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Advancing CSR as a way of life
ONE can be sceptical about the purpose of corporations and their need to maximise profits, but there are firms out there that choose not only to do good work, but to do good.
For mainboard-listed process equipment and clean energy solutions supplier Advanced Holdings, business is not just about the bottomline.
Dr Wong Kar King, founder and group CEO of Advanced Holdings, told The Business Times: "We see CSR as a mission to help enrich the lives of our communities and society as a whole and for us to make a real difference."
He added: "CSR is not a destination we wish to arrive at. It is a journey on which we have embarked."
With all journeys, it starts with small steps. The company has been active in various events and charities such as the Singapore Cancer Society's Race Against Cancer, Children for Children (which helps children from financially disadvantaged families), the National Arthritis Foundation, and The Breadline Group, which supports the elderly and needy with regular visits and various forms of assistance.
As part of their work for The Breadline Group, Advanced Holdings "adopts" families, raises funds, and make trips down to visit the recipients and distribute the donations.
Not only does this allow the families to interact with others, the company's volunteers also serve as a lookout to observe changes to the families' living conditions.
"By doing home visits to the adoptees, we are able to see first-hand the difficulties and challenges such individuals may encounter in their day to day life," said Dr Wong.
He cited an example of Rajendra, an amputee living in Marsiling who had difficulties crossing the walk to a nearby coffee shop to buy food as the traffic light changed very quickly and he often feared to go alone.
When volunteers realised this challenge, the relevant authorites were informed and they were able to get the problem fixed. Now, he has no issues heading out on his own.
Dr Wong observed that when volunteers witness the improvement in the lives of the adoptee families, it also creates a change in employees' attitudes as it brings satisfaction and encouragement that they are doing the right thing.
Other recent developments that Advanced Holdings was involved in include the Soles4Souls shoe donation drive. The company collected all kinds of footwear - either new or gently worn - with the aim of providing shoes for everyone who needs them.
While some CSR activities are driven by the company, employees have the flexibility to propose and create the activities they are passionate about to manage.
But he is aware that there are challenges in getting employees to buy-in to the firm's CSR efforts.
The first is the need to build awareness. "We need to inspire staff to give support by creating a clear plan of action for them to be interested in the role they are participating, as awareness doesn't automatically equate to support," he explained.
Secondly, CSR burnout is also a real possibility as staff volunteers who are very dedicated and enthusiastic spend time and energy on projects on top of their regular home and work commitments.
"We will have to provide recognition and support and making the activity fun for them. Staff attrition also cause some disruption to our process," he noted.
Regardless, the business is determined to press on with their CSR efforts, which have aided their beneficiaries and also given their staff volunteers an added sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.
"We understand that corporations can often seem monolithic if seen in a less than generous light. However, this belies the fact that every corporation is made up of people who have a stake in improving our society and local communities. And together we can be a force for positive change," said Dr Wong.