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Clicking to buy? Do a good deed at the same time

Businesses have ridden on Singaporeans' love for online shopping and create their do-good projects there.

Amazon’s cash and in-kind donations with 20 non-profit organisations, including Community FLEX delivery collaboration with Food Bank Singapore, helped to support thousands of individuals.jpg
Amazon’s cash and in-kind donations with 20 non-profit organisations, including Community FLEX delivery collaboration with Food Bank Singapore, helped to support thousands of individuals.

Shopee launched the Lend a Hand, If You Can campaign in support of vulnerable groups.jpeg
Shopee launched the Lend a Hand, If You Can campaign in support of vulnerable groups.

Marcus Tan, co-founder of Carousell at Carouselland 2019.jpg
Marcus Tan, co-founder of Carousell, at Carouselland 2019.

Fave has launched over 150 corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives .jpg
Fave has launched over 150 corporate social responsibility initiatives.

WHEN Jena Lim became a mother at 20, she was hoping to purchase essential items for cheaper. The user of Carousell then reached out to others on the platform to ask if they would be able to help by either donating or letting go of their items at a lower price. Little did she know this would trigger what has become known as the #Blessings movement, through which users of the platform use it to re-gift others with their pre-owned items.

Ms Lim said: "I've always been passionate about giving to others in need, but after I became pregnant, I suddenly found myself on the other side ... The overwhelming support I received helped me through my first year, and now I'm looking forward to continuing this movement by blessing others."

The #Blessings movement, which started trending on the Carousell online marketplace, has anything but lost steam.

When Covid-19 hit Singapore, the platform was where people listed essential items they were giving away to those who needed them - masks, hand sanitisers and alcohol swabs, which gave rise to the #ChooseToGive initiative.

Carousell co-founder Marcus Tan said: "The initiative urged the community to #ChooseToGive freely, by highlighting stories of other Carousellers in Singapore who had done the same and gone the extra mile."

The country will celebrate its 55th birthday next month amid the pandemic; in support of the nationwide SG Cares movement, Carousell is rallying the community to give 20,200 free items by Aug 9, 2020, to show the importance of togetherness in 2020 and to celebrate this year's National Day's theme, "Together, A Stronger Singapore".

Mr Tan said: "As a homegrown startup, we wanted to do our part this National Day to encourage more Singaporeans to freely #GiveforSG through the Free Items category on Carousell.

"In these difficult times, we want to ensure that unused and under-utilised items can reach the communities in need. We have thousands of receivers, ranging from mothers and students to low-income families and charities, (and) many of our users have taken the opportunity to 'Marie Kondo' their homes while doing good.

"We want to continue encouraging more Singaporeans to give, and to let them know that they can do it easily on our platform."

Carousell is taking part in Retail for Good, a movement created by National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre's (NVPC) Company of Good in support of National Day 2020. The aim of Retail for Good is to bring together key e-commerce partners to create opportunities to online shoppers to give back as they browse and shop.

Digital merchant Fave, which aims to empower offline merchants to grow and connect with their customers, launched Gift A Meal in May for its users in Singapore to donate meal vouchers to those in need by purchasing them from the #GiftAMeal collection of merchants. The company then matches the donations to meal requests submitted through a separate online portal.

The project came with its challenges. As Avantika Jain, general manager of Fave Singapore, said: "As the project progressed, we had more demand than supply, a contrast from the early stage, when we had more supply than demand. It was challenging to sustain the interest in getting people to donate. There was also no technology or feature available to enable auto-matching, so this was done manually by the team."

But the team pulled together and managed to fulfil 200 out of the 350 meal requests by the end of June.

Fave's next project: Fave Cares, to be carried out in partnership with GobblerShop, where Fave users can pledge S$10, S$20 or S$50 for "care packs" that will go to Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, a non-governmental organisation that provides services to, and advocates on behalf of, migrant workers.

Fave Cares, in line with Our Heart for Singapore, a project by the NDP2020 Executive Committee and Company of Good - will run from the end of this week through August.

Fave has launched over 150 corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives such as Hair for Hope and The National Kidney Foundation. Ms Jain said: "Fave previously worked with The National Kidney Foundation to raise funds via Fave Deals, so we thought of using the same model to raise awareness for items for donations. However, as Fave does not hold products, we partnered with GobblerShop to come up with care packs for daily, personal and home essentials."

Ms Jain added that doing good should never solely be about cost and value; it is about helping and supporting each other to find shared goals, especially in this time of uncertainty.

Other companies that climbed on board the Retail for Good bandwagon include Amazon and Shopee.

Henry Low, country manager of Amazon Singapore, said: "At Amazon, we are committed to giving back and helping the community with needs right now - especially so in the challenging days as Singapore continues to battle against Covid-19. During this challenging period, Amazon's cash and in-kind donations with 20 non-profit organisations, including Singapore Red Cross, Migrant Workers' Centre and Children's Wishing Well, helped to support thousands of individuals."

The company's Covid-19 efforts started in mid-April, shortly after the "circuit breaker" or partial lockdown started in Singapore.

Bernard Menon, executive director of Migrant Workers' Centre, said: "It is really heart-warming to see businesses like Amazon coming forward who show care and concern to our migrant workers' community and standing by them during this battle against the Covid-19 virus."

Amazon said that one challenge faced was the coordination across multiple organisations during the circuit-breaker period, given that safe-distancing measures had to be followed, even amid the need to cater to the needs of the non-profit organisations (NPOs) in a timely manner.

Amazon also teamed up with Company of Good to launch the Amazon X Retail for Good Wishlist campaign.

Mr Low said: "The campaign is aimed at encouraging shoppers to donate to NPOs during the National Day period by purchasing items listed on their Amazon.sg wish lists. By specifying the type of items and quantity needed in the NPO's wish list, shoppers can participate in the Covid-19 donation efforts in a fuss-free and transparent manner."

For the wish list initiative, Amazon is working with NPOs that include Blessings in a Bag and Children's Wishing Well.

Emily Teng, founder of Blessings in a Bag, said: "We're grateful to have Amazon Singapore's support during the year-end festive period. As a non-profit with limited resources, the wishlist functionality on Amazon greatly reduces the amount of time it would have taken for us to work out the logistics of getting the items we need.

"In addition, the donated items will be delivered directly to Blessings in a Bag, so donors need not worry about working out the delivery logistics themselves."

During the Covid period, Singaporean e-commerce platform Shopee launched the Lend a Hand, If You Can campaign to rally its users, brands, and partners in support of vulnerable groups.

Tiger Wang, head of marketing, Shopee Singapore, said: "We ran the campaign in two phases, each phase supporting a different group in our community.

"During the first phase from April 15 to May 9, users could purchase essential items for low-income families and the elderly, all beneficiaries under Food from the Heart and Filos Community Services. As part of the campaign, we also encouraged users to donate their Shopee Coins and matched every dollar donated.

"We also partnered with NVPC's Company of Good and Tripadvisor to amplify this campaign to engage as many Singaporeans as possible. Together with our users and partners, we raised about S$8,000 in donations to both organisations."

He added that the second phase - from May 15 to June 15 - in partnership with ItsRainingRaincoats, encouraged users to purchase essential care packs for migrant workers in Singapore. About 600 care packs were donated in that month.

The head of marketing said that one of the main challenges faced was in creating a convenient and smooth process for Shopee users to give back.

"But we constantly explore new ways in which we can do our part for charity with a variety of different organisations, and we make it a point to alleviate barriers our users might face," he added.

Its ongoing initiative, #ShopeeGivesBack, which was launched in December 2019, enables its users to donate Shopee Coins to charities and the underprivileged.

Kristel Tan, associate, Partnerships, Shopee Singapore, said: "One of my roles as part of the partnerships team in Shopee requires me to regularly identify needs in the market and community where we could be in the best position to create a positive impact.

"This has enabled me to also work on very fulfilling and meaningful work that includes partnering with organisations in the name of charity.

"It gives me a great sense of satisfaction working with my team to rally our users, sellers and brand partners to give back with a united front. I'm proud to work for an organisation like Shopee, where giving back is ingrained in our values.

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