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Bringing about positive change
GLOBAL telecommunications group Singtel has established itself as a leading corporate citizen with its impactful, purpose-driven corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
These efforts aim to bring shared values to its stakeholders, partners and the community through fostering technology, innovation and collaboration. It also garnered Singtel an award at the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Awards in the Top CSR Advocates in Asia category.
Singtel's CSR efforts focus on three areas: inclusion and well-being, education and employability, and digital citizenship and online safety.
The Singtel Touching Lives Fund is the company's philanthropy programme dedicated to helping children and youth with special needs in Singapore. Set up in 2002 and celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the fund has raised more than S$33 million for its beneficiary organisations to run critical educational programmes.
Every year, the group also organises the Singtel Carnival for it beneficiaries. This year, it invited students from all special education schools in Singapore. "The annual event promotes a culture of inclusion among our employees and creates a safe environment for special needs children to enjoy themselves and interact in the broader community," says Andrew Buay, vice-president, Group Corporate Social Responsibility at Singtel.
Meanwhile, the company's care for those with special needs extends to employment support through the Singtel Enabling Innovation Centre, which was set up in 2015. This centre at the Enabling Village provides training for persons with disabilities (PwD) in the area of infocomm technology and contact centre.
In addition, Singtel funds the showcase of assistive and information technologies for PwD, caregivers and potential employers to help these groups better understand the available technologies and products from around the world that can improve lives and work productivity. "These efforts have also yielded benefits for the company as we have begun hiring PwD into our workforce," says Mr Buay.
As a global communications company, Singtel proactively educates customers on responsible digital citizenship, especially among children and youth. "We recognise that Internet and mobile technologies also have unintended consequences, such as device addiction and cyber bullying," says Mr Buay.
In 2014, it launched notAnoobie, an information resource mobile app for parents to arm them with important knowledge and advice on how to protect their children in this digital era. The app covers topics such as device and gaming addiction, cyber bullying and online privacy.
In October, Singtel also unveiled Singapore's first Cyber Wellness Toolkit for special education schools, a customised programme to educate students with special needs on the importance of developing safe online habits and identifying imminent dangers of the Internet world.
"These students typically have easy access to technology at home, with minimal or no supervision. Hence, they are easily susceptible to media influences and undesirable behaviours without being aware of the dangers. The toolkit will help the teachers deliver these important lessons in a fun and engaging manner," explains Mr Buay.
Meanwhile, Singtel believes innovation and technology can be catalysts for social change. As such, it supports innovation for the social sector through an initiative known as Singtel and Optus Future Makers.
Launched this year, the programme, which is run in Singapore and Australia, helps to build an ecosystem of partnerships to develop and support innovators who can create digital solutions to meet the community's needs. The programme provides funding, mentoring, acceleration and incubation support for these social entrepreneurs and startups.
Singtel also encourages its staff to take an active role with its partner beneficiaries and promotes staff volunteering across the organisation. All employees are given a day's paid leave to spend their time on a worthy cause.
"We also encourage business units to adopt 'VolunTeaming', a team-building concept we introduced to encourage people to volunteer with their colleagues at the department level. For example, during our annual Singtel Carnival, employees form teams to set up food and game stalls as well as chaperone the special needs children," says Mr Buay.
Beyond Singapore, Singtel organises expeditions under its annual Overseas Volunteering Programme, where employees give their time to support communities in the markets where the group operates.
For instance, the company partners its Thai associate to conduct the annual AIS-Singtel English Camp for university students from disadvantaged social or economic backgrounds. Staff volunteers from Singtel, its wholly owned subsidiary in Australia, Optus, and AIS spent their time mentoring and encouraging these students to speak English and improve their communications skills.
"Skilled volunteering is also encouraged as we believe that this will engage our staff at a higher level as their expertise is tapped for social good. When we were developing the facility and curriculum for Contact Centre training at the Singtel Enabling Innovation Centre, our colleagues from Consumer Operations were called upon for their expertise and knowledge," says Mr Buay.
This year, Singtel employees in Singapore and Australia spent over 32,000 hours in staff volunteering.
Singtel aims to build on its existing programmes and focus on widening the reach and deepening the social impact of these initiatives. Says Mr Buay: "We hope to achieve this by leveraging our assets - technology, people and expertise, and in particular, working with more partners to bring about positive change and impact to our stakeholders and beneficiaries."