The Covid-19 pandemic has affected almost all sectors of the economy among which, the food and beverage sector has been especially hurt, no thanks to the circuit breaker measures which banned in-restaurant dining, and subsequently, a strict cap on group sizes and operating hours. 

However, this has not deterred PopeJai, a Thai restaurant chain cum social enterprise from integrating acts of good into their operations. Founded by Daniel Teh – a reformed gang member – the company looks to providing a safety net of sorts for individuals such as youth at risk or persons with disabilities who encounter difficulties securing employment. As such, a vast majority of its employees are individuals from marginalised or vulnerable backgrounds.

PopeJai’s contributions to society has been duly recognised. It has been named as a “Champion of Good 2020” by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Company of Good. This is the first time that the restaurant chain is being conferred this award.

“At PopeJai, we hope that our story will inspire other corporates [to see] that it is possible to be an inclusive and competitive enterprise in the marketplace [by having] a sustainable business model, while touching the lives of individuals from all walks of life,” says assistant marketing manager, Janelle Soh.

Another first-time “Champion of Good” is professional services network Ernst & Young (EY). What got the company this recognition was its EY Ripples programme which aims to “positively impact the lives of a billion people”. To facilitate this, the company has been working with impact entrepreneurs to curate innovative solutions to global problems, grooming the next generation of leaders and devising models on environmental sustainability.

Receiving this award is aligned with EY’s bigger purpose of building a better world, says Max Loh, EY’s managing director for Singapore and Brunei. With big changes starting with something small, he says EY will “amplify its impact by volunteering various community activities and contributing in both cash and kind”.

PopeJai and EY are among 74 organisations that have been recognised as Champions of Good this year. Of this, 23 Champions are first-time winners whom, like PopeJai and EY, were inspired to do good, despite the challenging business climate.

“By looking beyond conventional business goals, these Champions of Good have displayed resilience and adaptability in their fight to overcome the economic downturn and are setting the precedent in robust corporate citizenship for other stakeholders and industry peers to follow,” says NVPC chairman Mildred Tan.

Champions of Good are organisations that are exemplary in doing good, while being “multipliers by engaging their partners and stakeholders on a collaborative journey,” says NVPC. While the Champions make their contributions to society in different ways, they each exemplify the Company of Good’s four ‘I’ framework: investment, integration, institutionalisation and impact.

This year, there is a 20% increase in the number of Champions of Good, compared to the previous edition in 2018. With this, a total of 97 unique Champions have been recognised since the programme’s inception in 2017.

For 28 of this year’s champions, this marks the third year they have been recognised. Among these organisations is law firm Hogan Lovells. “The Champions of Good recognition has allowed us to enforce what we as a firm believe in when it comes to giving back to community. [It] also makes clear that we are part of something bigger; a wider movement across the Singapore community, fully supported by the Singapore Government and private organisations alike,” says Matthew Bousfield, Counsel at the firm.

See: NVPC, CXA aim to raise $1 mil for charity by donating unused employee benefits dollars

The company has been leveraging on this honour to strengthen its connections with other Company of Good members to share knowledge on how to foster giving within Singapore, adds Bousfield.

Third-time Champion of Good Maybank also been taking its title as a champion seriously. With a maxim that “strong communities are defined by their capacity to come together in times of need,” the bank strives to be a leader in engaging its networks of stakeholders to continue doing good, says country CEO and CEO of Maybank Singapore, John Lee.

To this end, the bank – which has been operating in Singapore for the past 60 years – is launching a new campaign that will match the funds raised in The President’s Challenge – Empowering for Life Fund. These funds will be generated towards helping individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to undergo skills upgrading and capacity building, with the view towards securing employment.

Trailblazers

The way Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat sees it, “all companies hope for good times, but true Champions make time for good”.

The pandemic and the resultant economic crisis this year has made doing good more important. And for doing so, this year’s Champions have been christened ‘trailblazers’, for their efforts in charting the business ecosystem towards a new future.

“Thank you for taking the lead and setting a good example for other companies to follow,” said Heng at the launch of the Champions of Good campaign on Nov 19. “You have shown that you can do good and do well at the same time. You have embodied the spirit of the Singapore Together movement, where everyone steps forward to play their part, strengthening our collective resolve to overcome this crisis,” he added.

With trailblazers like PopeJai, EY, Hogan Lovells and Maybank Singapore continuously doing good, in spite of the economic downturns, it seems that Singapore is well on its way to being a City of Good, and a nation that cares.

Visit https://www.companyofgood.sg/champions-of-good to find out who are the Champions of Good 2020 and register your interest for the next edition of Champions of Good.