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Size doesn't matter
DO ORGANISATIONS need to be of a certain size before they can start looking at ways to give back to society? And is contribution necessarily correlated with organisation size? The answer to both questions is a resounding "no" for Spic & Span, a cleaning-services provider and one of 60 Champions of Good being recognised at today's award ceremony.
The company's founder Benjamin Chua said: "We have always heard from SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) that we are too small to do anything impactful. That is not true."
The company, which started out in the housekeeping space, has since expanded its range of services to include facilities management. More than 80 per cent of its 50 employees are from prisons, family service centres and other voluntary welfare organisations.
This means that, on top of the challenges most SMEs already grapple with, the company has to also provide a support network and run programmes for its staff, some of whom are dealing with, for instance, mental health issues or physical disabilities.
Providing employment opportunities with the appropriate support network is just the first step.
This year, Mr Chua set about establishing a more complete "ecosystem" - with a programme designed to make change agents out of his employees.
"A lot of my employees came in as beneficiaries and after working for two to three years, their lives are back in order. So we asked them if they would like to be 'ambassadors of good' - whether they would like to go out there and multiply the effect, to go out there and say 'I've been through all this, I have benefited, and now I'm here to give back to society'. And they said they did."
So for two days each year, Spic & Span employees take time off work to volunteer at a charity of their choice, though they are encouraged to "give back" at whichever agency that once helped them.
GEX Ventures, which provides professional advice on areas such as business-model transformation, investing and raising capital, engages its customers instead by requiring them to buy into the company's vision of Building a #WorldOfGood. It is, in fact, a prerequisite for engaging the company.
GEX Ventures' business development manager Alvin Chan said: "As part of our unique mentorship programme, our customers commit to a written pledge to donate their time, talent and treasures, including money to help the poor, needy and disadvantaged."
In addition to organising fund-raising programmes, they have started, incubated and help run charities that reach out to the elderly and the needy, as well as migrant workers.
Of course, it is not just small companies that are invested in doing good. Food services and facilities management provider Sodexo, which has 427,000 employees located around the world, sees its reach as an one of the imperatives for its "moral obligation" to do good, said the chairman for Sodexo Asia-Pacific Johnpaul Dimech.
For WasteLESS Week last year, the company mobilised clients and consumers on its sites and offices to donate food to The Food Bank Singapore.
It also conducts outreach efforts with the general public. In October 2017, for instance, Sodexo supported the food bank's public-education drive "Project Xcess", which put the spotlight on the large volume of food that is dumped simply because they are slightly blemished or misshapen.
"Through our interactions with clients and consumers, we know for a fact that many of them want to make a difference too, but perhaps do not know how or don't think that they can do much as individuals," said Mr Dimech.
"What Sodexo does, with our everyday business conduct and community-engagement programmes, is to provide a platform for everyone to give and to be more mindful of how much each of us consumes and throws away every day."
Another company that leverages its area of specialisation to do good is IBM Singapore, which worked with students from Singapore Polytechnic to design and create a platform to match senior citizens with jobs that are meaningful to them, thus extending the productive longevity of Singapore's ageing workforce.
Over at property giant CapitaLand, senior management leads by example to be advocates for philanthropy and volunteerism within the company. At this year's CapitaLand Volunteer Day, they rolled up their shirt sleeves with their subordinates to do their bit.
Tan Seng Chai, CapitaLand's group chief people officer and executive director for the CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), said that having senior management on CHF's board ensures that the group's philanthropic efforts are in line with its overall business objectives and credo.
The CHF board includes two directors, Lee Chee Koon and James Koh, who serve on a pro bono basis.
In doing good, DBS Bank believes in having a cohesive and integrated programme.
Karen Ngui, head of group strategic marketing and communications at DBS and a board member of DBS Foundation, said: "As a bank, we have been focused on sustainability and nurturing social enterprises in a holistic manner. This also involves leveraging the DBS family - which in turn enables them to do good and give back in a meaningful way."
The bank, which counts social enterprises among the causes it supports, takes a three-pronged approach involving advocating, nurturing and integrating.
One way the bank advocates for social entrepreneurship is by helping to grow the ecosystem and by partnering with stakeholders such as government agencies and tertiary institutions.
The annual DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia for instance, seeks to identify and support social ventures that are scalable and can bring about sustainable impact, as well as instill a culture of social entrepreneurship across Asia.
Ms Ngui said: "CSR (corporate social responsibility) is best when it's integrated into your organisation's values and DNA. CSR programmes should be done in a thoughtful and sustained manner, and businesses should consider how they can best leverage their expertise and resources - this gives CSR programmes a higher chance of succeeding and scaling up for greater impact."