Making a meaningful impact in diverse ways
This article was originally published on The Business Times.
A COMPANY’s corporate purpose lies at the core of its existence, and goes beyond just making profits. It shapes its vision, mission and values, and is integrated with the company’s purpose with its business strategy, helping it to deliver value to all stakeholders, and make an impact by tackling a problem or gap in the world.
Here are what five companies are doing to make an impact in the people, society, governance, economic and the environment areas.
A company can bring out the best in its people by keeping them happy. With a significant number of junior lawyers leaving the industry each year, law firm Eugene Thuraisingam LLP (ETLLP) knows it has to do more in order to retain its talent and continue attracting fresh blood.
The firm’s efforts to improve its employee experience and workplace wellness is what ETLLP partner Suang Wijaya calls “a work-in-progress”. The firm gives junior lawyers opportunities to do cases that interest and engage them.
The firm’s partners have regular one-on-one sessions with lawyers under their supervision, in which, Wijaya said, “we understand their professional or developmental aspirations and the types of work that keep them engaged. These sessions are also opportunities to provide regular feedback on work performance”.
The firm, named among “Singapore’s Best Law Firms in 2022” by The Straits Times and Statista, is passionate about pro bono services. Since its founding in 2012, the firm has made offering access to justice for those who cannot afford legal services a core function.
Wijaya said: “We have been fortunate in that our track record in pro bono criminal cases and public interest litigation have helped us in attracting and retaining talented junior lawyers. Pro bono and public interest litigation is and always has been a core practice of the firm, which we are very proud of.”
Beyond their shareholders, companies must also consider the impact they have on other stakeholders, and seek ways to bridge existing gaps in society.
PSA Singapore (PSA), which operates the world’s largest container transshipment hub in Singapore, recognises that it has a shared responsibility to the wider community in which it operates, said Ong Chiew Suan, head of Corporate Branding and Commercial for South-east Asia at PSA Corporation.
“Ensuring that PSA’s operations and community outreach continue to generate value for society defines our corporate purpose, and we want to embed this in all that we do, translating purpose into action.”
PSA has built long-term partnerships with its beneficiaries, which include St Luke’s ElderCare (SLEC) and Lions Befrienders, to champion various causes, said Ong. Its flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, Heath@Home (H@H), was launched in 2015 to support home-based healthcare and eldercare through corporate volunteerism among its Singapore-based staff.
As one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and up by 2030, “recognising and focusing on ageing issues will ensure that we are well-prepared for the challenges of an ageing society”, she remarked.
“We recognise that our efforts alone are limited. Hence, we have been encouraging our stakeholders and customers to join our CSR initiatives so that we can multiply our impact and reach out together.”
Doing social good also benefits the company. “Engaging our employees in social activities and connecting them through a common cause fosters a sense of unity among them and builds pride, and this has a positive impact on their morale and productivity,” Ong said.
Singapore Exchange (SGX) is Asia’s leading and trusted securities and derivatives market infrastructure, operating equity, fixed income, currency and commodity markets. Michael Tang, who heads listing policy, product admission and sustainable development at Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo), identifies trust as being fundamental to the exchange business.
Investors must be able to trust that the companies that they are investing in are operating fairly and acting honestly; and companies need to be able to trust that they are able to raise funds when they need to, he said.
To build trust within the capital markets, he said the two important pillars are transparency and governance. “We make sure that there is transparency in companies’ business practices and development, so individual investors can make their own investment decisions.”
Governance is also crucial, because to organise a group of people, “good processes and frameworks are needed to properly enable corporate KPIs (key performance indicators) to be met sustainably”, he pointed out.
“So, we have our requirements on having a board of directors oversee management, and procedures like risk management, audit and internal controls, to ensure that there is no fraudulent activity within the company, and that companies are able to achieve their corporate goals.”
While SGX has a suite of mandatory requirements, other guidelines recommend good practices; this approach gives companies the flexibility to tailor them to their own needs. Tang said: “As more companies adopt a best practice, it then becomes a baseline requirement as expectations shift. And I think that, through this manner, we’re able to raise the standards in a very progressive and a very accommodative manner.”
Cecilia Tan, vice-president of global government relations and public policy in P&G Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said: “P&G’s purpose for generations has been to improve lives in small, but meaningful ways.
“We believe in improving lives through the superior products we put on the shelf, and through our leading efforts to serve consumers and communities.”
To drive impact and progress in Singapore, P&G collaborates with partners such as the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) to support small- and medium-sized enterprises and bolster the local start-up scene and innovation ecosystem.
It also reaches out to Singapore-based, non-profit groups and social enterprises to train them in managing social media strategies, marketing and sales.
Through its Beautiful Minds programme in partnership with the Autism Resource Centre Singapore, the company promotes disability-inclusive employment and provides on-the-job training.
It also works with WeConnect International to host the P&G Women Entrepreneurs Academy in Singapore, through which women business owners get trained in critical capabilities.
“Through our various initiatives from providing health and hygiene products to vulnerable members of the community, to creating new water and sanitation facilities, and providing critical skills and training to small-business owners and non-government organisations, we are helping the community to grow and prosper, and to empower the less fortunate,” Tan said.
Driving economic impact benefits the company of course, but beyond this, the company’s purpose is also “to drive our corporate reputation in giving back to the communities we operate in; to be a Force for Growth and a Force for Good”, she added.
“From large global companies to small local business, all of us have the responsibility to protect the environment and create a positive impact to ensure future generations can enjoy the same access to nature and its abundant resources,” said Cinn Tan, chief sales and marketing officer, Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG).
The group invests in sustainability features throughout its properties, chiefly in its sustainability-focused brand, Parkroyal Collection, Tan noted. “Some key installations include in-room filtered water dispensers, with glass water bottles replacing plastic ones, and intelligent room sensors that conserve energy and water. We also eliminate single-use plastics and use food-waste digesters to convert waste into ‘grey water’ for safe disposal,” she said.
To involve its stakeholders in the effort, PPHG finds creative and engaging means to involve guests through eco-conscious experiences. For instance, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay offers sustainability tours through its Urban Farm, which showcases more than 60 varieties of plants that guests can enjoy in the hotel’s restaurants and bar, Tan said.
Investing in sustainable technology also brings long-term savings, she pointed out. Reducing energy and water usage has enabled the group to lower its operating costs, which in turn improves labour efficiencies by reducing labour-intensive tasks such as equipment maintenance, she noted.
In the meetings and events space – under its “Meet Lite, Feels Right” offer – PPHG customises green meeting packages for corporate clients who prefer eco-friendly touches such as sustainable refreshments and farm-to-table meals, she said.
In focusing on sustainability, the group is meeting the demand of travellers: The Sustainable Travel Report 2022 noted that 71 per cent of travellers want to do more in the next year to travel more sustainably, up 10 per cent in 2021. “The demand for sustainable options is growing every year, and, as a leader in sustainable hospitality, we must continue to innovate ahead of the curve,” said Tan.
Eugene Thuraisingam, PSA Corp, SGX, P&G, PPHG