Covid-19 has left many companies reeling, but some businesses in Singapore which saw growth chose to do good by helping others in a time when many were struggling. This shows that organisations can deepen their corporate giving and societal impact by rediscovering their purpose, and the development of the National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose by National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) presents a timely opportunity to support more organisations in this endeavour.

According to NVPC, businesses led in contributions for the community with a 15 percent increase in corporate giving through philanthropy, volunteering and advocacy from 2017.

Of those, 23 percent of businesses that did well during Covid-19, specifically in the finance & insurance and information & communications sectors, increased their giving over the same period.

These were among several key findings published in the Corporate Giving Study (CGS) 2021, a national study that examines the state of corporate giving in Singapore undertaken by NVPC. It also makes recommendations to improve corporate giving via policy making and strategy development across the government, corporate, and non-profit organisation (NPO) stakeholder groups.

NVPC said in a statement that it aims to cultivate a future where every organisation in Singapore is purpose-driven and strives to make a positive impact on society across environmental, human, social and economic dimensions.

At present, NVPC is working closely with the members of the SG Together Alliance for Action on Corporate Purpose (AfA-CP), supported by the Singapore Business Federation Foundation (SBFF) and Ministry of Culture, Communication & Youth (MCCY) to co-design and co-develop the National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose.

The framework and blueprint will provide clarity and consensus on the principles, practices, and indicators pertaining to corporate purpose. It will also serve as a roadmap for companies to implement and track their progress as purpose-driven organisations in priority areas and provide recommendations on policy changes. With the framework in place, corporates – regardless of size – can then select the best option with which to begin their corporate purpose journey, accompanied by comparable metrics to track where they are at along the journey.

“The pandemic has shown how the well-being of business and society is tightly interwoven and deeply interdependent. We hope this study will provide a new lens through which businesses should view their purpose and how they can create shared value with their stakeholders, and better contribute to the greater good while staying resilient and profitable,” said Seah Chin Siong, chairman of NVPC.

“We have seen that many companies want to do good, but some might not know where to begin or how to create the impact they desire with the resources they have. NVPC and Company of Good is committed to helping businesses bridge their corporate giving strategies with a greater purpose and in so, find their North Star. When people, organisations and leaders come together for the greater good, we can make this new normal one that embraces and uplifts all stakeholders in society as we become the City of Good.”, said Tony Soh, deputy CEO, NVPC.

Key Findings

#1: During the pandemic, businesses reassessed their giving strategies by aligning their giving objectives with core values.

CGS 2021 revealed that while Covid-19 caused disruption to the economy, it also presented opportunities for businesses to re-evaluate their role in society, rethink existing business practices and operations, as well as reimagine ways to integrate corporate giving into their business model. To this end, the study found a 10 percent increase in organisations’ corporate giving objectives being aligned with the company values (54% in 2021 vs 44% in 2017).

#2: Mindset shift is required for businesses to see the value of investing in ESG.

In an ideal scenario, businesses were only willing to allocate a third of their resources to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) priorities, and only 14 percent of respondents agreed that their businesses had done well in contributing towards society. As we head towards a K-shaped recovery, businesses that did well during the pandemic can continue amplifying their giving efforts, while those that were negatively impacted need not necessarily give less if they identify creative ways in which they can contribute.

#3: The ability to do good goes beyond traditional giving and creates opportunities for diverse partnerships.

CGS 2021 found that 75 percent of businesses conducted at least one form of corporate giving last year, either by giving, or institutionalising and integrating giving within their business operations. It also found that 66 percent of givers have integrated giving into their business functions. Beyond simple cash donations, corporate giving has expanded to include other ways of giving, such as donations-in-kind (+13%), skill-based pro-bono services (+11%) and advocacy (+10%).

CGS 2021 has unearthed several positive trends and opportunities. Amongst them is an increase in partnerships based on stakeholders’ strengths being formed. This pivot highlights the opportunity for NPOs to address the misconception that they are passive receivers – but are instead meaningful partners who add value to businesses to bring about greater collective impact.

#4: Sustained corporate giving enables businesses to derive consistent value creation and enhanced relationships with employees and customers.

Businesses should move beyond reactive giving and plan corporate giving as they would for their business planning. This would include having corporate giving as part of businesses’ formal budget planning and strategic objectives. According to the study, 1 in 2 businesses gave on an ad-hoc basis, with the majority (84%) remaining undecided on their corporate giving budget prior to the start of the financial year (FY).

Key to driving this initiative is strong leadership support. The study found that the critical difference between companies with high levels of corporate giving and those without lies in the interest demonstrated by the CEO and senior management in corporate giving. More than 60 percent of companies cite senior management as being responsible for both proposing and approving corporate giving initiatives.

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