How do you see Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Singapore?
As Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat puts it: “Corporate giving these days is not just a business practice, but an integral part of how companies engage stakeholders and inspire their employees.”
Other than consumers increasingly putting a higher importance on sustainability in their decision-making process, you will probably also agree that the upcoming generation is looking for a higher, more fulfilling purpose at work as well.
Likely to be unknown to many, the first formal group advocating CSR was launched some 13 years ago, back in 2005. It was known as the Singapore Compact for CSR. 10 years on, the group became a formal network for the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and rebranded itself as the Global Compact Network Singapore.
It’s tough for us to disagree with Jim Owens, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Caterpillar Inc, when he says that “in the next decade, the most successful companies will be those that integrate sustainability into their core businesses”.
Relating this to our local context, how do you think we would fare in giving across the globe?
Globally, Singapore ranks 30th in the World Giving Index 2017. This poll covers a total of 139 countries, and is a representation of around 95 per cent of the world's population.
Looking at the rankings from a regional perspective, Singapore is still behind other Asian countries such as Hong Kong (ranked 25th) and Myanmar (ranked 1st). Given her ambition to be a leading sustainable hub, you can probably see how Singapore still has much room to stretch and grow in the art of giving.
Corporate-wise, there have been much growth in this field as companies rethink about the way they give. From employee-driven activities to skill-based volunteering, here are 3 excellent examples of CSR done in Singapore. These companies are noted with reference to Champions of Good 2017 from National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).
Crafting their CSR strategy as part of their main business, Carousell promotes the spirit of inclusiveness by making the marketplace accessible for the elderly. Other than introducing the world of online shopping to our seniors, the team also shares tips on how to be safe online. Carousell will also continue to develop comprehensive follow-up lessons for seniors after they have mastered the basic functions of the mobile app.
This definitely struck a chord with us, as our Digital Arts For All (DAFA) programme was also created to promote inclusivity, online safety and discernment against online falsehoods.
As digitalisation will only get more and more prominent in the coming days, we love how Carousell weaved in their CSR strategy into their main avenue of business. A successful integration will not only introduce the elderly to their convenient marketplace to buy and sell online seamlessly, they can also be more discerning so as not to fall prey to scams.
2. ComfortDelgro Corporation
The very nature and size of their business allows ComfortDelgro to be on the ground and actively involved in communities. Tapping on their profession, the company introduced wheelchair-friendly buses and provides free emergency taxi services for Northlight School Students via Kindness on Wheels. Along these lines, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear how they have Meals-on-Wheels, a service delivering meals to social service organisations.
Under ComfortDelGro group, there is a social enterprise member, Gobbler5. Gobbler5 partners with SBS transit and others to run the Towkay programme. True to its name, “Towkays” receive training in financial management and mentorship support to kickstart their own business, and are given merchandise to sell at the end of the programme.
The Towkay programme made a lasting impression on us, not only for its witty name but also for its resemblance to our design courses for persons with disabilities at Make The Change Pte Ltd. After mentoring them in design, digital marketing and website e-commerce courses, we strive to connect them with real world projects and career opportunities after they graduate.
Truly, when we can provide the ways for someone to arise from the position of a receiver and take up the place of a giver, we lift them up in dignity for good.
3. Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee
An excellent CSR strategy often comes from a group of key individuals who are committed to embed giving as a mandate. At Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee, their global citizenship policy encourages employees to contribute at least 25 hours of corporate-giving activities each year.
Other than giving pro-bono legal advice to communities with financial needs, the team also pass on their knowledge to the people who need it the most. Other than that, they work closely with partners such as Ashoka to identify more areas where they can help social service organisations to grow.
We believe this is one of the best examples of skilled volunteerism, where industry professionals can give back by sharing their knowledge with people who need it. A more precise matching of volunteers and social service organisations will definitely produce better impact. This is also why our team always strive to understand our volunteers first before linking them up with the projects most suitable for them.
In conclusion, you can probably say that CSR is here to stay in Singapore.
The culture of giving back is likely to grow even more in the coming years. Recently, every listed company are to report their environmental, social and governance practices from the financial year ending Dec 31, 2017 onwards.
All these goodwill will not go unnoticed. According to Singapore Exchange, SGX’s own survey of institutional investors in 2015 found that more than 90 per cent of respondents consider environmental, social and governance factors when investing. Having being proven as a key factor in other countries like Hong Kong, investors are also increasingly keen to use social responsibility as a yardstick for future investments.
Having said that, CSR advocates will also have to take up the responsibility to account for funding, impact and periodical progression, so as to maintain trust and optimised transparency in these corporate relationships.
At Make The Change Pte Ltd, we tap on our network and experience to set things up the way they should go, and we exit when CSR managers can run it themselves. If you are looking to create real change, do drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to meet you.