Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of the electric utilities serving all islands except Kauai, maintains a separate charitable foundation which makes grants to nonprofit organizations.
This is, of course, a double-edged process. It does take some of HEI’s profits and give them back to the community. In 2012, the last year for which the foundation’s tax returns are available, its grants totaled $1,575,958, with another $148,400 approved but not paid by the end of the year.
I say it’s double-edged because the grants are also a way of swaying community opinion in favor of the corporation. If your organization is hoping to land one of the grants, you’re probably going to be less likely to criticize the company’s energy plans and proposals. That’s just the way the world works.
Charity is always better than no charity, in my view. But it’s important to remember that it does come with its own costs in the form of conservative pressures.
I don’t know if the 2012 list of grantees is representative of other years. During 2012, just over one-quarter of the total, or $440,000, went to the Aloha United Way. HECO president and CEO Richard Rosenblum serves on the AUW board of directors.
After that, the largest grant went to Enterprise Honolulu, the Oahu Economic Development Board, which received $100,000. Again, HEI is well represented on the organization’s board.
The next largest grant went to Child and Family Service ($89,499). Richard Wacker, the president as CEO of American Savings Bank (owned by HEI) is the board chair, according to the organization’s website.
The Hawaii Community Foundation (headed by HEI director Kelvin Taketa) received $75,000.
The smallest grant during 2012 was $1,000 to Women Helping Women.
Here’s a list of the HEI Charitable Foundation’s grants made during 2012.
The foundation’s 2012 tax return is also available for review.