It’s been a rough year for individuals and companies operating in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, companies that have committed to doing good aren’t giving up. Throughout a turbulent 2020, their initiatives have continued to create value for the environment, their communities and the businesses themselves.
These businesses have been recognised as Champions of Good, an initiative under the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s Company of Good programme. Launched in 2017, Champions of Good recognises organisations that have been exemplary in the field, especially those that have multiplied their efforts by working with partners and stakeholders.
Featuring multinational corporations, small and medium enterprises and public service agencies, the Champions of Good roster includes organisations like Singtel – a three-time Champion of Good – alongside first-time inductees like Xylem Water Solutions Singapore. After all, it’s not the size of the company that matters, but the size of the positive impact created.
A STRATEGY FOR THE LONG RUN
Investing in the community is an integral part of Singtel’s corporate sustainability strategy. The company is committed to being a responsible corporate citizen and driving positive and sustainable change where it operates. In the past year, some of its programmes ranged from supporting vulnerable groups to efforts in bridging the digital divide.
Singtel often engages community organisations and like-minded partners in its sustainability initiatives. Since 2014, Singtel has collaborated with entities like DQ Institute, TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Kids Helpline (Australia) to support over 540,000 students, parents and educators in Singapore and Australia in using digital technology safely and responsibly.
Mr Andrew Buay, Singtel’s vice president of Group Sustainability, says the telco recognises that alongside the positive benefits of digital access, there are unintended consequences like gaming addiction, cyber bullying and cyber security issues that must be addressed. He shared: “We’ve worked with TOUCH and DQ Institute to develop resources including cyber wellness toolkits for teachers and run cyber wellness programmes in schools. We also collaborated with TOUCH to set up Help123, a national online cyber wellness resource for parents with a counselling helpline.”
Besides promoting responsible digital citizenship, Singtel is co-chair and one of the eight founding companies that established the Singapore Business Network on Disability (SBNoD) to foster mentorship and employment for persons with disabilities. Singtel leaders also support SG Enable’s RISE mentorship and internship programmes for tertiary students with disabilities in addition to other initiatives. In opening up corporate employment to persons with disabilities, Singtel also hopes to augment skilled labour shortages in Singapore over the longer term.
Said Mr Buay: “With more effort and support from corporates, persons with disabilities have the potential to achieve so much more in their independent living and quality of life. Also, as parents see that businesses and society are more inclusive and supportive, and there are opportunities available to their children with disabilities, the parents are more likely to support them to realise their full potential rather than keep them sheltered. All these efforts help to erode the unconscious blockers and bias that exists with families, persons with disabilities, in society as well as the corporate world.”
Mr Buay added that the COVID-19 pandemic has also accentuated the social issues that further validated many of Singtel’s existing programmes. As people spent more time online and physical distancing measures left the vulnerable more isolated than ever, Singtel’s digital inclusion schemes, such as providing free mobile SIMs to the elderly for caregiving support, helped to bridge the digital divide.
“It is in the DNA of the company to give back and drive positive change in society. There is certainly lots of cross-sector collaboration needed to create greater impact. That is why in all our community programmes, we bring businesses, non-profits, government agencies, start-ups and more to work together on social issues. As a corporate leader, we see an opportunity to lead, shape and connect the ecosystem for collective impact. It is through such collaboration with partners that we can really move the needle on addressing the challenges faced by society.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
Xylem envisions a world where water issues are no longer a barrier to human health, prosperity and sustainable development. Twelve years ago, the company set up Xylem Watermark, a corporate citizenship platform aimed at providing education and access to safe water to ensure healthy lives, gender equality and resilient communities around the world.
For Xylem’s employees, doing good is all part of the job. Its Southeast Asia managing director Koh Chong Hin said: “We want our employees to find purpose in their work and be engaged. We encourage our employees to make a difference and take action by volunteering their time, providing pro bono skills expertise, donating in-kind equipment or raising funds for causes that matter to them.”
Throughout the pandemic, Xylem has matched its employees’ donations to non-profit organisations with COVID-19 response activities at a rate of 2:1. Its Singaporean employees chose to donate to the Children’s Wishing Well and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME).
Xylem’s employees have also been involved in community support activities throughout Southeast Asia, building Aqua Towers to provide clean water in countries like Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, as well as partnering with the Children’s Cancer Foundation in Singapore to create awareness of water issues. Said Mr Koh: “We strive to make an impact through our work and through our actions in our communities. We help people in need of clean water, but most importantly we believe that educating our communities, neighbors and children about the value of water will create powerful social impact that changes lives.”
Xylem has recently scaled up its efforts. It just launched a global youth initiative called Xylem Ignite, which will nurture future water leaders. It was also a production partner on the Netflix documentary Brave Blue World featuring Matt Damon.
Mr Koh said the urgency of the situation is driving Xylem to step up. “The water crisis is too big for any one organisation to solve alone. The world’s water challenges are growing exponentially, but so are the opportunities to address and overcome them. We want to partner with other members within the Company of Good network to share best corporate social responsibility practices, spark creative ideas and rally everyone to join us in finding solutions to solve water and help communities in need.”
Champions of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good and that have multiplied efforts by engaging partners and stakeholders on a collaborative journey. Check out the full list of Champions of Good 2020 at companyofgood.sg/champions.