In Singapore, about one in two companies engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Of those that do, some 89 percent opt for cash donations, while only 39 percent choose to do volunteerism. Those in the latter group also tend to do once-off types of activities than commit to something long-term. These were some statistics revealed by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of Parliament, who was the Guest of Honour at our first-ever Social Impact Forum held on 3 July, in collaboration with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).
Attended by 150 business leaders, including 71 SMEs, trade associations and chambers of commerce, as well as SBF Foundation’s scholars, it focused on how to build an inclusive Singapore by appealing to leaders in the business community to be active in CSR. Through speeches, a panel discussion and three breakout sessions, participants were exposed to a variety of ideas, case studies and knowledge about giving back to society.
Corporates Can Lead the Way
In his speech, Speaker Tan made an appeal for sustained, regular corporate giving. This is an extension of the SG Cares national movement launched in 2016 to nurture a more caring society. He reminded the audience of the purpose of giving – both money and especially time – and the power in numbers. By adopting CSR practices, businesses can help to cultivate a community spirit that will have far-reaching, positive impact on our society and future.
His message was echoed by Ms Denise Phua, Mayor of the Central Singapore District, who discussed the importance of businesses playing a role in supporting the community. The effort can be small but if the purpose is right, the impact can be significant. For instance, to create an opportunity for the inclusion of those who are different, amongst the many pioneering initiatives, she started The Purple Symphony, an inclusive orchestra made up of 100 musicians with and without special needs.
Ms Anita Fam, President of the National Council of Social Service, pointed out the importance of the People, Public and Private sectors (3P) working together. Considering the challenges we face today – from an aging population to economic disruptions – there is a stronger need for community cohesion now more than ever. Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman of the National Volunteer & Philanthropic Centre (NVPC), elaborated on its Company of Good programme that helps businesses embark on the journey of giving.
Participants also heard from Ms Sherena Loh, Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore (MDAS), who encouraged the audience to recognise persons with disabilities for their strengths, and demonstrated how an equal partnership between businesses and the members of MDAS is possible. Ms Loh is also the author of Shape for a Purpose, a book on how to propel yourself to a higher level of selflessness by loving others.
Following a networking lunch session, attendees participated in three concurrent breakout sessions. In partnership with SG Enable, NVPC and Family Business Network Asia, representatives from a wide range of companies shared their experiences in corporate giving that included corporate volunteerism, family giving and being an inclusive employer. Among them were Mr Ian Lim, Partner & Head of Employment & Labour at TSMP Law Corp; Mr Jesher Loi, Director of Branding and Marketing Development at Ya Kun; and Mr Robin Pho, CEO, Right People Renewable Energy. They each spoke about the importance of building an inclusive Singapore, the best practices to promote CSR, and illustrated how family businesses can give back to the community.
Journey with Us
The inaugural Social Impact Forum builds upon two programmes started by SBF Foundation. The first is CSR in Action Day, a day dedicated to businesses to meet and be engaged with the lives of the people they seek to provide friendship and support. Such a platform creates awareness and generates empathy towards the needs of fellow citizens. The initiative targets leaders or groups of employees who are responsible for starting or enhancing the organisation’s CSR efforts. It enables a community to go through the experiential activities together and share best practices going forward.
Participants get to experience poverty simulation and understand first-hand the challenges faced by homeless individuals and their families. In doing so, they learn about the needs of these individuals, and understand how resilient they are when dealing with their challenges and struggles. Another experiential activity is interacting with persons with special needs, during which participants could pick up a culinary skill from people with special needs to appreciate the strengths and assets of a person regardless of their disabilities. In essence, both initiatives are about empathy – seeing the individual as a person first, and not for his or her disability or living circumstances. It is about appreciating their strengths rather than see them as in need of assistance.
The second programme is a 2-day Business Impact Training to equip businesses with knowledge and skills in their CSR journey. This is part of a three-year effort by the Singapore Business Institute in partnership with SBF Foundation to support SMEs in particular.
As much as the bottom line is important, businesses should also aspire to add value to society and to empower those who are less fortunate. To this end, SBF Foundation is your partner to equip you with the network of support in your CSR journey.
Register with us if you are keen to drive your organisation’s efforts in doing good and doing it with the right motivation. Drop us an email at email@example.com, and we will contact you when we host our next CSR in Action Day or the 2-day Business Impact Training.