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Investing in driving change
INVESTMENT is often viewed with monetary returns in mind but in corporate giving terms, it can be viewed through the lens of how well such efforts are aligned with a company's vision and mission, strategy or the nature of its business.
Team-building training facilitator Grace At Work Team Building has used its platform to run corporate social responsibility (CSR)-themed team-building programmes. Through Build A Gift, corporates work on community-driven projects to build bicycles and other mobility equipment such as wheelchairs for those in need.
Its director Tony Loo said: "Other than corporate training, we also wanted to encourage CSR as an important value in the company. We looked at our training programmes and realised our corporate team-building programmes could be enhanced to achieve these objectives.
"We always keep our beneficiaries' needs in mind when we create our business services, which should not be based solely on achieving profits. A business has the responsibility to be the lighthouse of good for those who come in contact with it."
Understanding that CSR initiatives are more effective when aligned with a company's core business, information technology (IT) educator Informatics Education conducted a review of its CSR activities last year, with a view to restructure its programme to focus on inclusive education opportunities.
Its vice-president of corporate services Melina Yong told The Business Times: "To ensure sustainability, we partnered other agencies for wider reach and more impact. The corporate segment of our 'Education for All' programme materialised from our partnership with Reach Community Services to organise training sessions for low-income families in 2015, and for children and youths in 2016. We were also supported by SG Enable to offer courses in IT and book-keeping for persons with disabilities in 2016.
"CSR efforts aligned with the company vision, mission and values would resonate with both internal and external stakeholders, as everyone would have a part to play in giving back to society. These efforts that are attuned to our core business would be more sustainable and have a greater impact too."
Like Informatics Education, Deloitte & Touche LLP made amendments to its CSR programme last year, when it consolidated its efforts under Deloitte SG Cares and aligned these to Deloitte's global CSR programme, World Class, which sets out to deliver 50 million "futures" to underprivileged youths around the world.
James Walton, CSR leader and clients and markets partner, Deloitte Singapore and South-east Asia said: "We selected supporting youth through education because it offers significant opportunities for our staff to use their talents to influence lives through skills-based volunteering and mentoring."
He added: "Through skills-based volunteering and strategic partnership with charities, our Deloitte professionals are making a positive difference in people's lives by contributing their time and talent for the benefit of our communities and making financial contributions that will have the greatest impact."
Deloitte also places an emphasis on supporting other groups such as the elderly and the disabled, and also works on environment issues.
ALIGNING CSR AIMS
Insurer Prudential Assurance Company Singapore has a wide-ranging CSR programme, but assigns priority to education.
As a financial institution, it views running a financial literacy programme for primary-school children as one of its areas of focus.
In 2016, it rolled out the Cha-Ching programme in Singapore, which teaches money-management basics and incorporates the use of animation videos and cartoon characters to drive home the message of financial responsibility to children.
Prudential Singapore head of community investment Yeoh El Lynn said: "By aligning our efforts with our strategic objectives, we are placing the utmost importance on improving the well-being of our community stakeholders and tying our progress to our larger organisational goals.
"For firms that hope to give back, our advice is to invest in causes that the organisation truly cares about and is ready to invest in for the long-term. Investing in your immediate community, or in an area that is impacted by your business, such as your supply chain, is a good place to begin with."
Companies can also align their CSR aims to the immediate communities in which they operate.
Shell Companies in Singapore aids communities in the South-West district, where it conducts most of its commercial operations. It carries out its community-outreach efforts through the iVolunteers programme, which has been around for about 10 years but was formalised into a country-wide programme three years ago.
It does this through a combination of employee- and business-driven initiatives that centre on advancing social mobility.
Shell's social performance and investment advisor Thio Chin Wui said: "We also believe in nurturing and engaging youth to create safe, healthy spaces to grow, hence our encouragement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and programmes like the Shell Traffic Games. It's important that our own community-giving efforts incorporate and respect our values, and so our programmes are consciously designed to ensure we give the most we can, in the best way we can."
ABR Holdings isn't a household name to some, but the chain of Swensen's restaurants in Singapore which it runs is. Using its platform as a food-and-beverage company, it launched its CSR efforts in 2005.
During its Eat, Win, Love Campaign at Swensen's outlets, ABR matched S$150,000 in lucky draw cash donations to six selected charities that support children and youth, families and individuals with disabilities – Fei Yue Family Service Centre, VIVA Foundation, Minds, Ju Eng Home for Senior Citizens and SPD.
Ana Lei, ABR's head of marketing, said: "We recognise that it is important that we consciously engage in activities that will positively impact our local communities.
When we align our CSR efforts with our business vision, we can achieve higher impact with limited resources."
Standing by its belief that all in society are deserving of a dignified funeral, Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors started its CSR journey by offering such services for free to destitutes followed by hospital or nursing home patients with no next of kin.
It also assists hospitals in providing free logistics transport of hospital beds donated by hospitals to the nursing homes.
Ang Chin Moh chief executive Deborah Andres said: "While it is important for businesses to do well, companies must not forget that the community is their source of business. It is always important to set aside time and for business leaders to lead the staff in giving back to society."
Woh Hup has chosen to support non-profit bodies and charities by tapping its expertise as a construction firm – it subsidises the building costs of facilities designed for those in need. The firm's targeted groups are those with disabilities, the elderly and children. It supported the National Kidney Foundation by building the Woh Hup-NKF Dialysis Centre in Ghim Moh for S$1. It also absorbed the preliminary cost of the construction of the Singapore Sustainability Academy and Canossaville Children and Community Services.
In 2011, Woh Hup Trust was formed with the mission to provide financial support for the social integration of the elderly and under-privileged children in our society.
Its biannually-held Charity Luncheon for the Aged brings seniors from various care centres and nursing homes across Singapore to mingle over a meal, with entertainment thrown in.
The Woh Hup CSR team said: "One of our values is growth; it is important not only for us to grow as a company but also for our staff to grow as individuals. Giving them the platform to serve the community enhances their growth as they learn how their contribution benefits those in the community."
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
Sustainable urban and space solutions provider Ascendas-Singbridge believes it is best able to contribute to communities by improving living conditions, enhancing educational endeavours and nurturing talents.
Such efforts are funnelled through the Ascendas-Singbridge Gives Foundation, which was established in 2012.
Through the foundation, more than 50 Republic Polytechnic students have been awarded with bursaries since 2016.
Ascendas-Singbridge has also supported Care Corner's specialised tuition to enable more than 30 children with learning difficulties to be able to have after school care support.
Willy Shee, chairman of Ascendas-Singbridge Gives Foundation, said: "We are always looking for means to improve the way we live, work and play. Our support of the arts, community and environment has helped transformed lives of less privileged through improving living conditions, enhancing educational endeavours and nurturing talents."
The efforts of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the country's agent for port and maritime development, are driven by the MPA Sustainability Office, formed in 2014.
It engages the community through environmental, economic, social and governance initiatives.
Externally, the Sustainability Office works with industry partners and agencies to promote environmentally-friendly shipping and port activities.
MPA's director of corporate development and chief financial officer Yvonne Chan said: "This commitment is demonstrated in its compliance with environmental regulations set by national and global bodies, as well as its S$100 million Maritime Singapore Green Initiative.
"As the driving force behind Singapore's port and maritime efforts to develop Singapore as a premier global hub port and international maritime centre, and to safeguard Singapore's strategic maritime interests, it is important that we lead by example," Ms Chan added.