39 SMEs lauded for giving back to community amid pandemic

Palo IT chief people and culture officer Jessica Dourcy and Samsui Supplies & Services director Ang Kian Peng, whose organisations are among 112 recognised as Champions of Good. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The turbulence and uncertainty of the past two years led many businesses to step up to the plate, and 39 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were commended for giving back to the community on Thursday, a 77 per cent increase from 22 SMEs in 2020.

They are among the 112 organisations recognised as Champions of Good by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) for making a positive impact on the community.

The increase in the number of Champions reflects the growing efforts of organisations here to make doing good an integral part of their business, NVPC said.

Software development company Palo IT, a first-time Champion of Good, holds workplace diversity as one of its core values, and aims to provide more representation for women in the male-dominated tech industry.

With women making up 34 per cent of its staff, it is still a far cry from the 50-50 ratio it is aiming for, said its chief people and culture officer Jessica Dourcy. Currently, women generally make up only 23 per cent to 29 per cent of the tech workforce.

She said the company planned to achieve its target by partnering with education institutions to inspire young women to join Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programmes, ensure fair and unbiased recruitment processes, have better minority representation, and offer more flexibility for their employees.

The company also helps underprivileged youth by supporting initiatives like providing access to technical and vocational training in the digital sector.

NVPC's Corporate Giving Study published earlier this year found that two-thirds of businesses engaged in corporate giving despite tough economic conditions, up from 50 per cent five years ago.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who attended Thursday's ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, said it was no surprise that corporate giving increased during the pandemic.

He said a Pew Research Centre survey showed Singapore was one of the very few countries where trust and unity are higher now than before the pandemic.

He said: "Today, we are in a better position than before. But we also know that the pressure and strain on Singaporeans will continue to grow, especially in a more volatile and turbulent world."

He added that the country faces an uncertain economic outlook with rising inflation imposing hardship on both households and businesses. The region is also more volatile, with rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and China affecting trade, finance and investments.

"If we are to get through and navigate this new world, we will need to sustain that same spirit of collective responsibility that got us through Covid - with the Government, employers and workers all doing their part to build a better Singapore together."

He said the Government will continue to ensure an open and attractive environment for companies to thrive. But companies also need to do their part as responsible employers and strengthen commitments to their workers through investments in training, paying them well and adopting inclusive hiring practices.

He added that the ongoing Forward Singapore exercise will continue to engage different groups and take in feedback on what more can be done to forge a new social compact.

Samsui Supplies and Services, which was conferred Champion of Good for the fourth time this year, has equipped inmates and people with disabilities with food and beverage skills since 2017 and 2019 respectively. It runs two central kitchens in Changi Prison and the Enabling Village.

The food is sent daily to places like nursing homes and welfare organisations at a low cost.

Its director, Mr Ang Kian Peng, said: "It is important for businesses, of whatever size, to see it as their corporate responsibility to fulfil social needs. Only then can we, as a country and a society, progress."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.