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NG Kim Hung, managing director of Yusen Singapore Pte Ltd, visits the local supermarket at Ang Mo Kio every Saturday to buy his groceries.
A trip to the grocers would normally take him barely 20 minutes. However, on this particular Saturday, it took him almost double the amount of time as he carefully selected each item which is to be contributed to needy families under a food distribution programme called "Food from a heart", a joint initiative between Yusen Singapore and Giving Week 2016.
Giving Week is an annual national movement that encourages everyone to give back. During this week, corporate entities, non-profit organisations and individuals across Singapore come together to make a difference.
He says: "I took more than 10 minutes to decide on my first item of purchase. I looked at a packet of biscuits and thought to myself: 'What would they like? What would they prefer?' I take these simple things for granted on a regular basis. But giving makes me more conscious that my decisions impact someone. It reminds me that I am buying these items for a beneficiary."
This was a "surreal experience" for Mr Ng and he says that it sparked within him a "paradigm shift in the way he perceived the act of giving".
Yusen Singapore's emerging corporate giving programme hits a sweet spot where the leadership and a bottom-up approach dovetail to drive a giving culture within the organisation. In advocating a culture of giving with an aligned vision from both management and employees, Yusen Singapore has got a boost in morale and talent retention.
Back in 2014, driven by their passion to contribute to society, Yusen Singapore's sales team approached the management to brainstorm ways to give back to the community. Sales director Lloyd Wee, who was key in initiating and empowering the Corporate Giving Programme in Yusen Singapore, says: "My staff were the ones who motivated me. Mr Ng and myself were tasked to lead this company about three to four years ago and we had staff come up to ask if they could do something in giving back. It so happened that one of our employees volunteers regularly and was able to provide us with information on volunteering opportunities."
Yusen Singapore's corporate giving programme kicked off in January 2014 with a visit to All Saints Home - initiated by employees and heavily supported by management. They have been involved in yearly corporate giving events ever since.
Employees in the first year were engaged to put up performances, sing carols, distribute gifts and prepare a buffet spread to celebrate the new year with the elderly. In January 2015, Yusen Singapore volunteered at Kembangan Chai Chee activity centre.
Employees came in on a Saturday morning, bought food items and packed them into gift bags. Mr Ng says: "As we distributed these food bags, it was a nice feeling seeing a lot of senior citizens joining in the fun, games and laughter."
2016 was a turning point for Yusen Singapore. As the firm was introduced to the Company of Good framework and community, it started transiting from one-off activities to envisioning and building a more sustainable corporate giving programme. The Company of Good programme provides a framework and structure for companies that would like to embark on corporate giving.
The programme by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre inspires and activates companies to do good. It was launched in June 2016 by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) in partnership with the Singapore Business Federation Foundation (SBFF) with the goal of catalysing a corporate giving movement that spurs a culture of giving amongst corporates in Singapore.
"It is a good platform for companies as they start their journey of corporate giving and evolve from just organising corporate giving activities, to inculcating a spirit of giving and sharing in their employees," says Mr Ng.
In taking a proactive approach through their corporate giving initiatives, Yusen Singapore has shown that an empowering top-down leadership is as important as passionate employee-driven initiatives, in driving a culture of giving. They are a manifestation of what corporate giving can look like for emerging companies which are coming on board to grow the ecosystem of corporate giving in Singapore.
Mr Ng says: "Doing good is important to Yusen Singapore Pte Ltd because it enables us to contribute to the betterment of society and it gives us an opportunity to engage our employees. As a company, we inculcate the spirit of giving and sharing in our employees to contribute to the realization of an inclusive and sustainable society.
"We make a living with what we get, we make a life by what we give."