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Brewing a culture for a better, more caring world
ASIA Pacific Breweries Singapore (APB Singapore), home of Tiger Beer, is helping to build a better world with its philanthropic work.
Before corporate social responsibility (CSR) started hogging media headlines, APB was already on the scene.
APB Foundation was set up in 1994, and one of its flagship programmes is the APB Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities, which started in 2004.
The foundation teamed up with the Society for the Physically Disabled, which now operates under the name SPD, to offer three scholarships worth S$12,000 per annum which are awarded to students with disabilities over the course of their undergraduate studies.
Josiah Ong, a business administration undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was more than just one of the beneficiaries of the APB Foundation Scholarship; he was on the company's payroll as an intern as well.
What caught Mr Ong's attention when he applied for the scholarship during his first year was that there was no bond to the scholarship, and scholars are encouraged to share their experience with others through public speaking.
"I would have to speak at a workshop, in front of an audience about my disability. I have Tourette's syndrome and I didn't really have any role model growing up. Hence, I felt this would be a platform where I could make a difference," he said.
Mitchell Leow, APB Singapore's head of corporate relations, says: "There is a plethora of scholarships and even bursaries given by government, charitable organisations and private companies, but there were really few or no scholarships available for (students with disabilities). We needed to level the playing field for academically inclined students with disabilities."
Instead of being satisfied with the status quo, APB Foundation is going one step further to help these scholars, both past and present.
Mr Leow says that from this year, the foundation is working with SPD to launch a new special assistance fund that provides additional financial assistance of S$3,000 to the scholars.
"We are also starting a youth development programme. We are reaching out to youths with disabilities from 17-35, which will include our past, present and future scholars, as well as the broader community."
Mr Leow says that the objectives behind these initiatives are to equip them with leadership skills and personal effectiveness so as to encourage these youths to give back to the community.
He adds that it is hoped that through the scholarships, scholars such as Mr Ong will come back and continue to contribute to society.
He said such a move makes good business sense as the action creates a society that is more inclusive and stable, which leads to the long-term prosperity of the market that APB Singapore operates in.
APB Foundation's watchword when it comes to volunteering is sustainability. Hence, it is no surprise that it is extending its funding towards Soup Kitchen under the project Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen, which started in 2014. It donates S$100,000 each year to Soup Kitchen.
Mr Leow says: "We have agreed to extend funding for another three years, up to 2019."
He adds that sustainability is the core of what the foundation believes in and most of the projects are long-term commitments.
APB Foundation also encourages its staff to take part in the various volunteer projects that have been spearheaded by the company.
Mr Leow says: "It is a very important part of our ethos and, for us, our main role is to create those opportunities and platforms for employees to embark on their own volunteering journey."
Hence, employees are encouraged to volunteer with Willing Hearts Kitchen, and can feel free to suggest any volunteer project they wish to embark on.
Samantha Ng, communications specialist at APB Singapore, says: "We want to create an everlasting change, so even if our employees leave the company, we want them to have that spirit of volunteerism of giving back."
The company also wants to promote the arts scene in Singapore and expose Singaporeans to the arts scene in a bigger way. It thus set up the Signature Arts Prize in 2008.
Mr Leow says that the triannual event's objective is to raise the standards of contemporary visual art in the Asia Pacific, with the Singapore community benefiting as well. In fact, two Singaporeans won the top three awards in 2014.
Giving back to the community has always been part of the firm's DNA since its establishment in 1931.
"We have always allocated part of our revenues towards sponsorship and grants, and decided to establish the APB Foundation to take a more structured approach to our philanthropic giving," says Mr Leow.
"We hope that, through the part that we play, Singapore develops itself to become a caring, inclusive and prosperous stable country (for us) where everyone lives, works and plays harmoniously."