Companies looking to implement not-for-profit initiatives for the betterment of the community are slowly going beyond just ad hoc philanthropic acts.
They are instead committing themselves to various social and environmental causes with sustained, long-term initiatives under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
Aun Koh, the acting head for corporate community investment for the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), said that corporate donations have always been important for charities, but more and more, visionary corporate leaders are looking to invest in more meaningful and sustainable ways of involving their people in giving back to the communities around them, and they have been offering their resources and expertise.
Two reasons explain the emergence of this trend: Firstly, companies are fast acknowledging the sound economics of deep community participation, and so are tailoring their CSR activities to meet business objectives.
Investors and business clients now scrutinise corporations' CSR portfolios, and expect to see a measure of contribution back to society, thus reinforcing the notion that good CSR is indeed good business.
Secondly, CSR programmes can also achieve intangible results; it can burnish a company's image and appeal to customers and to its employees, say observers The Business Times spoke to.
For example, employees of accounting firm Deloitte spend time at NorthLight Secondary School, where they impart basic career skills to the school's academically weak students. This work outside the office has translated into higher staff satisfaction at the firm and, by extension, better work performance.
Max Loh, EY's ASEAN and Singapore managing partner, said: "The ways companies conduct their corporate responsibility programmes reflect the organisation's values, attracting stakeholders and investors who share similar beliefs. CSR programmes also provide opportunities for employee engagement."
Not all companies view their corporate-citizenship efforts through a purely monetary lens. There is room for altruism.
Accenture's "Skills to Succeed" programme, for example, aims to equip 700,000 people with career and business-building skills by next year. This drive was borne out of the desire to help disadvantaged communities escape dire poverty.
Some companies even take responsibility for the negative social and environmental impact their businesses have created.
At StarHub, for example, CSR entails helping to strengthen social cohesion in disadvantaged families, on the grounds that the telecommunications company may have played an indirect role in eroding ties among family members with its mobile phone subscription packages.