Partnerships and Purpose are Key to Business Transformation: Corporate Giving Study 2021

By Jennifer Wee  /
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  • 15% increase in the level of corporate giving during the pandemic, specifically by businesses that did well
  • COVID-19 has spurred more organisations to align their giving objectives to their core values and purpose, a 10% increase from CGS 2017
  • As corporate giving and purpose grow in importance for businesses, the development of the National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose is timely

Singapore, 11 April 2022 – Businesses led in contributions towards the community with a 15% increase corporate giving through philanthropy, volunteering and advocacy from 2017. Of those that gave more, 23% of businesses that did well during COVID-19, specifically in the Finance & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors, increased their giving over the same period.

These were amongst several key findings published in the Corporate Giving Study (CGS) 2021, a national study that examines the state of corporate giving in Singapore. It also makes recommendations to improve corporate giving via policy making and strategy development across the government, corporate, and non-profit organisation (NPO) stakeholder groups.

COVID-19 has left many companies reeling, but some businesses which saw growth chose to continue doing good by helping others in a time when many in the community are struggling. This serves as a heartening reminder that organisations can in fact deepen their corporate giving and societal impact by discovering their purpose, and the development of the National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose by NVPC presents a timely opportunity for us to support more organisations in this endeavour.

“The pandemic has shown how the well-being of business and society is tightly interwoven and deeply interdependent. We hope this study will provide a new lens through which businesses should view their purpose and how they can create shared value with their stakeholders, and better contribute to the greater good while staying resilient and profitable.”, said Mr Seah Chin Siong, Chairman of NVPC.

Key Findings and Opportunities

#1: During the pandemic, businesses reassessed their giving strategies by aligning their giving objectives with core values

CGS 2021 revealed that while COVID-19 caused disruption to our economy, it also presented opportunities for businesses to re-evaluate their role in society, rethink existing business practices and operations, as well as reimagine ways to integrate corporate giving into their business model. To this end, the study found a 10% increase in organisations’ corporate giving objectives being aligned with the company values (54% in 2021 vs 44% in 2017).

The increase in strategic alignment may suggest that there is a growing movement towards companies finding their purpose in giving and in society, and this study offers recommendations to help organisations embark upon or continue their giving journeys.

#2: Mindset shift is required for businesses to see the value of investing in ESG

In an ideal scenario, businesses were only willing to allocate a third of their resources to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) priorities, and only 14% of respondents agreed that their businesses had done well in contributing towards society. As we head towards a K-shaped recovery, businesses that did well during the pandemic can continue amplifying their giving efforts, while those that were negatively impacted need not necessarily give less if they identify creative ways in which they can contribute.

Advisor to the study Associate Professor Eugene Tan from the Yong Pung How School of Law, Singapore Management University, says “It is important for organisations to shift their mindsets to view ESG requirements and expectations as a vital long-term investment given the interdependence of businesses and society. NPOs are valuable partners in this ecosystem, not mere passive receivers of giving.”

#3: The ability to do good goes beyond traditional giving and creates opportunities for diverse partnerships.

CGS 2021 found that 75% of businesses conducted at least one form of corporate giving last year, either by giving, or institutionalising and integrating giving within their business operations. It also found that 66% of givers have integrated giving into their business functions. Beyond simple cash donations, corporate giving has expanded to include other ways of giving, such as donations-in-kind (+13%), skill-based pro-bono services (+11%) and advocacy (+10%).

CGS 2021 has unearthed several positive trends and opportunities. Amongst them is an increase in partnerships based on stakeholders’ strengths being formed. This pivot highlights the opportunity for NPOs to address the misconception that they are passive receivers – but are instead meaningful partners who add value to businesses to bring about greater collective impact.

#4: Sustained corporate giving enables businesses to derive consistent value creation and enhanced relationships with employees and customers.

Businesses should move beyond reactive giving and plan corporate giving as they would for their business planning. This would include having corporate giving as part of businesses’ formal budget planning and strategic objectives. According to the study, 1 in 2 businesses gave on an ad-hoc basis, with the majority (84%) remaining undecided on their corporate giving budget prior to the start of the financial year (FY).

By creating plans to give and employing metrics to measure their impact, businesses will be able to derive the total impact of their giving initiatives and use the information to make more informed decisions on corporate giving in future. When the value of doing good is measured and recognised, there will also be greater support from employees, customers and business partners across the value chain.

Key to driving this is strong leadership support. The study found that the critical difference between companies with high levels of corporate giving and those without lies in the interest demonstrated by the CEO and senior management in corporate giving. More than 60% of companies cite senior management as being responsible for both proposing and approving corporate giving initiatives.

Launch of National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose in January 2023

NVPC aims to cultivate a future where every organisation in Singapore is purpose-driven and strives to make a positive impact on society across environmental, human, social and economic dimensions.

At present, NVPC is working closely with the members of the SG Together Alliance for Action on Corporate Purpose (AfA-CP), supported by the Singapore Business Federation Foundation (SBFF) and Ministry of Culture, Communication & Youth (MCCY) to co-design and co-develop the National Framework and Blueprint on Corporate Purpose. This is the first step towards establishing a shared definition and vision of what corporate purpose means in the Singapore context, where businesses can be a force for good in support of the SG Cares movement.

The framework and blueprint will provide clarity and consensus on the principles, practices, and indicators pertaining to corporate purpose. It will also serve as a roadmap for companies to implement and track their progress as purpose-driven organisations in priority areas and provide recommendations on policy changes. With the framework in place, corporates – regardless of size – can then select the best option with which to begin their corporate purpose journey, accompanied by comparable metrics to track where they are at along the journey.

“We have seen that many companies want to do good, but some might not know where to begin or how to create the impact they desire with the resources they have. NVPC and Company of Good is committed to helping businesses bridge their corporate giving strategies with a greater purpose and in so, find their North Star. When people, organisations and leaders come together for the greater good, we can make this new normal one that embraces and uplifts all stakeholders in society as we become the City of Good.”, says Mr Tony Soh, Deputy CEO, NVPC.

To find out how you can deepen your organisation’s corporate giving journey, visit companyofgood.sg/corporatepurpose.