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Growing for good: Sustaining a volunteer culture

Keppel Corporation and Carousell view corporate social responsibility as a crucial component of their business

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Keppel Volunteers organises lessons and games for needy students from schools in Sichuan province as part of the company's partnership with the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.

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Carousell employees volunteer at Ground-Up Initiative as part of the company's Carousell Community Responsibility.

Singapore

KEPPEL Corporation executive Ariel Tee took a different sort of leave from work in September. She went on volunteerism leave with a group of colleagues to Mabian, Sichuan.

Keppel Corporation and Carousell have different backgrounds and industry knowledge. However, there is a common thread that pulls them together: They view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a crucial component of their business, and have managed to integrate their employees in the company's journey of giving.

Keppel Corporation has a presence in a wide range of sectors from offshore and marine to property, and the group has been active in corporate giving in the last few decades.

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In 2000, a group of employees established Keppel Volunteers, a ground-up movement. This group now works closely with Keppel Care Foundation, which was formed in 2012, to organise and coordinate the group's efforts in corporate giving.

Keppel Corp commits up to one per cent of the group's annual net profits to worthy social causes. To date, S$42 million has been disbursed by the foundation to charities and causes that resonate with the company's values. Included in this was a S$10 million contribution to the Institute of Technical Education in 2018 to provide financial support for deserving students from low-income families.

Ms Tee said: "I feel a sense of pride as an employee when I see my company walking the talk and doing good for the community. Volunteering with my team also allows me to connect with my colleagues and nurture relationships."

Keppel's CSR projects extend beyond Singapore as the company develops localised programmes to engage stakeholders in the overseas countries where they operate, which include China and the Philippines.

In addition to making donations through the foundation, Keppel also partners with organisations such as the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, providing a five million yuan (S$965,602) commitment which supports the Chinese government's plans to combat rural poverty and stimulate the development of rural regions.

Under the programme, close to 2,000 students in remote parts of Mabian County are provided with nutritious food items every school day.

Ms Tee said: "The company gives us two days of volunteerism leave a year, and I am encouraged to embark on volunteerism initiatives abroad. Being involved in CSR projects gives me a holistic sense of purpose in my job and life. We visited several homes and primary schools in the mountains of Mabian, Sichuan, and interacted with the children. We taught them how to use the e-resources that Keppel donated - and I realised that many of the children have a positive outlook in life despite challenging family circumstances. The experience made me appreciate the things that many of us take for granted, such as modern conveniences."

Other long-running programmes abroad supported by Keppel include the Words on Wheels programme in Vietnam which promotes learning by providing students with access to books and multimedia facilities via a mobile library. Employees in Singapore are involved in the planning and execution stages of such programmes.

Loh Chin Hua, CEO of Keppel Corporation, said: "Keppel is committed to building a sustainable future. We view CSR as an integral part of our culture, and strive to contribute to the community in different ways. Our volunteerism movement also helps to instill among staff compassion and empathy, and enhances employee engagement."

Culture of social responsibility

Keppel has been recognised in Forbes' Global 2000 rankings as one of the World's Best Regarded Companies 2019 and World's Best Employers 2019.

At online marketplace Carousell, CSR goes by the label CCR (Carousell Community Responsibility) to reflect the company's model of incorporating such practices organically.

The culture of social responsibility is imbued in every new hire at the firm. Its three-day onboarding programme, which is conducted monthly, includes a half-day CCR portion that introduces a culture of doing social good while providing a platform for employees to bond. Past activities include volunteering at Ground-Up Initiative, a non-profit community, and Food from the Heart.

Carousell's main CCR event, #Blessings Movement, was started by employees to allow users of an app to donate items to those in need by using #blessings or #ToBless hashtags.

Marcus Tan, co-founder of Carousell, said: "Building a sustainable business is synonymous to creating impact for the society. Most great businesses and enduring companies are socially responsible."

He added that the #Blessings Movement, which was launched in support of this year's Giving Week, was something created by the Carousell community for the Carousell Community.

Mr Tan said: "We see an opportunity for people to pass on things that they do not need to people who can benefit from that access. We envision a world where second-hand is better than first-hand. We wanted to amplify this positive act of blessing items to inspire more users to join though our official #Blessings marketing initiatives, and work closer with charity organisations to see how we can support them."

Jarieul Wong, communications head for Carousell, said that working for the company has helped him see how technology can be used to solve problems at scale.

He said: "Giving back to the community has always been something that I feel for, and it just makes work much more meaningful when you know that your work can also impact others in good ways. Carousell as a product on its own already ties in with many of our employees' own beliefs and values in many ways - it encourages second-hand as first choice, connects individuals to one another to share items and experiences, provides access to anyone to be empowered to start selling. It's really a bonus too that the company supports our employees' CCR initiatives."

He added that when employees' values are in line with the company, it helps them feel more engaged in the work they do too.

Say Yes to #Blessings! is an extension of the #Blessings Movement, and the campaign is slated to be launched in mid-November.

The company has approached charities for items which the beneficiaries need, and it will post the "wish list" online to avoid being overwhelmed by donations that are not needed. The users will then donate the needed items to the charity collections directly.

  • The Company of Good by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) aims to empower organisations to give back strategically, sustainably and with impact. Find out how your organisation can do good better at www.companyofgood.sg