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MBS's staff and star power drive Sands for Singapore outreach

President and CEO of MBS George Tanasijevich (second from left) and David Beckham (right) folding paper hearts for the Origami Wall during the Asean Para Games Tour.


SHOPPERS bustling in and out of stores with bags in hand, diners enjoying a meal in the restuarants, comfortable chatter in the air. These are some of the daily sights at Marina Bay Sands.

Since its opening in 2010, MBS has emerged as an iconic landmark that houses high-end boutiques and famous restaurants. However, amid the hustle and bustle of the everyday crowd, the company doesn't forget to look beyond the dollars and cents to give back to society.

George Tanasijevich, president and CEO of MBS, said: "MBS has been operating in Singapore for more than seven years, anchoring our roots as a Singapore company. We have been clear from day one that as a business, our objectives go beyond contributing to Singapore's economic and tourism goals. We have assumed the responsibility of benefiting the community, and have therefore created our own corporate social responsibility programme, Sands for Singapore, in 2012."

MBS identified pockets of underserved communities in Singapore - primarily in the special needs and youth-at-risk areas - and began seeking like-minded charity partners and delved deeper into helping these communities in Singapore.

Mr Tanasijevich added that the principle behind Sands for Singapore is simple - that there are needs in the local community and MBS has a unique opportunity to leverage its venue space, get its 9,500 employees involved and tap a vast pool of vendors to address these needs.

"Our signature CSR event, the Sands for Singapore Charity Festival, is a classic example of how we prioritise our CSR objectives. Our first festival started in 2013 with the aim of inspiring our employees and members of the public to join us in giving back to the community. Such large-scale charity events help us to engage both our internal and external stakeholders for a common charitable objective... and increase awareness of the charity organisations that we partner with."

MBS has raised nearly S$20 million for local charities from the Sands for Singapore Charity Festival since 2013. As Asia's entertainment hot spot, MBS lends star power to charitable causes - from singer Jessie J meeting youth from The Business Times Budding Artist Fund to David Beckham inspiring para-athletes - MBS has certainly organised it all.

Mr Tanasijevich said: "CSR must be part of any organisation's DNA, because businesses have the ability to shape changes that benefit society as well as the environment. Organisations are also influencers - motivating employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to not only consider, but take real action to make a positive difference to society."

Therefore, over the last 18 months, MBS has been responding to the government's call to create an inclusive workplace and provide equal employment.

"We have started working with SPD to create a more enabling work environment at MBS so as to hire more persons with disabilities to join our family." SPD was formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled.

Through sustained community investment, MBS is able to establish long-term relationships with the communities, and track the progress over time.

The integrated resort also encourages its staff to take part in CSR activities. Said Mr Tanasijevich: "Employee involvement is a critical success factor for a company's CSR programme. We recognise that our social and community impact to Singapore arises not only from our charitable donations, but also how we cultivate a spirit of volunteerism among our Team Members. Sands for Singapore is championed by Team Members from different departments and guided by a senior leadership team."

Volunteerism activities allow Team Members to interact directly with the beneficiaries and charity organisations.

"This is so they can delve deep into the communities they are serving. We also empower our Team Members to use their talent and skills to give back to society, whether it is through conducting career workshops for underpriviledged students or leading basic technology training sessions for the elderly," he added.

Brandon Cheong, one of the Team Member volunteers during the Sands for Singapore Charity Festival 2017, said : "I am glad to be working for a company that believes in investing time and money to organise volunteerism activities and events where staff can regularly engage with the community and give back. Aside from our daily work, it is activities like these that help foster a sense of pride and belonging to Marina Bay Sands among employees like myself."

When asked what advice he would give to companies wanting to integrate CSR into their business, Mr Tanasijevich said: "Any company can easily introduce a CSR programme into their business by partnering and supporting existing events and causes. But while that serves as a good starting point, I would strongly encourage businesses to study the market and identify areas which require more attention or might be underserved. Companies can do this by benchmarking themselves against similar organisations, studying their CSR strategy, looking at what they were doing, how involved they were, and learning some lessons from their experiences."

He added that while there is strong support for charitable activities across the island, corporates should continue to explore new and creative ways to increase the momentum of these initiatives.

"For CSR to be truly effective, businesses should directly engage with charities and social services organisations to better understand the community landscape and their specific needs. This will allow companies to design tailored programmes and contribute more effectively to the CSR scene in Singapore."

  • This article is part of a series highlighting inspiring companies that are catalysts of change in corporate giving. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as a media partner.
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