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Spreading happiness through business
A BELIEF that sustainability and doing good for society is critical for businesses today drove online trading platform BBX Holdings to become one of the sponsors of the Brands for Good programme. The company hopes to help grow the initiative into a movement that inspires local SMEs. "Brands for Good and BBX both support the attitude of businesses sharing and spreading happiness for investors, employees and the community. As such, sponsoring the Brands for Good initiative to help it grow into a movement makes sense for us," said Dr Lee Oi Kum, executive chairperson of BBX Holdings.
BBX is a business-to-business trading platform that helps companies barter their goods and services to improve their bottom line and increase cashflow. Members of the platform can sell their excess inventory on BBX and get barter credits that can be spent on a wide range of goods and services from other members on the network. The digital platform currently has over 90,000 members.
Dr Lee's commitment to corporate social responsibility was inspired by her family's business, which had changed over the years from environmentally damaging tin mining, to more sustainable rubber and palm oil plantations.
"My forefathers were immigrants from China who came to Ipoh in Malaysia to work in the tin mines, and would later own tin mines themselves. Once the mines were exhausted, however, the land could not be used for agriculture and what was left behind were dangerous mining pools. This was not a sustainable business," she said.
"For this reason, the family's core business during my father's time changed to rubber and palm oil plantations. In the agriculture sector, one needs to be patient as the nurturing of palm oil seedlings to produce palm takes four years," she added.
She noted that in recent years, there has been a shift in the focus of businesses from maximising value for shareholders to maximising value for society. More local SMEs are also becoming aware that running a business for financial gain is not sustainable without consideration for the environment, community and the workplace. "SMEs, making up 90 per cent of business ownership in Singapore, can indeed be a force for good, by being conscious of the fact that they can be a purpose-driven business that can have positive impact on society," she said.
By joining the Brands for Good programme, small business owners here will have a platform to tell their stories of how they are doing good, and inspire their peers to do the same. "Brands for Good will help SMEs generate interest from a wider range of impact investors for funding, differentiate their products in the export market, and allow them to be part of a supportive community," she said.
Furthermore, businesses that are socially responsible are able to better attract and retain talent, especially younger workers who are driven by a purpose. This will lower the costs of retraining and re-employment. Having a common purpose that goes beyond the bottom line will also encourage employees to go the extra mile for colleagues and customers.