This article was originally published on The Business Times.


LAST year, as Singapore geared up for its first full-scale National Day Parade (NDP) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of young volunteers gathered behind the scenes, getting ready to receive attendees from all walks of life.

Along their journey was one key stop: training sessions with Aetos Holdings. These covered topics ranging from effective crowd management and situational awareness to self-defence and sensitivity.

The security services provider was among 112 organisations conferred the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s Champions of Good title in 2022.

“We were all hands on deck,” said Elaine Ong, Aetos’ assistant vice-president for strategic communications and marketing.

Facilitated and conducted by the company’s employees, trainings were customised for some 250 youth volunteers. A crucial segment involved inclusive customer-service skills, particularly on catering to the needs of persons with disabilities.

Ong told The Business Times (BT) that this was something that Aetos had brought over from its own organisational beliefs: “We are cognisant about the public-facing roles that our frontliners hold, and recognise the importance of them being competent in interacting with persons with disabilities.”

Dentons Rodyk partner Seow Jia Xian says the firm’s practice group for philanthropy and non-profits was founded in recognition of the “immense opportunity for private wealth to be mobilised for public good locally, and in the region”. PHOTO: DENTONS RODYK

She added that Aetos has been “advocating the value of such inclusive customer-service skill sets”, including to its own employees and clients.

On the impact of these sessions on the volunteers at NDP 2022, Ong said these skills could “really help prepare them for the future”.

“It goes a long way in developing youths holistically.”

Another organisation that has been involved in supporting communities in need is law firm Dentons Rodyk, a fellow 2022 conferee of the Champions of Good title.

The firm launched a practice group focused on philanthropy and non-profits in 2022, with the aim of helping clients with philanthropic or charitable intentions to achieve their goals.

Dentons Rodyk partner Seow Jia Xian, who heads the practice, said it was founded in recognition of the “immense opportunity for private wealth to be mobilised for public good locally, and in the region”.

“The establishment of this practice is representative of the firm’s efforts to contribute towards the growth and development of philanthropy, and to cater specifically for clients in this sector, through the provision of expert legal advice and assistance.”

While the group comprises just a handful of lawyers at present, Dentons Rodyk also encourages lawyers across the firm to give back through multiple channels.

These include the Community Legal Clinics (CLCs) scheme, an initiative by Law Society Pro Bono Services. The firm, which has been an anchor firm with the CLCs since 2007, estimated that through the clinics it has helped about 720 individuals in need with free legal advice.

In addition, Dentons Rodyk has supported the Law Society of Singapore’s Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (Clas) since the scheme’s inception in 2015.

The firm also implemented a pro bono policy in 2018, with a targeted 40 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year. The firm said its lawyers completed over 1,000 hours last year, excluding pro bono work taken on in their personal capacity.

Good out, good in

Aetos’ Ong said the company’s NDP 2022 trainings were part of its move towards skills-based volunteering in its approach to doing good, leveraging employees’ experience and expertise to uplift communities in need. In doing so, the company has created a more natural fit between its people and their philanthropic initiatives.

“By harnessing the strengths of our people, data, and networks, we strive to become multipliers of impact.”

Although the company has only in recent years begun to expand its range of corporate giving initiatives, she said its strategy has grown significantly in both scope and form.

From a mainly fundraising-based approach to giving back, Aetos has moved towards a focus on creating a “culture of impact”, with initiatives aimed at empowering employees to make a difference. It has ventured into new areas of giving back as well, such as a “push-up challenge” fundraiser for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore.

Doing good has given the company a “strategic advantage” in attracting and retaining customers, Ong said, noting that its initiatives have led to a “win-win scenario” for both society and itself.

She added that supporting employee-driven initiatives has made a positive impact from a human resources perspective: “The improved efficiency from the increased motivation of a do-good mentality also helps to foster a sense of belonging and pride in our community, which results in better employee engagement and retention.”

Still, remaining purpose-driven has been a steadying factor for Aetos, she noted, highlighting that companies have a growing duty to give back as society increasingly emphasises doing good.

“The way we do business must be done with a more holistic approach, as organisations are now looked upon as stewards of the future.”

Over at Dentons Rodyk, BT spoke with the firm’s senior partner Christopher Chong, who is also head of its pro bono committee, as well as partner Terence Wah and senior associate Mok Zi Cong.

From left: Dentons Rodyk’s Christopher Chong, Terence Wah, and Mok Zi Cong. The trio say that pro bono activities and initiatives provide the firm’s lawyers with opportunities to further their legal skills. PHOTOS: DENTONS RODYK

The trio noted that Dentons Rodyk’s lawyers stood to benefit from doing good: “These pro bono activities and initiatives, such as the legal clinics and Clas, also provide our lawyers with the opportunity to work on cases involving diverse legal issues, which help to further our lawyers’ legal skills.”

Similar to Aetos’ Ong, the lawyers agreed that doing good can create positive business outcomes.

“Increasingly, there has been a growing importance of corporate social responsibility. It has become an integral factor of consideration for clients to work with firms that are socially responsible, and it creates better brand perception, builds loyalty and improves client experience.”

Chong, Wah and Mok also pointed to the importance of setting a good example at an organisational level, and how it could lead to a trickle-down effect: “One action taken by an organisation can influence others or even employees to give back to the community.”

AETOS Holdings, Denton Rodyks