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Firms doing good

There are as many ways of doing good as there are organisations determined to do it.

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Neo Group's extensive range of volunteer initiatives has always been popular with staff. At Neo Group, every month, employees are encouraged to donate a portion of their salary to the SEED fund. Company founder Neo Kah Kiat then matches these monthly contributions dollar for dollar. Regular reports are sent to staff so they know how the funds are disbursed and what charities are being supported.

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Building & Construction Agency partnered with the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) to improve the facilities and infrastructure at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped. For the fifth edition of this project, seven SCAL member firms and 50 staff volunteers were involved. Work was done to enhance accessibility by revamping the walkways, installing railings and new tactile floor tiles to improve connectivity; LED lights with automatic sensors were installed to improve visibility.

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In celebration of the Fullerton Building's 90th anniversary, The Fullerton Heritage presented the inaugural Fullerton Concours d'Elegance and welcomed over 30,000 guests and car enthusiasts from all over the world to the precinct from June 29 to July 1 this year. Amid the celebrations, The Fullerton Heritage also organised charity auctions and donated part of the ticket-sale proceeds to charity. A total of S$200,000 was raised for the President's Challenge to benefit various social causes in support of the underprivileged.

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The Mobile Eye Clinic was conceived and organised by Standard Chartered Bank and the Singapore Society of Ophthalmology (SSO). Thanks to the bank stepping in to underwrite part of the risks and to provide resources, the pilot programme proved the model to be viable and effective.

THERE is a "magic carpet" at the Rainbow Centre, the projected images on which interact with and respond to the movements of children who play on it.

The digital learning carpet projection system is the fruit of labour of Visa Worldwide's employees, who worked with the staff at the Rainbow Centre, a social-service organisation that runs three special-education schools for infants, children and youth with autism, intellectual disability, developmental delay or multiple disabilities.

The funds to develop the system came from Visa's Employee-Directed Charitable Grant, one of up to 10 given out by Visa each year.

Visa is one of the growing number of companies that encourage their employees to drive corporate-giving programmes.

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Kunal Chatterjee, country manager for Visa Singapore, said: "We know that our employees are people with their own unique passion in supporting charities which are close to their hearts.

"We therefore designed this programme to empower them to be a part of Visa's corporate giving and volunteering programmes, and to encourage them to play a bigger role to help causes for which they have passion."

Meanwhile, Maybank Singapore's Auto PayBills programme encourages holders of its cards to make regular donations to selected charities. The programme, initiated by the Maybank Cards team, was launched in 2013 in support of the #GivingTuesdaySG movement. It has raised over S$350,000 in the last five years.

BRANDS FOR GOOD AWARDS

Separately, the bank is a supporter of the inaugural Brands for Good awards, a movement to recognise forward-looking companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which have championed corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their operations and business models.

Doing this syncs with the bank's mission of humanising financial services, said John Lee, country chief executive and also chief executive of Maybank Singapore.

"Maybank exemplifies our mission of 'Humanising Financial Services' by providing access to financing for disadvantaged groups. Access is not only about funding, but also about empowering our communities to save, invest and improve their living standards in the long run," he said.

Meanwhile, Alpha Development leverages its unique position as a financial training company to set an example of corporate giving for other companies.

The firm advocates a partnership-based, value-adding approach that is sustained throughout the business year, a marked shift away from contribution through taxes or seasonal giving.

For instance, in addition to training programmes that focus on developing new hires as future leaders with skills in leadership, project management, communication and team-work, the company, as a Champion of Good, also partners with its clients to integrate the training of these skills into corporate giving events - giving a more practical, more meaningful experience to the participants; as well as benefits to the wider community.

CULTURE OF GIVING

Paul Monk, Alpha Development's Asia Pacific managing director, said: " Huge change is happening within the banking and insurance industries due to technology and other factors. However, these organisations will remain built around people - those who work in the industry and those that they support.

"By building a culture of giving into our training, we hope to create a habit which remains with our graduate trainees as they progress through their careers."

Over at Credit Suisse AG, one focus of philanthropy is on providing education and employability skills to disadvantaged children and youth, as well as on programmes that build entrepreneurial skills in young people across all society's groups.

The bank selected Halogen Foundation Singapore as its philanthropy partner in 2016, and has since sponsored its Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programme for a Normal (Technical) class in Bedok Green Secondary School.

NFTE is a programme that aims to uplift youths by strengthening their self-concept and building their resilience through business skills and activating an entrepreneurial mindset in them. Bank employees run business clinics to coach these youth, equipping them with opportunity recognition and innovative business models.

At the end of the programme, students present their business plans to a panel of judges, including senior staff of the bank.

Last year, the bank's employee volunteering rate hit a new high of over 60 per cent. A growing number of departments in the bank incorporate a charity/volunteering element in their team building events or offsite business meetings.

Citi Singapore uses its Citi-YMCA Youth for Causes (YFC) programme to promote social entrepreneurship and leadership skills among youth.

YFC equips these young people (aged 15 to 25) with seed funding, training and mentorship opportunities for a period of 15 weeks.

The programme participants have to come up with a programme supporting a social service organisation, such as by raising funds for it, or by mobilising volunteers or increasing public awareness to champion a social cause.

One particularly innovative project was put up by a group from National Junior College, members of which donned wedding gowns to encourage donor sign-ups for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.

They raised S$6,000 for the programme and recruited 140 new donors in the registry.

In a similar vein, Changi Airport Group's philanthropic arm Changi Foundation is based on the belief in the potential of people.

Changi Foundation was formed in 2012 with a special focus on helping disadvantaged youths realise their untapped potential and prepare them for future employment.

NorthLight School, a vocational school that aims to prepare students struggling with academics for employability, is a key beneficiary.

The number of students who took part in the foundation's job attachment scheme went up from 33 students in 2014 (when the programme started) to 71 students last year; more than 100 students participated this year.

Work experience opportunities are offered by CAG divisions, as well as airport partners with retail, hospitality, F&B, engineering and facilities management operations in Changi Airport.