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Measuring impact for better focus

Tracking the effectiveness of the act of giving helps businesses fine-tune their efforts.

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Above: Mediacorp staff volunteering their time at an animal shelter as part of the company's flagship CSR programme, Mediacorp Cares.

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D'Elegance founder, Elida Teh (second from far left), with volunteers of the Uplift Project during a bra-sorting event in December 2017.

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Above: Team from The Food Bank. FoodXervices staff are able to request to work for The Food Bank.

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CDL Group CEO Sherman Kwek (front) starting off the relay for the C-Suite Challenge at the inaugural SGC City Challenge on Oct 20.

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Khor Qianyi (in black dress), Quest Ventures senior analyst and head of ESG, conducting a sharing session with youths from Leng Kee Community Centre on the social landscape in South-east Asia.

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StarHub's CSR efforts are channelled through the Sparks Fund in 2014, which pledges a minimum contribution of S$1 million yearly.

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Dynasty Travel staff at a charity drive in 2018. The firm keeps track of employee, partner and public participation rates in its CSR initiative.

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Vision Strategy Storytelling staff members volunteer in a number of areas, including weekly sessions with animals and running the Singapore Eco Film Festival.

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Pan Pacific Hotels Group’s executive director (asset & lifestyle) Wee Wei Ling and vice-president (serviced suites) Richard Tan (third and fourth from left) attended Community Chest’s Christmas on A Great Street Light-Up Ceremony 2017 with housekeeping attendant Nur Alfian Hakim bin Halim (second from left) and his sister.

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Nexia TS hosted Maritime Trail and Games Day for children of its beneficiaries.

FOR firms big and small, measuring impact on corporate giving initiatives can shed light on how future efforts can better address the needs of their beneficiaries. In essence, they help to fine-tune how effectively giving is carried out.

As varied as their sizes and industries, companies have different reasons for measuring impact as they draw on their staff and expertise to give back to society.

As Mediacorp's head of corporate marketing and communications, Karen Yew said: "Addressing diverse challenges comes naturally to our company. We draw on a powerful and unique combination of assets: the talents and expertise of our staff, the reach of our multiple platforms, our star power and our network of partners."

For food product supplier FoodXervices, which provides pro-bono logistics services to The Food Bank, measuring impact on their initiatives is increasingly important in an environment where businesses face budget constraints. Nichol Ng, managing director of FoodXervices, said: "Tracking the effectiveness of measures helps us to focus our funds to support communities better. We want to ensure that our money and timeare spent on helping communities in the best way possible."

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Besides focusing funds on a particular cause, keeping track of the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives also serves as a useful barometer for re-evaluating which causes or charitable organisations to support. Through a 2016 review of its community-driven programmes, telco StarHub honed in on levelling the playing field for those left behind in the digital economy. StarHub evaluates prospective projects on their support for less privileged youth and families in their employability and connectivity; the depth and breadth of impact and outcomes; and the opportunity for employee engagement. "Measuring impact guides us in our corporate giving journey, and keeps us grounded whether our efforts are on the right track, and whether the desired impact has been met," StarHub said.

TRACKING PERFORMANCE

Similarly, Dynasty Travel keeps track of employee, partner and public participation rates in its CSR initiatives.

Emma Chen, the travel group's marketing manager, explained: "It is important to determine if our efforts are in the right direction. Although these events also serve to bond our employees, we also hope that the causes benefit from them, and that our employees and partners are motivated to go in similar directions in their own ways."

With listed companies in Singapore having to submit compulsory sustainability reports, City Developments Limited (CDL) chief sustainability officer Esther An said: "Tracking performance is critical to identifying gaps promptly and transparency disclosure to investors and stakeholders."

The real estate stalwart has made environmental causes a group-wide affair since 1995. In October, it launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) City Challenge - a people, private and public (3P) collaboration with the Building & Construction Authority, Health Promotion Board and Sport Singapore to promote the United Nations SDGs in Singapore. The progress of such efforts are tracked regularly in CDL's sustainability blueprint - "CDL Future Value 2030".

Non-listed firms such as D'Elegance are also doing their part for society. Its director of marketing and business development Peh Zhengyang noted that the long term goal of the shapewear maker is to create value for all of its stakeholders: clients, employees, suppliers and the public.

Mr Peh said: “We believe that strategic, sustained and impactful corporate giving, like our efforts with the Uplift Project, which collects second-hand bras for women in developing communities in Asia and Africa to address an overlooked basic need, puts us in a better position to achieve that goal.”

For Pan Pacific Hotels Group, measuring the impact of their CSR projects takes on a whole new meaning as in 2017, the hotelier partnered SG Enable to adopt a structured and robust recruitment and training process for persons with disabilities. Measuring the impact of its disability inclusion and advocacy work has helped Pan Pacific track the progression of its staff with disabilities. Wee Wei Ling, Pan Pacific’s executive director (asset & lifestyle) said: “Where inclusive hiring is concerned, we regularly review our colleagues’ progress, working with job coaches to discuss the expansion or enlargement of their job scopes, while carving out new roles for potential candidate.”

MOTIVATION AND PRODUCTIVITY

As a certified B Corp – for-profit entities certified by American non-profit organisation B Lab for meeting certain standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency – social enterprise Vision Strategy Storytelling documents the number of hours its volunteers work, the amount of funds it accumulates and the number of beneficiaries or communities it impacts.

Yasmine Khater, its strategy head, said: “Part of the reason why we do this is to see how this links to business impact, with regard to staff motivation and productivity, how that translates into business growth. As a B Corp certified company, our biennial assessment shows how we benchmark against other organisations; we believe in using business as a force to do good.”

At venture capitalist Quest Ventures, technology startups that it invests in are called to execute impact programmes to address financial inclusion. Quest Ventures senior analyst Khor Qianyi shared: “Many of these companies are also in impact areas such as housing financing for low income earners or mobility assistance for elderly, which provide a deep understanding of how a venture fund such as ours can be involved in impact financing.”

“We track our progress through business sustainability and social impact assessments.”

Professional accounting firm Nexia TS has even measured impact in the form of a coastal clean-up campaign held in 2014 where staff picked over 4,500 pieces of trash with a combined weight of over 150kg along Changi Beach. The data collected on the trash was contributed to the Ocean Trash Index Report, in collaboration with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, the volunteer arm of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore.

“It was also used to raise awareness, identify hotspots for debris or unusual trash events, and inform policy solutions. It changes the way we do business as we move in tandem of the ever-changing competitive landscape through social and environmental efforts,” said Henry Tan, group chief executive officer and chief innovation officer of Nexia TS.