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Speech by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at Champions of Good 2018 Conferment Luncheon on Friday, 16 November 2018, at the Ritz-Carlton Singapore

16 Nov 2018
Mrs Mildred Tan,
Chairman, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

Mrs Theresa Foo,
Chairman, Singapore Business Federation Foundation

Champions of Good,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon

1. I’m happy to join you today to celebrate the Champions of Good. I was at this event for the inauguration last year, and it’s good to be back again.

2. It was not so long ago when we celebrated SG50. Next year, we will be commemorating the Bicentennial anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore. It is timely to reflect how our forefathers survived the early years of hardship and difficult times by exemplifying the “Kampung Spirit” of caring, and watching out for one another. They worked together to build the Singapore we have today.

a. We must carry on this “Kampung Spirit”. In many of the conversations we have had with the public, Singaporeans shared their aspirations to build a caring society and strengthen our sense of togetherness.

b. I believe we can achieve this, if all of us – individuals, non-profit organisations, corporates, and the Government – work together and help those in need. 

c. In this respect, corporates have an integral and multiplier role to play in our community as they can offer their expertise and resources, and mobilise their employees to create impactful and sustainable corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. 

3. The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, or NVPC, and its partners such as the Singapore Business Federation Foundation have been working hard to catalyse the corporate giving movement. 

a. The Company of Good programme, run by NVPC, was launched two years ago for corporates to build capabilities, collaborate with one another, and create impactful and sustainable corporate giving efforts. To date, more than 1,200 corporates have benefitted from the programme.

b. The Champions of Good initiative builds on this movement to recognise deserving corporates and inspire greater corporate giving. 45 exemplary Champions of Goods were conferred at last year’s inauguration, and when I spoke at that event, I encouraged more corporates to follow their examples and create new ways of giving. Hence, it is heartening to witness how NVPC and its partners have continued to build on the good work, and grow our pool of Champions and advocates. Today, we are giving out another 60 awards. 

4. I commend our Champions of Good, who come from different industries, and range from large corporations to Small Medium Enterprises, and public agencies. They are recognised not only for their contributions to non-profit organisations but for also inspiring and working with other partners to make a greater impact. 

a. This year, both the number of applications and Champions have increased by about 30%. This is a positive momentum. Businesses are stepping up in their corporate giving efforts.

b. Out of the 60 Champions this year, 31 were recognised last year, and continued their good work, and have been recognised again. 29, almost half, are new Champions! Congratulations to all our Champions! I trust you will continue to do good work, catalyse and implement many more giving initiatives.

Giving as a Collective Effort

5. As our population ages, the needs of our seniors will rise. Families and our society will need more resources to take care of our seniors. The Government will continue to strengthen support for our seniors, especially those with less resources of their own. But the needs are so large, that this would not be enough.  We will need everyone, individuals, non-profit organisations and corporates, to bring in their skills and expertise, and their hearts, to actively work with our seniors, especially those who are vulnerable.

6. Giving needs to be a whole-of-society effort. We have made progress and there is opportunity to do more.

a. Singapore is ranked as the 7th most generous countries in the World Giving Index 2018, according to the British-based Charities Aid Foundation. Our ranking this year was much better than our previous years’ performance, where we were ranked 30th and 28th in 2017 and 2016 respectively. I am glad, not because we want to chase rankings, but because it shows our people care.

b. Based on NVPC’s Corporate Giving Survey 2017, one in two corporates surveyed had engaged in some form of giving in the past financial year, be it philanthropy, volunteerism or other forms such as advocacy and procurement from non-profit organisations. There is high potential among non-giving corporates to give, as 2 in 3 said they were keen to start. We can close the gap between aspiration and action if we continue to support one another in our giving efforts. 

7. Let us tap on this willingness of our people to give, to mobilise everyone to help build a caring society, in Singapore and around the world. To catalyse discussion, I suggest three ways we can do so:

a. First, we should continue to build a giving culture in our young people and organisations;

b. Second, corporates can work together in closer partnerships; and

c. Third, the Government will continue to support and catalyse community efforts.

Building a Giving Culture 

8. First, we should step up our effort to build a giving culture in Singapore.

a. Let’s cultivate the spirit of caring and giving in all our children. Our schools are seeking to imbue in our students the values of caring and sharing. This will lay the foundation for building a caring society.

i. The Values In Action (VIA) programme encourages student ownership and student initiative in caring for others. Students are encouraged to identify needs in our community, understand the issues associated with these needs, and initiate action among their peers to make a difference and improve the lives of others. They also reflect on their experiences and the values they have put into action. This helps to reinforce their learning and internalise values. Through this programme, we aim to develop students as socially responsible citizens who contribute to the building of stronger communities.

ii. We hope that they will continue to initiate and contribute to improving the community long after they leave school, be it in their personal lives or in their work organisations.  

b. Organisations can nurture an internal giving culture so that there is a supportive environment for sustainable giving. 

i. Corporates can encourage and empower their employees to take charge and be the catalyst of change themselves. For example, some of you allow room for employee-led initiatives to grow, by building a team of motivated staff volunteers and supporting staff-initiated CSR activities. This will ensure greater employee engagement and staff ownership in the CSR initiatives.

ii. Similarly, corporate leaders’ emphasis and active participation in CSR activities are important to lead the giving movement. Results from NVPC’s 2017 Corporate Giving Survey have shown that senior management’s interest was a strong motivator for a firm’s volunteerism and philanthropy movement. Corporate giving also increased when the firm’s management communicated support and personally participated in giving initiatives. 

Fostering Closer Partnerships

9. Second, I hope to see corporates work together in closer partnerships with one other, and with non-profit organisations.

a. Businesses and non-profit organisations can form partnerships to achieve better outcomes, and sustain these partnerships. Non-profit organisations can restructure volunteer roles to make it more suitable for corporate volunteers, while meeting their own needs. At the same time, corporates can contribute to the partnership by encouraging and supporting their staff in their volunteering efforts.

b. Corporates can also work together with other business partners for greater reach and impact. Large corporates often have more established CSR practices or capabilities that smaller corporates may not have. At the same time, smaller corporates can also bring new insights and networks, to build upon the CSR practices of larger corporates. 

c. We can learn from our Champions. Many of you have proactively collaborated with other stakeholders, be it clients, business partners, non-profit organisations or the Government. You have taken the responsibility to support the needy and vulnerable, and shown that with collective efforts, we can better address these needs. You focus on doing what you are good at, and bring others on board to complement your efforts. Together, we can achieve more with less resources.

The Government to Play a Supportive and Enabling Role

10. Third, the Government will continue to do its part to support community efforts and amplify ground-up initiatives. 

a. Building a caring and giving society requires each of us to play a part. This is why we launched the SG Cares movement last year to spread the “Kampung Spirit” and joy of giving through active volunteerism, bottom-up initiatives and everyday acts of kindness.

b. The Government has been providing support to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism. We have extended various schemes in Budget 2018. For instance, to support corporates which are providing pro-bono services, and incurring cost in the process, we introduced the Business and Institution of a Public Character Partnership Scheme, or BIPs. It enables corporates to defray some of these costs, such as wages. I am glad to know that some of our Champions here have participated in BIPS. I hope more corporates can make use of BIPS, to support IPCs.

c. To help our seniors meet their medical expenses, we introduced the Pioneer Generation Package in 2014. We are now working out a Merdeka Generation Package to honour those who have contributed to building Singapore, and to support their medical expenses.

d. I strongly encourage all of us to collaborate and support one another through the various schemes, platforms and partnerships. We can contribute back in our own meaningful ways. Even small acts of kindness can make an impact to someone’s life.


11. To conclude, we should continue to build a giving culture in our young and in organisations. We should also seek ways to forge more sustained partnerships. Corporates can foster closer partnerships with one another and non-profit organisations. When individuals join corporates to combine our efforts and capabilities, we can achieve greater impact. At the same time, the Government will continue to play an enabling role to support and catalyse community efforts. Together, we can forge a more caring society.

12. Once again, I commend NVPC and her partners for your very meaningful and impactful contributions. 

13. As we confer 60 Champions of Good today, I hope more can join us to share ideas, learn from each other and collaborate, to make a great impact on our society and around the world. 

14. Thank you very much.