In the recent Budget 2020, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that $350m has been set aside to support social service agencies and build a giving culture in Singapore to steward organisations into a sustainable future. Social responsibility empowers not only a company’s image but also employees to leverage the corporate resources at their disposal to do good, helping communities while boosting employees’ morale.
To this importance, we sat together with Quek Shiyun, Head, Company of Good, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), in a candid interview, to answer some key questions about why and how a company should involve themselves in the CSR.
Organisations should aim to marry profit and purpose. Doing good can both address community needs, as well as meet wider organisational goals – which will increase the likelihood of securing internal buy-in and longer-term commitment to the programme.
To start, organisations must first identify the social causes they are passionate about and can make a difference in, based on the resources or expertise that they have on hand. Organisations should also think about the outcomes – be it organisational or social – that they hope to achieve from their CSR initiatives. And lastly, it is important for organisations to reflect and identify which of their core competencies or core assets are best leveraged on to drive the CSR efforts. This then provides the foundation for the organisation to work out a strategy on how this can be achieved.
There have been rising expectations from stakeholders on corporate social responsibility. We want more businesses to understand that they exist not solely to maximise shareholder profits, but to create benefits for all, and businesses are often looked to as societal leaders as well. This requires a Copernican shift within the ecosystem of stakeholders – moving from putting the firm’s profits at the centre, to having a common purpose that stakeholders can all get behind and relate to. Organisations are hence looking at ways to collaborate for good within their ecosystem of stakeholders, business partners and customers – as well as evolving beyond ad-hoc, one-off sponsorship or events, to incorporating sustained giving programmes as an integral part of their corporate strategy and identity.
Organisations will also need to track their progress through business sustainability and social impact assessments. Reporting helps increase transparency for stakeholders and investors, as well as help organisations evaluate and improve their practices, providing a clear indication on whether CSR efforts are on the right track, and if their desired outcomes and impact have been met.
When most people think of Corporate Social Responsibility today, they think of organisations donating portions of profits to charities or volunteering for the less fortunate. However, this is not all there is to CSR. Instead, we encourage organisations to leverage their existing resources and expertise for their CSR and doing good initiatives.
For instance, Spic & Span has soared above and beyond the standards of corporate giving in Singapore, demonstrating that one’s company size doesn’t matter when it comes to the quality of giving. The cleaning-services provider works with over 60 social service agencies to provide stable employment opportunities to marginalised individuals who are ex-offenders, persons with disabilities, single parents, victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.
True to their mission of “giving back selflessly”, the Spic & Span team is now cleaning childcare and eldercare centres such as St Luke’s Hospital at no cost and giving out free hand sanitisers to cleaners, healthcare workers and corporations, in light of COVID-19.
Above is just one of many corporations doing good initiatives that go beyond the usual acts of philanthropy and corporate doing good.
While organisations are likely to face great challenges during this period, it is also a prime opportunity for employers to demonstrate how employees are their top priority. Healthy and happy employees are productive, and organisations should consider the long-term safety and health of their employees in order to future-proof their businesses.
Supporting employees to work from home, providing them with paid leave to ‘self-quarantine’ as part of the business contingency plan is also an opportunity for employers to exemplify that they have the needs and welfare of their employees at heart. However, the onus is on both employers and employees to trust one another, in having the responsibility to carry on their day-to-day duties and remain contactable. As long as everyone fulfils their part, we believe that it is possible to achieve productivity and performance.
To celebrate organisations as catalysts of change in doing good, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)’s Company of Good (COG) has launched its call for applications for organisations to be recognised as Champions of Good 2020, with the deadline being 17 April 2020.
Returning for its 3rd edition, Champions of Good is part of the COG’s efforts to nurture a collaborative corporate community that gives back strategically, sustainably and impactfully. Champions of Good goes beyond establishing corporate giving within their company. They also rally and collaborate with external stakeholders such as customers and suppliers to amplify the impact of doing good.
The causes that these Champions of Good advocate for include digital inclusion, social entrepreneurship, active ageing and many others. We encourage Champions of Good to find a sweet spot between choosing a cause they are passionate about and knowing how the company’s unique resources or expertise best places them to address these specific social issues.
Ultimately, the most successful doing good efforts are company-wide and endorsed by leaders from the CEO top down. It’s important that leaders share their passion for doing good and be visibly involved with such company goals. Employees will follow suit and be motivated by the example set by their leaders.
Leaders also need to better understand and track the ROI of their corporate goods and giving initiatives, in relation to business objectives. By measuring the internal and social impact of their corporate giving, organisations will be better able to customize their programmes to amplify the impact of their corporate giving.
About Quek Shiyun:
Shiyun joined the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) after graduating with a Master in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) and Tsinghua University. At NVPC, she developed and launched the Company of Good programme in June 2016 which engages businesses in Singapore on the journey towards strategic, sustainable and impactful corporate giving.
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