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COMPANY OF GOOD

Becoming a champion (of good) in business

Today's businesses that do good in their community know that the way to go is to co-opt partners to multiply the impact and avoid duplication

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Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking at last year's event at which the Champions of Good title was conferred on 45 large and small enterprises from across industries.

IT IS not uncommon to read or hear of how some companies are doing good. A quick search online, for example, would turn up many accounts of companies reaching out to help social organisations.

A survey on corporate giving conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) last year found that half the businesses in Singapore were giving back in some form.

Doing good is becoming a part of the business for companies in Singapore. Two-thirds of corporate givers in Singapore said they have integrated giving into their operations through various business functions such as staff development, marketing and branding and procurement. Nearly half the companies that engaged in giving linked corporate responsibility with employee-related factors, such as employee engagement and boosting of team morale.

An emerging group of companies are making doing good part of their core business, paving the way for what the future of corporate giving could look like - programmes that are strategic, sustainable and which make an impact through partnerships.

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For the first time last year, the NVPC in its Company of Good programme recognised 45 enterprises large and small from across industries as "Champions of Good".

On Nov 16, 60 companies will be presented the accolade for this year.

These companies have distinguished themselves from traditional corporate givers by influencing and partnering with their various stakeholders to do good; they tap the respective strengths and competitive advantages of these stakeholders to optimise business and make a social impact.

Champions of Good companies understand that "it takes a village to raise a child" and that community needs can be more efficiently and effectively addressed through a network of contributors.

Citi Singapore, the winner of the President's Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) 2018 for Large Enterprises and a 2017 Champion of Good, tapped its pool of more than 6,000 employee volunteers to give back through various programmes last year.

Over the years, the financial literacy programmes the bank has run have reached out to 400,000 students from 80 per cent of the schools in Singapore, as well as 6,000 low-income women.

Smaller companies have also multiplied their giving efforts. Greenpac Pte Ltd, which was last year's PVPA winner in the category for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and a Champion of Good, ran programmes in hydroponic (soiless) cultivation of plants for students, and then encouraged these students to give back by sharing their harvest with others in the community.

Greenpac also invited its business contacts to engage in giving back and to build awareness of various social causes.

Like Citi Singapore and Greenpac, the emerging Champions of Good in the business world are refraining from giving in silos; instead, they leverage opportunities to work with their employees, customers and business partners.

And although these companies hail from different industries and are of varying sizes, they share some common traits which launched their journey in collaborative giving:

Limited resources

No company has an infinite supply of resources, and the Champions of Good thoroughly understand this limitation; they know that one company cannot solve complex social issues on its own, given limited resources, and that working with other parties can bring about greater collective impact.

These companies therefore focus on doing what they are best at, and look for others to fill the gaps where they are less efficient or effective. The expanded social capital arising from the partnerships makes the help that is provided to beneficiaries more holistic and sustained.

Network of stakeholders

Every business, big or small, has a network of internal and external stakeholders that require relationship building. Businesses thrive better when they have strong shared values and trust with their stakeholders.

Stakeholder engagement takes effort and can sometimes be costly. Champions of Good recognise opportunities to marry stakeholder engagement needs with their corporate giving plans to generate synergies in their work. Being involved in positive and meaningful activities with employees, customers and business partners helps to differentiate business relations, strengthen loyalty and build social capital.

Win-win for all

Earlier generations of corporate givers may have preferred to hog the limelight, but Champions of Good inherently believe that success is best celebrated when as many parties get involved and win together.

There is no real joy when efforts are being duplicated in a race to be the better giver. Champions of Good companies care that the overall ecosystem benefits and that there are mutual benefits for all partners.

Companies are jumping on the bandwagon and leading the way now. Every company in Singapore can become the future of corporate giving. Ultimately, Champions of Good are what they are today because of their commitment to stay the course in partnering for collective good and impact.

  • The writer is the deputy director of Corporate Giving at the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, where she leads the Company of Good programme. For more information on Champions of Good, visit www.companyofgood.sg/champions-of-good, or watch out for the Champions of Good supplement to be distributed with this newspaper on Nov 16.