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Opening address by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at the Inaugural Champions of Good event, at The Shangri-La Hotel

07 Nov 2017

Mrs Mildred Tan

Chairman, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)


Mrs Theresa Foo, Chairman

Singapore Business Federation Foundation (SBFF)


Companies and Champions of Good

And all our Partners, Supporters, and Friends


  1. Good afternoon. What a pleasure it is to join everyone today to celebrate our Champions of Good.


  1. To begin, let me share with you an experience I had from 2015, our Golden Jubilee year.
    1. That year, we created the SG50 Celebration Fund, to support ideas from Singaporeans from all walks of life, to celebrate SG50 in ways that were most meaningful to them. 
    2. Many stepped forward with a diverse array of ideas.  Some of these ideas came from groups of friends and colleagues from within companies.  Significantly, these ideas were not just about holding their own celebrations, but also about celebrating SG50 with other groups, such as those with disabilities, or making contributions that would benefit others.
    3. This left an impression on us. It showed us that, when we have the wish and drive to do something for others, a simple spark can catalyse great ideas and action from our people, our community groups, and our companies.


  1. Towards the end of the SG50 year, I moved from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Finance.  I stayed in touch with many of the people I got to know through the SG50 Celebration Fund. 
    1. As 2016 came along, and I started work on my first Budget, I wanted to keep up the spirit of celebrating Singapore, and doing so as a people, even after SG50. 
      1. There are many competing demands on our limited resources, not least the need to keep building vital infrastructure, and our growing social and healthcare needs with an ageing population.
      2. All the same, I asked the team at MOF, let’s work on ways, modest ways, that we can recognise people’s wish to contribute, and let’s encourage and catalyse more action.
    2. So, in that Budget, we were able to introduce some measures and commit funds to support corporate giving initiatives, including NVPC’s Company of Good programme. 


  1. The NVPC launched the Company of Good programme last year to “make goodness the business of every organisation” – I fully agree with this worthwhile mission.
    1. Next, they introduced the Company of Good Fellowship and Business Leaders Network to help companies learn from one another and build up a corporate community dedicated to giving.
    2. And today, we take the next step forward in corporate giving with the inauguration of the Champions of Good.  
    3. It is a pleasure to witness NVPC and your partners turn a simple spark into a movement. 


Celebrating our Champions of Good as Catalysts of Change


  1. The Champions of Good aim to encourage a next level in our Singaporean tradition of corporate giving.  It is worth taking a moment to reflect on the place of corporates in our wider giving landscape.
    1. Private sector players have traditionally given, in many fields, ranging from sports, arts and culture, to the environment, and vulnerable groups. Take a look around us: our hospitals, universities, and museums are beneficiaries from generous corporate giving.
    2. The government has played the role of supportive partner and enabler to companies, groups, and individuals seeking to give. 
      1. We initiated programmes such as SG Cares and the SHARE programme – to catalyse bottom-up community efforts and partnerships, and to amplify contributions.
      2. And we will keep working on the most effective, meaningful ways to build a sustainable ecosystem of giving. 
    3. As you can see, each of us has an important part to play in giving.  None of us can go at this alone. Government’s efforts alone will not be sufficient nor sustainable. A caring and inclusive home for all must be built by all of us together.


  1. Today, we celebrate the Champions of Good as powerful catalysts of change and meaningful contributors to our community. We recognise them for their initiative to lead, connect, and influence fellow companies in corporate giving.


  1. I want to commend all 45 Champions of Good, who come from a wide variety of industries and range from large corporations to SMEs. This is a good start, and I hope you will share your causes, practices, and encouragement with your partners and peers, so that we have many more Champions of Good in the years to come.


  1. When we look at our Champions, we see that:
    1. Whether you are an established MNC or a young SME; a traditional professional-service provider or a disruptive tech start-up, you can play a part in giving.
    2. Whether you give of your professional knowledge, your employees’ time, or even involve users of your services to do good, you can make a difference.
    3. In fact, there are as many ways of giving as there are types of companies and services. Each gift, and each mode of giving, has meaning, both for the recipient and the giver.
    4. Ultimately, behind each Champion of Good, is a business culture that values, and supports, the unique contribution and good that each of you can bring to our community. This bodes well not only for volunteerism and philanthropy, but for each company’s own employee engagement and business model. 


  1. Our Champions of Good serve as inspiration to us to continually raise the bar in growing and sustaining a vibrant giving landscape in Singapore.
    1. We welcome more corporates to follow in their examples and to create your own unique models of giving.
    2. I encourage our Champions of Good to continue the good work, to spearhead more creative initiatives and partnerships, and to share with others your expertise and advocacy in doing good. There are many lessons we can learn from our Champions of Good and I encourage our corporates to work together in multiplying the good you can do for Singapore and the world.


  1. NVPC and the SBF Foundation too deserve recognition for the important roles they have played in catalysing corporate giving.
    1. I would like to commend NVPC for your vision for and leadership in the Company of Good programme, and for seeking out and celebrating the best examples of corporate givers.  These efforts go a long way in building a lasting culture of giving.  With NVPC offering ideas and opportunities, I look forward to seeing corporate giving, indeed giving from all sources, continue to grow and flourish.
    2. I would also like to acknowledge the SBF Foundation for working with NVPC to encourage companies and bring them together in partnership.
      1. I was just at the SBF’s Future Economy Conference last week, when we spoke of the leadership role that SBF can and must play as the apex business chamber.  What SBF Foundation works on, including on the Company of Good programme with NVPC, is a good example of leadership to build companies’ relevant capabilities, to translate these capabilities into lasting social and commercial impact, and to bring different partners together for a common cause.  I believe we can all learn from your good work and I look forward to more of your efforts in these areas.


The Journey Forward with Corporate Giving


  1. Moving forward, as economic and social realities evolve, how and what we give to make a positive and lasting impact on lives will change too.  Today, doing good is more than just a good business practice; it is now an integral part of how we engage our stakeholders and inspire employees.  Corporate givers in particular can lead the way in shaping and propelling how we contribute to society.


  1. What does this mean for corporate givers?  If I may offer a couple of suggestions: Innovate and Collaborate.
    1. Innovate. Businesses can use core business competencies in developing creative solutions to problems in our community.
      1. There are several needs in our community which businesses, leveraging on their unique business competencies, can help to address. By designing innovative services and products to address these needs, the community gains, but companies also benefit as more people learn about their product and the company’s values.
    2. And what do I mean when I say Collaborate? Businesses can also consider how they can work with partners, corporate and non-corporate alike, to broaden the reach and impact of their corporate giving initiatives.
      1. Larger corporates often have the capabilities and an established corporate giving framework that younger start-ups may lack.  At the same time, smaller and newer enterprises can potentially engage different market segments, and also learn and build upon the CSR best practices of larger corporates.


Growing a Caring and Inclusive Society Together


  1. Someone shared a quote with me recently that made me think about what we seek to do with programmes like the Company of Good and Champions of Good. 
    1. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
    2. I would add to that: We make a home by what we grow.
      1. We strive for a good living, we aspire to a good life, and we also hope for a good home – a caring and inclusive society that gives us meaning and belonging. 
      2. And this caring and inclusive home – we make by what we grow. 
    3. It does not suffice just to give once, or a few times.  The more meaningful gift is the gift that grows our combined ability to be caring and resilient, to act on and build upon our innate desire to contribute, and our unique strengths that can benefit others.
      1. This applies especially for corporate givers, who can bring their resources, networks, and capabilities to bear to help transform or amplify the work of individuals or organisations dedicated to giving.


  1. Our goal with giving must therefore be about growing – growing our combined compassion, capacity, and connections for giving.  I hope that the passion and inspiration of our Champions will spread throughout the business community and spur others to do more for Singapore. With a little kindness and generosity from every one of us, we can grow a community of giving, and build a caring and inclusive home for all.


  1. Thank You.