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Business of doing good
FROM a telecommunications company to a consumer goods firm, the organisations featured here have diverse skill sets, backgrounds and industry knowledge. However, there is a common thread that pulls them together: They view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a crucial component of their business. In light of their investment in time and resources to engage in CSR causes, these businesses have managed to align such projects with their firms' core values and business strategies.
For example, AkzoNobel Paints (Singapore) - in the paint and coating sector - is on a mission to brighten homes and make cities more vibrant with the power of colour. Headquartered in the Netherlands, it operates in more than 80 countries with its portfolio of brands that include Dulux and Sikkens.
The company strives to give back to the communities in which it operates and in Singapore last year, it partnered South West Community Development Council to brighten up key communal spaces in Bukit Batok, as well as student care centres. The firm has also had a hand in safeguarding Singapore's heritage. In 2016, it restored Burkill Hall and the Bandstand in Botanic Gardens, Singapore's first Unesco heritage site.
Angela Tan, director of communications and investor relations at AkzoNobel South-east Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Australasia, said: "At AkzoNobel, we are dedicated to creating a colourful, protected world; sustainability is at the heart of our strategy and all that we do."
This is why the firm's scientists are exploring the potential of paints that extend their functionality beyond being decorative and protective. For example, its Dulux PureAir is formulated with air-cleansing properties and neutralises formaldehyde; its Dulux Light & Space Lumitec Technology reflects up to twice as much light, which reduces energy costs.
Ms Tan said: "The best CSR practices are those that are integrated into the business strategy by bringing more value to our customers, employees, investors and society in general."
Jamie Endaya, communications director of Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific, concurred: "Companies need to integrate giving back into their business. Start by promoting a 'giving back' culture among employees. At P&G, we work closely with our partners and social service organisations to create CSR programmes that empower and inspire volunteerism among our employees."
P&G is one of the largest and fastest-growing consumer goods companies in Singapore, and the company is committed to sustainable growth in the region. Mr Endaya added: "The consumer is at the centre of everything we do - and we do good through our CSR programmes to continue serving our consumer. We believe that by growing our company responsibly, we earn the trust of our community and build the relationships on which our future depends."
Another firm, Samsui Supplies & Services Pte Ltd ("Samsui") - incorporated in 2013 as the wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore Exchange Mainboard-listed Soup Restaurant Group Limited - is a home-grown company on a mission to do good. Hence, CSR is ingrained in the company's DNA.
The firm provides about 3,000 meals a day to the underprivileged and to meet demand, a central kitchen was set up in Changi Prison Complex.
Samsui Supplies & Services director Ang Kian Peng said: "In this sector, we can make a real and sustainable difference to the lives of both groups of beneficiaries. For the elderly, we manage their nutritional requirements and hopefully help them to stave off certain illnesses and diseases and improve their overall quality of life. For the underprivileged, we train them in kitchen skills and food preparation to give them meaningful work and future employment opportunities."
Similarly for The Nail Social – which is run as a social enterprise – social cause is ingrained in its business model. Cheryl Ou, founder of the company, said: “The Nail Social is a registered social enterprise and we reinvest our profits from our salon business into our vocational training programme, which sponsors a professional manicurist course to beneficiaries from underprivileged backgrounds."
Ninety per cent of the firm's staff are beneficiaries themselves and through the company's support for other non-profits, "we want to show the beneficiaries that despite their background, they are able to use their skills to give back to society and bring smiles to others".
SUCCESS BEYOND PROFITABILITY
Innovative solutions have also been employed to achieve a win-win situation for both society and company, as Greenpac - a company specialising in re-engineering, designing and distributing environmentally innovative packaging products and solutions - can attest to. Susan Chong, founder and CEO of Greenpac, said: "The company introduced the concept of 'lean and green', which would lead to bottom-line cost savings for companies. It also created RSCP Pallet with some green principles in mind - and it is now used by MNCs. The patented design allows 20 per cent to 60 per cent material savings, which equate to lighter weight and lead to freight cost savings."
She added that the company has a signature CSR programme - the sponsorship of a hydroponics system, to promote future alternative farming as imminent world food shortage is a real concern. The programme has evolved from mentoring school students to grow their own vegetables to collaborating with them in gifting bags of fresh greens to the less privileged residents.
While some companies are going down the innovative road, others have translated the proverb 'teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime' into action.
Mindset Care Limited is a registered charity initiated by the Jardine Matheson Group, and supports the local mental health community. It was established in Singapore in 2011 with the mission to raise awareness of mental health issues, while at the same time, provide practical support to individuals, families and initiatives in the mental health sector. In fact, chairman Alex Newbigging said that Mindset has a transitional employment model that sources job placements within the group of companies for PIRs. Today, over 150 PIRs have been allocated jobs within the Jardine Group.
"The measure of a company's success is beyond profitability," said Mr Newbigging.
Singtel, a communications group, worked with national agency SG Enable to set up the Singtel Enabling Innovation Centre (EIC) at the Enabling Village in Singapore. Singtel invested S$1.99 million to develop a training curriculum and to build and fund the operations of Singtel EIC, which was opened in 2015 to equip persons with special needs in Singapore with work skills and knowledge. Singtel EIC showcased assistive technologies from around the world that enabled persons with disabilities to be productive at work, acting as a showcase for both potential users and employees. Andrew Buay, vice-president of group sustainability, Singtel, said: "These are areas we identified, and where we can support and value add in terms of our capability, skills, technology, products and services. As we experience skills shortage in Singapore, it is also about developing an alternative pipeline of talent we can hire for the business."
In addition to the feel good factor when participating in CSR, staff bonding tends to strengthen and the impact created by the joint effort is sometimes greater.
United Overseas Bank believes that by nurturing strong partnerships and encouraging colleagues to be volunteers, its corporate giving efforts can have much greater impact on the community. Creating long-term value for the community is the purpose of its corporate social responsibility programme, UOB Heartbeat, which focuses on art, children and education. The flagship art programme of UOB Heartbeat is the UOB Painting of the Year, which is the longest running art competition in Singapore.
UOB Heartbeat includes various fundraising initiatives such as the annual UOB Heartbeat Run/Walk, which is the bank's main fundraising and volunteering event. Over the last ten years, the bank has raised several million dollars for children's charities around the region. In 2017, UOB made it easier for people to make donations by becoming the first and only bank in Singapore to enable customers to use a peer-to-peer funds transfer service called PayNow to donate to charity. The service was made available through the UOB Mighty app.
Lilian Chong, executive director, Group Strategic Communications and Customer Advocacy, UOB, said: "In line with Singapore's push for a Smart Nation, UOB harnesses technology to make it simpler, smarter and safer for Singaporeans to contribute to those in need. UOB's PayNow for a Cause fundraising campaign rode on the payments service to make it easy for the public to donate to charity. The campaign, which coincided with the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre's Giving Week, raised more than S$120,000 for SPD children's programme to help children with special needs integrate into mainstream society."
Keppel Corporation has a presence in a wide range of sectors from offshore and marine to property. However, in the race to be at the forefront of its chosen industries, the group has not forgotten to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. The group has been active in the field of corporate giving since 2000, when it established Keppel Volunteers, a ground-up movement started by Keppel's young leaders. This group now works closely with Keppel Care Foundation, which was formed in 2012, to coordinate and sustain the group's efforts in corporate giving, and also to identify and champion causes that resonate with the company's beliefs and values.
Ho Tong Yen, general manager of group corporate communications, Keppel Corporation, said: "Keppel maximises value creation by investing in CSR programmes that are in line with our business strategy. For example, through partnerships with educational institutions, we develop the capabilities of the local workforce and boost our own talent pipeline as well."
Charlotte Hsu, corporate responsibility leader of PwC Singapore, agreed and said that for PwC, the firm is moving towards focusing CSR efforts on education. "Being a professional services firm, we have highly trained experts in multiple fields, and we believe that this focus will allow us to maximise our positive impact for local and regional communities. Focusing on education also has a long-term impact towards building a sustainable future for beneficiaries to ensure they have equal chances and opportunities."
She added: "The bottom line is never an objective for our CSR efforts . . . Regardless of the size of a company, we all have a part to play to give back to society. There is a saying that 'little drops of water make the mighty ocean', and every effort counts."