Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slim Focuses on Results

While skeptical about many of the assumptions embedded in philanthropy, Carlos Slim, the world's richest individual according to Forbes magazine, continues to increase his support for nonprofits around the globe, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

In recent years, the Mexican businessman has donated millions of dollars to a range of nonprofit institutions, including the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the World Wildlife Fund, while supporting local causes and organizations in Mexico working to fight poverty. His approach to philanthropy, Slim told the Chronicle during a recent interview, is results-focused and hands-on, which he believes gives him a better chance to create impact rather than "[breed] dependency."

"We have seen donations for a hundred years," said Slim. "We have seen thousands of people working in nonprofits, and the problems and poverty are bigger. They have not solved anything."

Slim's critics, however, question the impact of his philanthropy, which, they point out, represents a fraction of his total assets, is not transparent, and has yet to prove effective. What's more, the companies he controls in the retail, banking, and telecommunications sectors have come under fire in recent years for allegedly overcharging customers and stifling Mexico's economic growth through their monopolistic practices. Slim has gone out of his way to rebut the criticism of Telmex, the giant telecommunications company he controls, although he did make changes to its business practices to avoid a hefty fine.

He also has contributed some $4 billion to his foundation since 2006, started an institute focused on improving health care in Latin America, and broadened the work of the Telmex Foundation, which for more than fifteen years has supported various programs in the fields of education, health, and sports. In addition, he opened a new museum last year to house his vast collection of art, which is estimated to be worth some $100 million.

Still, Slim remains convinced that the jobs and wealth created by his many enterprises are more effective in addressing Mexico's social challenges than his charitable contributions. "I don't like to talk about giving away money," Slim told the Chronicle. "That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to solve social problems."

Caroline Preston. "World's Richest Man Steps Up Giving Despite Wariness About Charity." Chronicle of Philanthropy 09/30/2012.