Being a socially responsible business today has become complicated, literally. Whether you like to call it Marc Benioff’s “compassionate capitalism”, John Mackay’s “conscious capitalism”, Professor Porter’s “shared value capitalism” or simply the good old “corporate philanthropy”, weaving one’s efforts to change the world for the better into our business strategy is increasingly gaining currency with young business owners.
From our first billable project, 5% of the profit is kept aside for causes that we believe can help the needy communities of South East Asia in creating a better future for themselves and their families.
With every project delivered, we would like to grow the kitty bank until we have substantial “dry powder” to start a scholarship to send deserving youngsters for English classes first, before sending the promising ones to culinary or hospitality schools where they can learn a trade for themselves.
Some philanthropists give laptops, pencils or a library. We would like to give every deserving recipient an English dictionary first and send them off for English classes whilst paying them a small wage to work part time in one of restaurants we have created. The reality is that the language of our business is English and one cannot go on to be a waiter or a chef without mastering this medium. With the proper language skills, they can then go on to learn how to cook or wait properly in a hospitality institution.
Our travels to countries like Yangon and Saigon have showed us how immensely blessed we are in Singapore. When we see the kids running around bare footed inside the Yangon Central Railway Station, or the elder sister cradling the baby brother at 2am in the morning to peddle chewing gums on the streets of Saigon, we are often tempted to give them money, and many times, we do that. But this is mere charily, food for the soul if you will.
Naively or not, we want to be able to not just give them a dollar or two but to give them a chance to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”
I believe that when philanthropy is done well, it reduces the necessity for acts of sympathy or charity, and we would like to make a small difference to our part of the world whilst allowing ourselves the privilege of doing our work with a greater sense of fulfilment and purpose.