it.
Through its Center for Inclusive Growth, an independent subsidiary of the company launched in 2013 to support financial inclusion in the developing world, Mastercard is experimenting with a new type of philanthropy: data donation. Mastercard is one of the largest payments companies in the world, and Shamina Singh, president of the Center for Inclusive Growth, says that when the Center was founded, it was with a mandate from the company’s board of directors to,
“think about Mastercard’s assets broadly, and then think about how those assets can be applied for social good.”
Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth is launching a partnership with Unilever and a network of Kenyan shop owners in the fall around this very principle. Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods suppliers, contracts with around 40,000 small shop owners in Kenya, who sell Unilever products. By equipping those shop owners with digital payment capability, which tracks what they purchase from Unilever, what they sell, and how they pay back loans, Mastercard will be able to collect the data aggregated on the platforms and analyze it in such a way that it will be able to serve as a proxy for a credit score that shop owners can show to a local bank, instead of having to rely on informal lenders.
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