CSR in Singapore

8 August 2016

Since independence, the Singapore government has established several regulations and codes of practices in the fields of corporate governance, industrial relations, safety standards, pollution control etc. and companies are expected to meet these requirements. This had led to the adoption of implicit CSR practices in Singapore companies, with a narrow emphasis on an explicit display of their practices. In such a case, businesses may be practicing CSR without realizing it. This is also a major reason why 60% of Singaporean companies are not aware of CSR.

Amongst the 27% of companies which are actually aware of and practicing CSR, their definition of it was “giving back to society” through philanthropy and volunteerism i. e. the Charity Principle of CSR. However in recent times efforts have been made to raise awareness about CSR, as well as promote companies to be explicit about their practices so as to reap the benefits of CSR (Thomas, Thomas, 2009). So in our further analysis, we will discuss the genuineness implicit and/or explicit CSR practices for companies in the retail and communications sectors.

CSR in Singapore Essay Example

Retail sector : We will be analyzing CSR practices by Charles & Keith and NTUC FairPrice. We acknowledge that FairPrice is a much larger company than the former; hence we will be evaluating the sincerity and relevance of the companies’ practices, not the scale and volume of their practices. Charles & Keith is reputed to be one of the most marketable fashion footwear brands in today’s international scheme. With respect to CSR it claims to place great importance on humanitarian issues, human excellence and environmental initiatives.

In 2012, Charles & Keith launched a nail polish called “Paint It pink” in support of Breast Cancer Foundation. They believed that this would be “the perfect product for every shoe lover and beauty junkie”. A part of the proceeds were donated to Breast Cancer Foundation, Singapore (“Paint it pink,” 2012). This is a clear case of enlightened self-interest, where the company engages in CSR practices for enhanced reputation and global community support. Although self-interest is not always criticized, in the case of Charles & Keith, the breast cancer

awareness program seems to focus more on selling “pretty products” rather than emphasizing on a disease that affects a significant proportion of the female population. It seems like the company has merely used the “We support Breast Cancer” tagline as a means of promoting a new product line. In 2013, Charles & Keith pledged to turn off non-essential lights in all retail stores on Earth Hour if the brand got 100,000 “likes” on a social networking site, wherein each “like” had to be supported by the promise that the individual would switch off lights at home as well (“Corporate social responsibility,” 2013).

Although this was a good way of spreading awareness about sustainable living, the company failed to be a leader and take the initiative to adopt greener practices as it promised to take action only if it got a minimum number of “likes”. It should have focused on serving as an example of what practices should be adopted, rather than promoting its brand image by getting more “likes”. Charles & Keith, therefore, displays a significant level of hypocrisy when it comes to its charitable activities. It seems to use social service as a tool of serving its own profit driven interests.

NTUC FairPrice is Singapore’s largest supermarket chain, and practices CSR through responsible retailing, community care, promoting a sustainable environment as well as creating a wonderful workplace. The company focuses on not only being “the best place to shop”, but also being the best corporate citizen. In 1983 FairPrice launched the Share-A-Textbook project and ever since its inception the company has collected $2 million textbooks and has managed to help 10,000 children save over $10 million in textbooks.

The company also provides its employees with 2 days of charity leave in a year, so as to promote volunteerism in community project (“Community care,” 2011). These are instances where FairPrice has undertaken philanthropic activities which have no association to its products. These practices have purely been taken up as a means to promote welfare of the underprivileged, support the general well-being of the public as well as contribute to national causes.

In 2009, FairPrice opened the first “Eco Store” which utilizes 100% bio-degradable shopping bags, has dedicated check outs for customers using their own bags, has store fixtures and fittings re-cycled from other stores, and has recycling stations for food waste (“Sustainable environment,” 2011) By doing so, the company took the initiative to bring out the change that everyone merely speaks about. Being the industry leader, its actions can lead to increased awareness as well as adoption of similar practices by its competitors, suppliers as well as customers.

In 2002, FairPrice introduced a Management Trainee program to develop the skills of young and promising employees. During the 6 months’ program, Management Trainees are exposed to two critical aspects of the FairPrice retail business and are given structured on-the-job training as well as cross-functional projects to widen their knowledge of the business (“Wonderful workplace,” 2011). FairPrice has hence put in considerable amount of efforts in developing its employees to their maximum potential, thereby giving them opportunities for personal growth.

The company’s actions reflect its concern for one of its most important stakeholders and its belief that CSR is not merely a marketing tool. NTUC FairPrice is a company that understands the very definition of CSR. It follows the Stewardship Principle thereby serving the needs of all groups that have a stake in it. It has embedded CSR into the core of its business, and has also explicitly made its stakeholders aware of its practices. Communications: We will be analyzing CSR efforts by Pacnet and SingTel. Pacnet is a Singapore based telecommunications service provider.

It focuses most of its CSR efforts towards creating a safe workplace for its employees and minimizing its impact on the environment. Pacnet claims to be environmentally responsible by adopting practices such as switching off lights when outside office hours, reducing heating/cooling needs, using temperature controls, providing a combination of fresh air and electrical cooling systems. It also contributes to the community by providing resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle (“Corporate social responsibility,” 2014).

The main issue with Pacnet is that it has focused most of its supposed CSR efforts on limited number of stakeholders and has failed to expand the scope of its responsibility to non-market stakeholders. Although it has successfully made its implicit practices explicit to society, these ordinary practices have been unnecessarily glorified thereby reflecting insincerity and hypocrisy in its efforts. SingTel, Singapore’s largest mobile network operator, focuses on corporate sustainability in the marketplace, environment, community and with the people.

In 2012 it launched Project Silverline, an initiative to provide senior citizens with smartphones donated by customers. The cell phones were installed with specially designed apps that help the elderly take better care of themselves and communicate easily with their family, thereby enabling them to keep up with this fast paced and technology driven world (“Project silverline,”). This initiative serves as an example of SingTel’s concern for public welfare.

It shows that the company recognizes that there is more to CSR than just donating money to the economically disadvantaged, but that it also involves reaching out to other disadvantaged communities. Project Silverline can successfully help in enriching the lives of a large section of Singapore’s neglected community. SingTel also addressed one of the growing concerns in today’s society – internet safety, by introducing a Family Protection application for computers and mobile internet filters so as to protect children from inappropriate online content as well as other threats.

Furthermore Optus, a subsidiary of SingTel, partnered with a Kids Helpline and provides lessons on cyberbullying so as to educate the youth about this issue (“Corporate sustainability,”). Although it charges a nominal fee for the app, this initiative is definitely another example of how SingTel recognizes the key issues faced by society and takes action on them. By doing so, the company has taken a step towards ensuring the well-being of its stakeholders and has also served national interest by curbing online crimes.

In SingTel, apart from the regular volunteering and fund raising, focus is placed on creating value for society by developing useful products for the general public as well as its customers. It has hence successfully adopted the stakeholder theory of the firm. As seen in the above examples, there is a presence of sincerity as well as hypocrisy when it comes to CSR in Singapore. Many companies use the Charity Principle CSR as an accessory while others label normal corporate activities as “socially responsible” ones so as to be a part of the trend.

However, there are a growing number of companies which recognize the need to serve its market as well as non-market stakeholders, and not only limit CSR to charitable activities. As awareness amongst stakeholders grow, the need to integrate CSR into the core of an organization’s business will increase and hence focus will be shifted from insincere philanthropy, to benefiting all sections of the society. Hence, CSR in Singapore has a great potential of being genuine, real and free from hypocrisy in the future.

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