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DBS increases support for social enterprises with S$9 million in loans and grants

Singapore

WITH businesses hard hit by Covid-19, DBS announced on Thursday that it has stepped up its support for social enterprises (SEs) with S$9 million in loans and grants this year. This is the bank's largest collective disbursement of loans and grants within a year to SEs since the inception of DBS Foundation.

Karen Ngui, board member of DBS Foundation, said: "In the world we're living in today, companies must not only think about delivering value to shareholders, but also consider the interests of the communities they serve. This has really come to the fore amidst Covid-19, which has sparked unprecedented social and economic challenges - yet, these very issues have also heightened opportunities for social enterprises to make a difference, and helped to cement the importance of their role in society."

SEs are increasingly being recognised for the important role they play in society. In a 2020 DBS Foundation survey, Public Perception Survey of Social Enterprises, conducted in partnership with the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises (raiSE), 72 per cent of respondents said that they are aware of SEs and what they do - a sharp rise from 13 per cent in 2010.

In addition, almost all the respondents view SEs as being relevant and important, with 95 per cent of respondents agreeing that they are a good way to address social issues.

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DBS Foundation announced on Thursday that it has awarded some S$1.4 million in grant funding to 13 SEs from DBS' six key markets (Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Taiwan) in the 2020 cycle of its flagship DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme.

The grant funding aims to support the awardees in deploying their social innovations, which include leveraging technology to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities and the elderly, as well as empowering women and youth in rural communities.

The Grant Programme's inaugural Zero Food Waste category also makes available funding to SEs that contribute towards the UN's global target of reducing food waste.

The 13 SEs were selected from a record 820 applications across Asia - a 30 per cent increase from the 2019 cycle. Two of the awardees were Singapore-based SE Ento Industries and fintech company Zigway.

Access to working capital to protect jobs and ensure business continuity was an immediate priority for many SEs when the pandemic emerged. Recognising that SEs may be overlooked by lenders as they typically lack borrowing history with banks or relevant credit profiles, DBS quickly moved to roll out its SE Digital Business Loan in May this year to cover working capital needs at preferential rates.

The SE Digital Business Loan was availed to eligible SEs at an interest rate as low as 2 per cent per annum. SEs were able to receive up to S$200,000 in funding.

In the last six months, over S$1.4 million worth of SE Digital Business Loans have been disbursed, in addition to other existing SE loan offerings aimed at addressing cashflow issues.

In total, over S$7 million in loans have been disbursed to SEs in Singapore this year, a fourfold increase from a year ago.

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