Shifting gears for the good of the community

How Autobahn Motors general manager Gary Hong steers his company’s corporate giving strategy in a new direction

Mr Gary Hong (in white) during a Company of Good Fellowship session. PHOTO: NATIONAL VOLUNTEER & PHILANTHROPY CENTRE
Mr Gary Hong (in white) during a Company of Good Fellowship session. PHOTO: NATIONAL VOLUNTEER & PHILANTHROPY CENTRE

Luxury cars may be his forte, but Mr Gary Hong, who made headlines for coming up with the idea of a car vending machine several years ago, wants to use his ingenuity in other areas.

A meeting with several non-profit organisations through the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) inspired Mr Hong to play a more proactive role in giving back to the community.

“About two years ago, I met up with NVPC and was encouraged to apply for the Company of Good (CoG) Fellowship to upscale my knowledge on how to do good,” Mr Hong says.

“I met like-minded people from different organisations and enjoyed the whole learning journey as I gained better insight on giving back to the community.”

The CoG Fellowship is conducted over five months and is aimed at business professionals in Singapore to help them grow and better understand how their organisations can engage the community in more strategic, sustainable and impactful ways. This is done through a series of learning sessions, seminars and dialogues with senior leaders across people, public and private sectors, and the Fellowship culminates in an action project that allows Fellows to apply what they have learned to kickstart or improve on their company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Gaining new knowledge

Through the Fellowship, Mr Hong realised that philanthropy can be practised in many ways, not just in the form of monetary donations.

“Charity doesn't have to stop at just monetary donations for most corporate entities and individuals nowadays,” says Mr Hong. “Companies are looking into a more integrated practice of CSR and Creating Shared Value (CSV)."

Previously, Mr Hong has passively supported the community through one-off social engagements and sponsorships. Now, he realises that more can be done on a regular basis, and has increased his company’s social and environmental awareness by being more mindful in their day-to-day operations — for instance, monitoring the amount of resources used to be more energy efficient.

Setting his project in motion

A rendering of Mr Gary Hong's Ten Square project PHOTO: TEN SQUARE

With the help of another CoG Fellow, Mr Russ Neu from Social Collider, Mr Hong came up with an ambitious project to create a landmark of good at "Ten Square", located at 1 Short Street in Rochor. Through this project, Mr Hong aspires to rally and link the community at large through CSV for all stakeholders involved, and promote a sense of joy and fulfilment in giving back.

“We are trying to connect the dots between corporate, volunteers, non-profit organisations, social enterprises, students and the community by encouraging them to come together on a Sunday morning to experience sharing and caring festive activities and events,” says Mr Hong.

With Mr Neu’s assistance and experience as a social entrepreneur, Mr Hong will be holding his first social event under "Ten Square" with several organisations and partners from different sectors. Its first public event will be held on Grandparents Day on Nov 24. Some of the planned activities include performances, mass exercises, engagement booths manned by participating social enterprises, and a classic car showcase.

And this event is just a stepping stone for him. In time, Mr Hong hopes to not only reconnect with the community and foster a sense of togetherness, but also to influence more like-minded organisations, non-profit organisations and volunteers to develop more impactful and innovative “do good together” activities beyond the event. Ultimately, he hopes to foster a more giving community spirit in Singapore.

A new learning experience

Through a new-found understanding of what corporate giving can be, Mr Hong hopes to inspire other local businesses to take up the challenge of furthering their understanding of CSR so that they can contribute more to the community.

“I wish to encourage the leaders and teams who are managing the role of CSR and doing good to explore the possibility of co-creating and co-inspiring organisations across all areas to do good together and support similar causes,” says Mr Hong.

“Exploring the opportunity to leverage on each other’s strengths can create more impactful shared value engagements. The more people can start to come together to collaborate and create good stories, the more wisdom can be collected, so that we can lead more meaningful lives.”