צילום: יח''צ

צילום: יח''צ

The businessman who became a philanthropist and social entrepreneur

Tsahi Merkur is a successful and fascinating businessman and what is especially moving is his social and educational activities, which he has been promoting for years and first and foremost, his personal campaign on global climate change, which led him to found a company that provides alternative energy solutions for electric vehicles worldwide. He explains how he expects NGOs to operate and what he feels it is important for the public to know about the real ramifications of the climate crisis.

You might not know Tsahi Merkur but if you have recently parked in a car park in Central Israel, it can be assumed that it was one belonging to him, as the owner and CEO of a successful car parks company. And that's certainly not all. Merkur is the controlling owner of a company with several subsidiaries in various fields from real estate to high-tech. Just a year ago, Driivz, a company that he owned, was sold for about NIS 700 million.

In addition to his business activities, Merkur engages in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship and has founded The Center for Donations, Charity and Help for Needy People in order to increase the scope of donations in Israel and improve transparency in non-profit organizations (NPOs) and charities. Merkur is also head of the "Baim Betov" (Come in Handy) committee, a joint venture of the businessman and "Globes." As part of the project, several social NPOs will be selected and awarded a media campaign, which will be advertised in the "Globes" newspaper and on the website. And that’s a good reason to interview this fascinating and inspiring businessman.

The climate crisis is a strategic threat

For more than a decade, Merkur has been involved mainly in promoting solutions for the climate crisis and increasing awareness and mobilizing the public. "The issue of the climate crisis and global warming is undoubtedly the most burning topic today, which engages all Western governments as an integral part of today’s political agenda and has even become an essential component in election campaigns in most developed countries. The climate crisis is a national strategic threat against the State of Israel, as temperatures will rise further, the number of rainy days will diminish and extreme weather will be more frequent and cause severe heat waves," he explains and adds. "The State of Israel through the Prime Minister’s Office succeeded back in 2010 to declare a strategic plan to replace oil and gas, which was designed to position Israel as a leader in the field of renewable energy and make Israel a power in fuel alternatives and smart transportation. As part of the plan, the cooperated with us on everything about the activities that I founded, which have also resulted in major achievements and large savings in polluting emissions and we have had the privilege of making a modest contribution, as part of this global campaign as well as indirectly to reducing the rate of mortality resulting from this crisis."

The activity that Merkur is talking about is Driivz, a startup of which he was one of the founders in 2010, and which sought to develop technology that allowed the management and operation of charging points for electric vehicles. Today Driivz serves hundreds of thousands of drivers around the world and is a world leader in green energy and transportation. In 2018, the company was proclaimed as the world’s most innovative in the field of electric transportation. Driivz competed against 450 companies from 51 countries for the award given by the Free Electrons world association.

According to Merkur, the climate crisis not only effects outside temperature, it also might lead to a range of other problems and crises. "The public at large is not aware of phenomena that have been proven in research resulting from the influence of the climate crisis and change in world temperatures. These include for example premature births, obesity, the spread of diseases by bugs and more. So it is important for the public to be less indifferent and to understand that all of us will be harmed in various ways from this crisis, whether it is our health, or economically, or inconvenience from unpleasant weather conditions, people will die every day, and this is not only people that we don’t know from distant places that don’t affect us but ultimately it will reach all of us and those who are dear to us."

In recent years, voices have been increasingly calling on the very rich, especially those who made their wealth from technological development and entrepreneurship, to contribute more and give back to society and on this issue too Merkur expresses a principled stand. "Although social responsibility is all encompassing and applies to everyone according to their abilities, people with capabilities must contribute more and they have the possibility to do good not just through financial contributions but also through mechanisms that make an impact, whether it is through media channels that are more accessible for them or other available means for reaching the public at large or whether by serving as an inspiration to others and also causing them to give more help to others and themselves. Back in the Diaspora, Jewish communities grew up on the tradition of Jewish solidarity, charity and mutual help and to our delight about 70% of Israelis are in the habit of donating and as their socioeconomic situation improves so the rate of donations in Israel also increases, and there are man y wealthy Israelis and Jews that set a wonderful example of philanthropy to the general public."

NGOs are expected to meet high-tech standards

In Israel, there are more than 10,000 not-for-profit organizations but for many years the third sector has struggled to operate with genuine transparency. Because of these and other failures, the third sector might become fertile ground for straw organizations and a tool for raising funds for unfit purposes dressed up as a philanthropic NPO. This problem has not escaped the notice of Merkur and one of his aims as a social entrepreneur is to improve the transparency mechanism and overall streamlining to maximize the profits of NPOs, profits that will be given back to the public and those needing help.

"This is exactly what I have already been doing for 10 years, trying to make it happen that donations from the public will be given to NPOs that genuinely manage to give most of their money to the aim for which it was contributed and less to NPOs that do not manage to meet the criteria expected of them. Social NPOs must manage themselves transparently and meet the standards acceptable at high-tech companies today and for raising donations for such important aims they have an even bigger responsibility than those raising funds from investors for tech companies.

This begins with strictly meeting all the approvals required for registering NPOs and the way they are managed, and continues with the appointment of a representative and positive management committee that serves to inspire and gives donors the security feeling that this is an NPO that can stand behind its agenda and deliver the funds in the most best way to the aims for which they were given, while managing media channels for sharing the activities of the NPO with the public and where it invests the donors’ money, while using technological tools and various criteria in order to increase its exposure and the required transparency."

Through the "Baim Betov" project, Merkur hopes to reach influential NPOs with a vision and potential to succeed to make a change and provide help. "Social entrepreneurs must be endowed with sensitivity towards people and situations in a way that allows them identify opportunities to the way a situation can be improved and to bring up ideas for solving problems and interpersonal communication abilities will allow them to attract others from the donors and people who will support the venture. In addition, we are in an era when it is very important also to have an affinity for technology and understanding social media, which allows social entrepreneurs to use different media in the best way, in order to be exposed to the broadest public possible, in the fastest way, whether directly or through their influencers with access to a large audience. Of course, determination, and persistence are needed because every change brings difficulties, opposition and skepticism and for the persistent and determined, who have the perseverance and patience, the chances of success are much higher."

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