Singapore

Corporate Social Responsibility can be a game-changer

Published: 4:03 AM, August 30, 2013
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In his National Day message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about how Singapore must “reassess our position, review our direction and refresh our strategies to thrive in this new world”.

As a subset of the larger society, the business community can play a role to kick-start this process of reassessment, review and refreshing of strategies — necessary drivers for innovation and progress, and essential for human development, not only to the State, but also to the individual, civil society and enterprises.

Today, our lives are so entwined with the business community, with long hours spent at the workplace building our careers and reliance on corporations for everything from food to financing, electricity to technology.

As such, an enterprise’s influence on societal change, innovation and progress cannot be underestimated and it has great responsibilities on a variety of stakeholders, including employees and customers.

How can an enterprise leverage on creativity and innovation to engage their stakeholders and make it a competitive advantage?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the key.

CSR, seen through old-fashioned lenses, simply means “paying back to society” through charitable means. For many enterprises, it remains a “nice to have” or “add-on”, and to cynics, CSR is a way for an enterprise to improve its image, perception or reputation without doing anything more.

However, the CSR model has undergone an evolution in the last few years and CSR can now be a game-changer to create opportunities for many enterprises in the way they engage their employees, tap on their creativity and raise the level of innovation and productivity.

Most people know from experience that innovation and creativity cannot be born out of a simple work plan. You simply cannot order people to have ideas. What is needed to nurture creativity is a dedicated atmosphere and culture that can trigger individuals and crowds to question why they do what they do, to invest their efforts into the process and be proud to share the results in the end.

For years, companies have been collecting data from customers through surveys and questionnaires to understand their customer preferences, so that they can shape and market their products. But there is actually a huge reservoir of ideas and knowledge from within — the so-called “unconscious wisdom” of an organisation — that bears huge potential once it is understood and unlocked.

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