May 7, 2011 12:35 am

How to give it: Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor, 55, is chief executive of Vitol, the world’s largest oil trading company. In 2007 Ian and his wife, Tina, set up the Taylor Family Foundation, which supports several charities focusing on children and young people. The Foundation has also made a substantial donation to the Rambert Dance Company (www.rambert.org.uk).

What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

I had a typical British working class childhood, putting coins in Salvation Army tins in the street and Red Cross envelopes at home.

Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

My wife and I have set up our own foundation and we give to many causes, mainly kids’ education and the arts. Vitol allocates a portion of its profits to charities all over the world. At the moment, I’m supporting a couple of big things on the arts side in London. I’m trying to get the Rambert Dance Company’s new home built on the South Bank.

Why support the arts when people are starving?

We try to do both – we also donate to Unicef [the United Nations Children’s Fund]. However, there is poverty in the UK and I think arts funding can help to build a strong next generation. The UK has world-class arts facilities and a deep talent pool. I think that taking part in the arts is a great way to give children confidence, round them as people, teach them to work in teams, and create something that’s a bit special and very inspirational.

Why do you give to charity?

I feel a duty to give back. I’ve been very fortunate and managed to be successful, and so I want to do as much as I can for others less fortunate than myself. I don’t feel guilty about success, it’s just satisfying to give something back.

Do businesses need to appear charitable?

I hope that it’s not for appearances, I hope businesses want to be responsible. The public expects companies to give back, I think, and that’s not a bad thing.

Have you ever regretted supporting a charity?

Occasionally the charity hasn’t delivered its promises. Some of the smaller charities are well-meaning and overwhelm you with their keenness but don’t have the capacity to be effective. So we’ve made some mistakes but we’ve never regretted it.

What is your favourite example of a charity in action?

Locally, we support a wonderful charity called Momentum (moment-um.org/) that helps children with cancer and their families in south-west London and Surrey. It’s a good example of a small charity getting it right.

howtogiveit@ft.com

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