The power of business as a force for good

·6-min read
Yvonne Siow of Essilor Vision Foundation
Yvonne Siow of Essilor Vision Foundation

This content was produced in partnership with Company of Good

Companies today are playing a bigger role than ever by creating social impact within the regions they operate in. Accelerated by the pandemic, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues such as sustainability have become even more pressing in the eyes of stakeholders due to growing concerns about our future. As societies continue to be challenged by the new normal, how can companies ensure that their strategies are targeted and relevant to the communities they serve?

How to do good in good company

In the thriving commercial hub that is Singapore, where doing good is slowly but surely becoming a key marker alongside financial success, Company of Good is committed to inspiring and making change – one business at a time. Its Company of Good Fellowship serves as a robust talent development programme that brings together high-potential business professionals to catalyse change for the good of both business and society. Among its strong 147-Fellow network representing 106 organisations of various sizes across different sectors and industries in Singapore are Citi Singapore and Essilor Vision Foundation – the philanthropic arm of Essilor Group.

According to Jimmy Ong, Corporate Citizenship lead for Citi Singapore, the bank places its philanthropic focus on financial inclusion and progressing youth economic opportunities. “Since 2002, Citi has committed over S$23 million in initiatives to equip the youth in Singapore with the financial knowledge and skill sets needed to increase their chances of employment,” he shares. “On a bigger scale, we are driving financial literacy and strengthening the social mobility of disadvantaged communities as part of the government’s national agenda. In doing so, the Company of Good Fellowship’s concepts and frameworks have really helped us with practical guidance on the ‘how to’s of doing good well. I have become more intentional in making sure that our community investments are strategic in nature, in that they should not only be aligned with our philanthropic focus, but also provide opportunities for our different business units to contribute and integrate doing good into their processes.”

Yvonne Siow, Head of Essilor Vision Foundation ASEAN, also agrees with how beneficial the Company of Good Fellowship has been in helping her organisation become a better corporate responsibility practitioner. She says, “I think there needs to be a paradigm shift around the idea of ‘doing good’. With the ongoing pandemic, it has to be everyone’s responsibility to step up. The Company of Good Fellowship has been a big stepping stone and the chance for us to gain more knowledge on various CSR disciplines. At Essilor Vision Foundation, our work revolves around eliminating poor vision and its lifelong consequences among the underprivileged, with the aim of providing all 300,000 migrant workers in Singapore with good vision. The close bonds we have fostered with other Fellows who drive sustainable, philanthropic outcomes have been invaluable in our collective journey towards creating more common good.”

Using the 4 ‘I’s to inspire change

For companies looking to advance their journey towards doing good and incorporate purpose into their business DNA, the road ahead can seem extremely daunting – especially when it comes to balancing different stakeholder needs and ensuring meaningful outcomes for all. As such, the Company of Good Fellowship prescribes a four-point checklist based on the 4 ‘I’ Framework to guide them towards developing a holistic strategy:

1. Investment ­ – To really make an impact in their cause(s) of choice, companies need to align their giving to the vision, mission, strategy and nature of their business. For Essilor Vision Foundation, this means going beyond its multimillion-dollar commitment in terms of donations by leveraging its expertise and capabilities in optics and vision care to help the underprivileged. Yvonne also cites mobilising more stakeholders such as partners and volunteers as integral to the success of its community initiatives.

2. Integration – Environmental and social outcomes need to be deeply ingrained into a company’s operations, functions and interests as opposed to simply being the results of ad-hoc efforts, so that doing good is a natural and seamless part of the business across the board. Apart from the community investments it undertakes through the Citi Foundation, Citi Singapore constantly rallies its different departments and business partners together in its giving journey, such as via its annual Citi & Partners Support ChildAid initiative, a sustained business-driven effort by its Operation Services team – in demonstrating the bank’s willingness to go ‘all in’.

3. Institutionalisation – To encourage doing good among employees, it is important that there are right policies, systems and incentives within the company to support those who do. In addition to having these in place, Essilor Vision Foundation also has a dedicated mission department to ensure that its efforts succeed on an effective scale and leave a sustainable impact. Within the department itself, different units focus on core issues such as inclusive business, bottom-of-the-pyramid innovation, and advocacy and awareness.

4. Impact – An initiative is often only as successful as the impact it makes. For companies to monitor the performance of their contributions or efforts and make improvements where necessary, processes should be implemented to measure the input, output and outcome of their giving. At Citi Singapore, Jimmy reveals that the impact of its two key programmes, YMCA Youth For Causes (YFC) and TOUCH Aspire, are tracked, reported to the Citi Foundation and shared with stakeholders for transparency and accountability.

Is your business ready for the journey?

As COVID-19 continues to affect communities around the world, the need for companies to do good has become more crucial than ever, driven by the increasing pressure on businesses to shift their priorities towards protecting our people and planet. In Singapore, they can draw upon the training and knowledge gleaned from the Company of Good Fellowship, as well as the support of other Fellows, to navigate the uncertainties and drive positive change amid the circumstances. As more business leaders rise to the challenge, more employees and other stakeholders follow – making an even greater impact.

Jimmy Ong  of Citi Singapore
Jimmy Ong of Citi Singapore

Jimmy says, “At the end of the day, businesses that do not value ‘doing good’, regardless of their size or sector, tend to miss out on benefits such as strong brand recognition and positive reputation; better financial performance due to increased sales and loyalty for aligning with customers’ values; and the increased ability to attract talent and retain employees.”

Yvonne concurs, “I do not believe that there is a sustainable future for businesses that do not prioritise social impact. Consumers are becoming very discerning and will decide where their next dollar goes. Personally, I have learned from the Company of Good Fellowship that it is important to have an agile mindset. Seeing how the team has evolved and embraced the new norm has imbued in me that anything is possible – as long as you are committed to moving the needle and making the change.”

Company of Good Fellowship is a talent development programme that grooms high-potential professionals to catalyse change for business and society. Join us today to be part of a growing network of like-minded organisations building a better tomorrow in Singapore. Applications are now open.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting