When customers of D’Elegance International, a Singaporean lingerie brand, wanted to know what they could do with their preloved undergarments, the company was inspired to research on a solution that is in line with its vision to start a strong corporate giving culture.
It led them to launch the Uplift Project in 2016 – a bra-recycling project started in Australia that collects preloved or new bras and sends them to women in need.
D’Elegance’s director Peh Zhengyang, 30, says: “We supported the Uplift Project by coordinating the bra-recycling efforts here in Singapore. We also contributed our premises, time and skills to collect and store the bra donations.”
Guidance from the Company of Good (COG) Fellowship
Not long after the initiative took off, it ran into some challenges involving real costs to the business in terms of time, space and money. They include transporting the donations from different locations, handling enquiries from volunteers and donors, allocating warehouse and office space for storage, and paying for shipping costs.
“Faced with these issues, we had to answer a challenging question: Should we continue with this project? If so, would it be for purely altruistic reasons, or is there a business case for doing so? The Fellowship helped us to see that it was the latter,” he says.
Through the 10 sessions, the five-month programme aims to empower and develop top talents in various organisations by sharpening their business perspectives and building capabilities in leadership and corporate giving.
Mr Peh signed up to learn how to develop a better sustainable corporate giving practice that aligns with the business strategies at D’Elegance, and to interact with like-minded peers to share views on how companies can give in a more holistic manner.
“We also hoped that the Fellowship would equip us with the skills and knowledge necessary to become better leaders and influencers in our industry. The goal was to learn how we could engage with our stakeholders better and build meaningful long-term relationships with them,” he says.
Since then, D’Elegance has made improvements when it comes to creating sustained and impactful corporate giving.
With the skills, knowledge and tools that the Fellowship provided, it managed to manoeuvre the increasingly complex landscape of strategic corporate giving.
The local company has also gained greater brand awareness as customers visit their premises to donate their preloved undergarments and share about the initiatives via social media and word-of-mouth.
Mr Peh says: “More importantly, we see higher engagement among our employees and clients. This is because we now have more opportunities to interact with our employees and also our clients – both existing and potential – by involving them in our volunteering activities. This has helped us to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with them.”
“It creates a robust support system that enables everyone in the network to empower one another to contribute better, and in a more holistic manner,” he adds.
A new perspective on corporate giving
One of Mr Peh’s most memorable experiences during the programme was participating in a panel discussion on how to harness untapped opportunities for businesses in the community conducted by Professor David Chan, Director of Behavioural Sciences Institute at Singapore Management University.
"I remember the call-to-action made during the panel discussion. Professor Chan challenged us to make doing good a norm in Singapore. So much so that not doing good makes a person or organization a deviance,” says Mr Peh.
Mr Peh adds that it was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of other change makers.
“Everyone shared generously about the ups and downs of their corporate giving experience. I felt that we had created a safe space for learning from one another. This is also my biggest takeaway from the fellowship – knowing that we are not alone in this journey of giving."
Mr Peh feels that the Fellowship is ideal for businesses new to corporate giving and those aiming for long-term success, as research proves that socially responsible brands are more likely to outperform competitors.
“Giving not only builds a stronger brand image, it will also retain talent better because it creates a deeper connection between the company and its employees,” he expresses. “This connection also extends to clients, business partners and family members – not through what the company makes or sells, but through what it does to improve quality of life in the community.”
In addition, he believes that most family-owned or family-run businesses share the same long-term vision: to create value and wealth, not just for their descendants, but also for the society. Strategic and sustainable giving would definitely enable them to better achieve this vision.