SINGAPORE – Firms that have prospered while also benefiting the community around them have been honoured at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The 25 companies from Singapore and South-east Asia spanning industries from transport to agribusiness, real estate and financial services were named at the Steward Leadership Summit at the Shangri-La Singapore.
The Steward Leadership 25 – an initiative that started in 2022 – includes multinationals, small and medium-sized enterprises and social enterprises.
The Stewardship Asia Centre, a non-profit organisation set up by Temasek Holdings, compiled the list, which will eventually cover firms beyond Singapore and the region.
A motorcycle ride-hailing platform from the Philippines called Angkas was honoured for improving the livelihoods of motorcycle taxi riders.
Angkas – Filipino for hitching a ride – was founded by Singaporean Angeline Tham six years ago to address the traffic congestion problems in the Philippines, where people can spend two to three hours just to get to work.
Ms Tham and her Filipino husband saw an opportunity to meet a need for transportation while also helping to lift some of the 18 million motorcycle riders in the country out of poverty.
“The Philippines is a place where there are a lot of things that can be improved. I feel that when I solve problems in the Philippines, the impact is much larger than if I were to solve problems in Singapore”, said Ms Tham.
A biker with Angkas can earn three times the minimum wage, which is roughly about US$10 (S$14), if he works for a full day.
Ms Tham said bikers become their own micro-entrepreneurs and she has seen them put their children through school and uplift the lives of their families.
The company is not making a profit yet because Ms Tham is more focused on ploughing back the cash to grow the business.
“There is always that balance between growth and profit. At this point, we still believe that there is a lot more growth”, she added.
Another firm that made the list was Malaysian dairy producer Farm Fresh for its efforts in sustainable farming.
Managing director Loi Tuan Ee said dairy farms can be harmful for the environment because the waste can pollute waters and their surroundings. Farm Fresh creates a circular economy where waste does not go into the environment but back into the ground to fertilise the grass, which is then used as feed for its cows.
Two months ago, Farm Fresh introduced “milk on tap” at Jaya Grocers in Kuala Lumpur, which allows customers to bring empty bottles to be filled at dispensers in the supermarket.
“For one dispenser, we can save about 7,000 to 8,000 plastic bottles. Imagine if we have 20 machines, we can save a few million bottles”, Mr Loi said.
Farm Fresh will roll out the “milk on tap” initiative to six more supermarkets in the country.
Besides its sustainable farming practices, Mr Loi said Farm Fresh has also taken steps to empower the community with its home dealer programme.
People are trained and then help Farm Fresh to sell its milk, earning about RM1,000 (S$300) to RM2,000 a month.
There are 2,000 home dealers around Malaysia, 95 per cent women. These dealers contributed almost about one third of Farm Fresh’s business revenues, Mr Loi said.