I remember standing in front of my phone, recording myself pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over my head. This was way back in 2014, when no one knew what ALS stood for. After drenching myself, I named the next friend to pass the challenge on to.
Image credit: Unsplash
Today, six years later, everyone knows how viral it went. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started in the US but went global, including Singapore. It created awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, generating donations from the public, corporations, and stuffy celebrities like Bill Gates . The campaign raised over US$220 million, primarily for ALS research, setting a benchmark many social communities and enterprises aspire to in their ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)’ efforts—bringing their staff together for a good cause and making the world a better place for the less fortunate, one freezing splash at a time.
Video source: The ALS Association
When most people think of CSR today, they think of companies donating portions of profits to charities, or organising trips to impoverished nations to volunteer with the less fortunate. This still happens, but it’s also not the full picture.
Some have begun to realise that such initiatives may not necessarily suit them, let alone result in real change. So they take action, but in a different way—by working with others.
One such company is Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors. With more than 100 years of history— having provided funeral services in Singapore since 1912—they understand what it means to leave behind a legacy before someone passes away. Working with Company of Good, they teamed up with the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication to document a project called The Last Portrait.
Through their day-to-day work, Ang Chin Moh found out from social workers, hospice care and nursing home staff, that when the elderly in their care pass away, they don’t usually have a good portrait photo—a frequently overlooked aspect of a dignified funeral. Through this project, Ang Chin Moh hoped to raise the death literacy of Singaporeans through public education campaigns, but were unsure if other nursing homes had a need for or were able to accept the programme.
By leveraging on Company of Good’s network, they managed to collaborate with different organisations to make The Last Portrait a success. They tied up with small and mid-sized companies, pooling resources with organisations of different expertise like nail salons and hairdressers.
The project saw them taking really good portrait photos of elderly residents at nursing homes such as St Andrew’s Nursing Home and Lin Kwang Nursing Home. The elderly residents were pleased that someone bothered to take a proper studio-quality photo of them for free.
Image credit: Staff from Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors. Ang Chin Moh was recognised as Champions of Good in 2017 and 2018.
Image credit: Mr. John Lim
Image credit: Mr. John Lim
Image credit: Mr. John Lim
This is a clear example of how companies, large or small, can have a bigger impact when they go above and beyond the standard CSR nomenclature. These are usually CSR initiatives that feel closer to home and the business the company is operating in. Or it could be a tailor-made CSR campaign focused on contributing an experience the recipients will never forget—one so special and unique, no other company could replicate it.
While an individual company trying to do ad-hoc volunteering events may sound good, there is only so much scale and traction one enterprise can go. But, when a company shares a common cause with other members (such as the ones in the Company of Good) by pooling different expertises together, these efforts can stack up and stretch further in a sustainable and meaningful way.
Another company that’s bucking the generic CSR trend and tapping into this network is Maybank Singapore, perhaps an unexpected example for anyone who thinks of banks as rigid, conservative dinosaurs. The bank launched MSpace@Maybank in 2018 at Orchard Shopping Centre, which included a cafe by Mellower Coffee on its first floor and a wealth lounge for Maybank Private and Premier customers on its mezzanine level.
MSpace at Maybank. For pushing CSR boundaries through collaborative efforts, Maybank was recognised as a Champion of Good in 2017 and 2018.
MSpace has been a venue to bring people from different communities together, which includes hosting social initiatives and partners like Company of Good members ArtSE and Eden & Elie, featuring their artwork and merchandise. Eden & Elie, for instance, is a Singapore-based, ethically-sourced jewellery brand that trains adults with autism to become skilled artisans.
Eden + Elie is a Singapore-based jewellery brand with hand-made products crafted by skilled artisans, who are also autistic. The image is their Modern Peranakan Gold Bangles in Blue, Vermilion and Yellow. Image credit: EdenandElie.com
Eden + Ellie’s co-founders, Leon (extreme right) and Stephanie (fourth from right) with some of their artisans at their Enabling Village workspace in Lengkok Bahru. Image credit: EdenandElie.com
The Company of Good programme not only helps companies in Singapore to do good, but to do them really well in impactful ways. Members can team up, collaborate and effect change in the community through a common cause, ultimately benefiting both businesses and communities.
To be a member of Company of Good, a company just needs to visit COG’s website and sign up to be a part of the community. To date, COG has over 1,500 corporations as members, both large and small, benefiting from corporate giving resources, programmes, events and workshops.
Maybank’s collaboration with ArtSE, a social enterprise by Goshen Art Gallery, is one such example of workshops done meaningfully well. It was a showcase of Singapore artist Sim Kah Lim’s art pieces. Sim Kah Lim might be well-respected for his extraordinary skills, but he became a viral personality after it was made known that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and paints from memory.
When Sim was 8, he came up tops in his first art competition (organised by Goodwood Park Hotel). He wanted to be a professional painter, but his dream was dashed when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 15. He spent time in the then-Woodbridge Hospital and has been in IMH since.
From left: Mr. Adam Tan, Head of Branch Distribution, Maybank Singapore; Mr. Sim Kah Lim, Artist supported by ArtSE; Mr. Alvin Lee, Head of Community Financial Services, Maybank Singapore & Ms. Cindy Lim, sister of Mr. Sim.
Sim’s paintings on canvas celebrate old Singapore such as Boat Quay and Chinatown. What’s mind-boggling is that all of his beautiful Singapore River scenes were painted purely out of memory. Having called IMH home for more than 30 years, Sim has lost touch with the outside world, but his paintings have become pictures, frozen in time and memory, from early childhood when his father used to take him to these places.
Company of Good (COG) Fellows: Mr. Jack Yu, Managing Director of Goshen Art Gallery and Head of Community Partnership of ArtSE and Ms. Sharon Eng, Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Maybank Singapore. The Fellowship is a programme by Company of Good for business professionals from different backgrounds—in this case, a bank and an art gallery, teaming up to support mental health causes—to learn how they can give back in their organisations in a more strategic, sustainable and impactful manner.
Sim Kah Lim’s painting showcase at MSpace was made possible after Maybank and ArtSE joined the Company of Good Fellowship Programme.
Sharon Eng, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Maybank Singapore, shares on Goshen Art Gallery’s website: “We had a great experience working with Goshen Art Gallery to curate paintings for display, with their expansive art collection and reliable services. Their commitment to using art for social good through their social enterprise ArtSE makes them a fellow Company of Good member, and we are happy to be able to support their cause.”
Beyond providing a venue and supporting social enterprises, Maybank also has a Family Fund programme, which provides low-income families with free personal accident insurance for five years, equipping them with financial literacy skills and a matched savings programme.
With Company of Good’s 4 ‘I’s framework, Maybank was able to benchmark its corporate giving practices across four areas: Investment, Integration, Institutionalisation, and Impact.
Image credit: Company of Good
As Champions of Good, Ang Chin Moh and Maybank are just two of many others. Through the Company of Good , they’ve leveraged on the network and did some amazing collaborations to benefit everyone. Imagine how far this can go when every company starts believing in a social cause, join hands and take action for the common good.
This benefits everyone. By this I mean you, me, social enterprises, the less fortunate, corporations, and agencies. It can be creative, engaging, interactive or viral, but more importantly, it’s collaborative and pools resources. The term to take away here is gestalt—which means the organised whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Like two people coming together and forming a family. Or a marketeer and engineer creating a company named after a fruit. Or a bank and art gallery conducting a workshop for a social cause. Or a funeral service, photography shop and education institute bringing joy and dignity to nursing homes.
Ultimately, it leaves an indelible feeling of goodness and warmth among beneficiaries and corporations. It doesn’t need to be forced, wayang-ed, or routinely executed in unauthentic ways. Done right, with peoples’ hearts at its core, and with the right collaborators, any company’s CSR efforts can go far. Who knows, it might end up becoming a movement, far and beyond what the company had expected from the outset.
This story is sponsored by Company of Good.
The Company of Good connects organisations with a community of like-minded corporate givers to build a better Singapore. Organisations can sign up for initiatives like the Company of Good Fellowship and Champions of Good. The latter recognises organisations with exemplary corporate giving work and collaborations with partners and stakeholders. Since its launch in 2017, there have been 74 Champions of Good, so it’s set to grow even more. Maybank and Ang Chin Moh have leveraged on the network and made amazing strides towards the causes they believed in. You can do the same.
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