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COMPANY OF GOOD

Giving back to society through skills development and education

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From left, Keppel Corp CEO Loh Chin Hua, National Gallery Singapore (NGS) CEO Chong Siak Ching and Keppel Corp chairman Lee Boon Yang with students of Park View Primary School creating unique artworks of their own at the Keppel Centre for Art Education at the NGS. Established with a S$12 million commitment from Keppel, the Centre benefited over 300,000 participants in 2016.

Singapore

KEPPEL Corporation has a presence in a wide range of sectors - from offshore and marine to property. However, in the race to be at the forefront of its chosen industries, the group has not forgotten to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

Keppel Corp commits up to one per cent of the group's annual net profits to worthy social causes, and its efforts are directed towards fulfilling the economic potential of local communities through education and skills development.

The group has been active in the field of corporate giving since 2000, when it established Keppel Volunteers, a ground-up movement started by a group of employees. This group now works closely with Keppel Care Foundation, which was formed in 2012, to coordinate and sustain the group's efforts in corporate giving, and also to identify and champion causes that resonate with the company's beliefs and values.

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Robert Chong, Keppel Corp's director of group human resources, who is also CEO of the foundation, says: "We strive to achieve a corporate giving approach that is not only impactful and sustainable, but also engaging for our employees. As employee volunteerism complements and enriches our giving strategy, this helps amplify desirable outcomes for our beneficiaries."

Since its inception, the foundation has disbursed S$25 million in aid of sustainable initiatives that include the soon-to-be-launched Keppel Discovery Wetlands at Singapore Botanic Gardens, the Keppel Centre for Art Education at the National Gallery, and the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) Health Endowment Fund.

Chong Pik Wan, corporate development officer of KKH, says: "We are truly grateful for the strong support shown by Keppel in engaging with our patients. Through organising parties, regular excursions and ward activities, volunteers have brought cheer to hundreds of sick children. They have made a lasting impact on our KKH Health Endowment Fund beneficiaries and their families."

Keppel's corporate giving extends beyond Singapore's shores.

The Keppel Group donated a total of 10.5 million pesos (S$292,640) to help construct a 60-unit development in Keppel-GK Eco Village, in the Municipality of Bauan in the Philippines' Batangas province, which has been home to around 300 impoverished people since 2012. A portion of the sum raised was through fundraising efforts by Keppel Volunteers, and the long-term outcome of the project is to help lift Philippine families out of poverty by providing them with a stable living environment.

Keppel Corp's corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives go beyond the monetary as is exemplified by the skills-based volunteerism projects where the expertise of middle-aged employees is tapped. Since 2015, finance officers in the group have organised a series of workshops to equip low-income families with financial-literacy skills.

Such programmes have had a positive impact on the company as the staff morale and engagement levels at work have improved. A recent employee engagement study which involved over 7,000 employees showed that 83 per cent view the firm as being genuinely committed to CSR.

However, having such a sizeable workforce with diverse talents and skills can pose a challenge, one of it being sustaining the volunteers' commitment for longer-term programmes.

Teri Liew, president of Keppel Volunteers, says: "For instance, for befriending programmes, we try to recruit volunteers who are able to commit to meet up with beneficiaries on a regular basis and build up rapport with them over a long period of time. For some volunteers, who have family or other commitments, maintaining a long-term engagement can be more difficult, but it is not a challenge that we can't overcome."

To encourage volunteerism, Keppel employees get two days of volunteer leave annually. The company has also designated August as the Keppel Community Month to further rally volunteers and spur collaboration among business units group-wide in driving outreach activities.

Ms Liew also told an anecdote about her experience with the elderly beneficiaries. "We brought some seniors to East Coast Park and there was an elderly lady looking out to sea. She then held my arm and said, 'It has been years since I have seen the sea. Or my children'."

Indeed, volunteering "allows us to touch lives in simple ways, and there can be no effort too small", she adds.

  • This article is part of a series of stories on the business case for doing good. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner. Visit www.companyofgood.sg for more information
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