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Sustainable Philanthropy Matters: The SDGs in SG
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Opinion

Sustainable Philanthropy Matters: The SDGs in SG

John Doe
John Doe
poster about sustainable philanthropy: the SDGs in SG

In this three-part series ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’, we explore the surprisingly intimate relationship between philanthropy and sustainability and how the practice of one can in fact, lead to the advancement of the other. Both of these issues are close to our hearts here at CFS and we want to share how our philanthropy can help preserve our planet, our communities and our future.

In our previous article, we took a brief look at the history of philanthropy and sustainability. Here, we will examine the relatively newer Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their paramount relevance and importance today. The SDGs were adopted as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Additionally, the SDGs could and should serve as a guide to the next steps in Singapore’s social, environmental and even philanthropic evolution. Donors can create a greater impact with their giving by ensuring alignment with the SDGs.

Introducing the SDGs

When it comes to the 3P’s, People has long been seen as the more important P as compared to Planet (let us not talk about Profit!).

Of the eight Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 by the UN, only one was environment-related. Even in the first-ever Global Philanthropy Report, published relatively recently in 2018 by the Hauser Institute for Civil Society (Johnson, 2018), education was the most popular cause of choice for foundations around the world, with 35% focusing on at least one aspect. Health and social welfare also featured largely as priorities. Only one region, Latin America, had environment and animals as a focus and even then, at only 23.8%.

The 17 SDGs, birthed in 2015 at COP 21 in Paris, catapulted the idea of sustainability into everyone’s consciousness in vivid colour. It illustrated that sustainability encompasses many facets of society as well as the natural environment, with an infinitely long-term view of providing for future generations.At first glance, many of the SDGs seem to talk about social aspects anyway, but the beauty of the SDGs is that each goal is inextricably linked to several others. For instance, an initiative ensuring that farmers get paid decent wages while tapping on technology to grow food that is organic and pesticide-free aligns to SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 12.

SDGs in Singapore

Delving deeper into the 169 targets of the SDGs, one realises that quite a few of them may not seem to apply to Singapore. As a highly developed and modern country with a high GDP, 100% literacy rate and no real primary industries like mining, forestry and agriculture, we can claim to have already met many of the SDGs’ targets.However, it is the spirit of the SDGs at which we should look, and it is then that we realise that there is definitely more that we could do.

Let us examine SDG 1, No Poverty. Singapore claims that the first two indicators do not apply as we have no poverty line, national or international (Department of Statistics Singapore, 2021). Yet, it is clear that cases of relative poverty still exist in Singapore (Ng, 2018). The problem can be simply explained by the high cost of living in Singapore (ECA International, 2021), our high Gini coefficient (World Population Review 2021) and the majority of the households having an income below the national average (Dayani, 2021) but the fact remains that the problem exists, and we need to address it within the Singaporean context.

Thankfully, besides the Government’s efforts to reduce social inequality (Lai, 2019), Singapore has had a long history of philanthropists (Ooi, 2019) who have seen to the needs of their country’s people through their generosity. Fast forward to today, and even the man on the street can be a philanthropist, with easy, direct access to many charity channels and donation portals online.

Everyone Has a Role

Ultimately, this democratisation of philanthropy is a good thing. Accomplishing the vision of “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”, requires the concerted achievement of each and every SDG.

Given the intricate interconnectivity of the SDGs, tackling any project that aims to deal with them would be a daunting task if attempted alone. Just as social issues are complex problems requiring multifaceted approaches by multiple stakeholders, so it is with the SDGs.

The 17th SDG, Partnership for the Goals, actually posits that we all have a role to play. Governments and agencies can only do so much. It is recognised that corporations and individuals alike all have responsibilities towards achieving the environmental growth and strengthening of Singapore (and the planet too, come to think of it). As the late philosopher McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

Eyes on the Prize

In the previous article of this series, we shared that everyone, whether individual, group or organisation, had reasons to give. It is important to avoid whitewashing or greenwashing (basically, paying only lip service about being philanthropic). Giving back to the community and/or the environment should not be about meeting reporting requirements or ingratiating oneself with the local people.

It can, admittedly, be tricky juggling one’s desire to do a particular act of charity with what said charity might actually want to achieve, or even what the eventual care recipients might really require. With over a decade championing philanthropy in Singapore, CFS deeply understands this need for balance between the desires and objectives of the donors, charities and care recipients. Yes, even if those care recipients are the flora and fauna around us. Visit here to find out how you can add value for People and Planet, today and tomorrow.

To learn more about CFS’s Corporate Sustainability efforts, please read more here.

To read the other 2 stories in the ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’ series, please click below:

This article was written by Adam, a Principal Consultant with CFS and an experienced sustainability practitioner. He is an advocate for sustainable practices. His colleagues are still wondering how his monthly household utilities bill is only around $70.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.

References

  1. Department of Statistics Singapore. 2021. Government of Singapore. Singapore. https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/sdg/goal-1
  2. Ng, Cindy. 2018. Commentary: So this is what the face of poverty looks like. Channel News Asia. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/commentary/this-is-what-the-face-of-poverty-inequality-looks-like-804881
  3. ECA International. 2021. Singapore drops in global Cost of Living rankings, but remains among top 10 most expensive locations. https://www.eca-international.com/news/june-2021/singapore-drops-in-global-cost-of-living-rankings
  4. World Population Review. 2021. Gini Coefficient by Country. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/gini-coefficient-by-country
  5. Dayani, Dinesh. 2021. What is Singapore’s Average Household Income And Why It Is Different From The Salaries We Earn? Dollars and Sense. https://dollarsandsense.sg/singapores-average-household-income-different-salaries-earn/
  6. Lai, Lynnette. 2019. Parliament: Inequality has many causes and needs to be tackled practically, not ideologically, says Desmond Lee. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/parliament-inequality-has-many-causes-and-needs-to-be-tackled-practically-not-ideologically
  7. Ooi, Yu-lin. 2019. Singapore’s Earliest Philanthropists 1819-1867. Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy. https://bschool.nus.edu.sg/acsep/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2019/08/PA-WP8-Singapores-Earliest-Philanthropists-1819-1867.pdf
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Opinion

Sustainable Philanthropy Matters: Navigating the SDGs with Philanthropy

John Doe
John Doe
poster about sustainable philanthropy: navigating the SDGs with philanthropy

In this three-part series ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’, we explore the surprisingly intimate relationship between philanthropy and sustainability and how the practice of one can in fact, lead to the advancement of the other. Both of these issues are close to our hearts here at CFS and we want to share how our philanthropy can help preserve our planet, our communities and our future.

Philanthropy has traditionally been aimed at supporting societal needs. In recent years, the increasingly pressing demand for climate reformation requires the influx of tremendous funding to support the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from R&D and technological applications to conservation and community efforts. Beyond the responsibilities of governments and businesses, philanthropy has a huge role to play. While this may sound novel, it actually is not and, in this third and final instalment of Sustainable Philanthropy Matters, we examine how philanthropy can help stem the tide of climate change.

The Interconnectedness of Sustainability

At first glance, the 17 SDGs might seem a little daunting, like some miniature Periodic Table meant to scare students. It may help to see this as one concerted effort to effect long-lasting change, to ensure the sustainable survival and thriving of both People and Planet.

This holistic approach is evident in that all the SDGs are, in fact, interconnected. In the last article, this was explained in a sustainable farming example. Besides these issues, the SDGs also help us to realise the borderless world we now live in. For example, rampant slash-and-burn agriculture in Indonesia (BBC News,bbc.com/news/world-asia-34265922 2019), droughts in California (Bernstein, 2015) and declining wild salmon populations in the Atlantic (Forseth, Barlaup, Einum, Finstad, Fiske et al, 2019, page 2) all have one thing in common: they affect communities in Singapore.

The first spells an annual onslaught of respiratory problems as haze blankets the country while the latter two impact our food supply, namely oranges and smoked salmon.

Everyone’s Cost to Bear

Those three problems are just some of the innumerable issues worldwide that the SDGs seek to address. A glance at the big picture shows that achieving the SDGs has a hefty price tag of an estimated $5t to $7t, although the silver lining of this is that that achievement could open up $12t of market opportunities (United Nations, 2022).

However, the localised impact demonstrated above makes it abundantly clear that we all have a stake in ensuring that those goals are achieved. Singapore’s enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NCCS, 2022) towards the SDGs, executed through initiatives such as the Green Plan 2030 (SG Green Plan, 2022) and 30 by 30 (SFA, 2021), cannot be achieved by the public and private sector alone. It requires individuals’ combined efforts, through practice and philanthropy.

The role of and need for philanthropy is even greater when we consider the Singaporean Government’s stance to avoid being a welfare state and instead, offer tiered and limited safety nets for those in need (MOF, 2020). While there is certainly a need to address the SDGs in the local context—such as those relating to poverty, hunger, health and education—Singaporeans are required to help themselves in this meritocratic system.

Partly because this is clearly easier said than done, a small sum is deducted from employees’ wages in Singapore that goes towards four racially-oriented Self Help Groups. So unless one opts out of this scheme, every salaried resident in Singapore is already involved in some form of philanthropy. 

Charities, Charities Everywhere

Of course, that sum is a miniscule drop in the large scheme of things, with $25.69m for the CDAC$8.54m for Mendaki$18.87m for SINDA and $0.78m for the Eurasian Community Fund, against a national total of $2.9b donations in 2019 (MCCY, 2020, page 4). Many non-profits and voluntary welfare organisations and their care recipients still rely on the goodwill of philanthropists.

While there are thankfully many generous donors out there, there is also a baffling number of charities and IPCs (Institutes of Public Character, which are held to even more stringent governance standards): 2,281 at the end of 2019, to be exact (MCCY, 2020, pages 13 and 17). Just like the SDGs, more charities are related to addressing societal needs than environmental ones.

That line is blurring today with countless examples: a centre for autism implementing an urban farming programme, a society that safeguards the cleanliness of our waterways for the local wildlife and citizens alike, and tree planting exercises for the public by the Garden City Fund.

Yet, there are still a lot of untapped opportunities. We need to develop programmes and build the capability that will allow our social sector to effectively address the SDGs in the local context and with environmental considerations. That requires funding — for research, pilot programmes and training.

A Touch of Philanthropic Professionalism

In breaking all this new ground, it is prudent to apply a layer of Governance checks over the Social and Environmental orientations and objectives of all the organisations and programmes.

Thankfully, one does not need to worry too much about Governance here in Singapore. Local regulations require charities and IPCs alike to be transparent about their operations, activities and finances.

As a winner of two accolades for transparency and governance at the 2019 Charity Governance Awards, CFS is ever-cognisant of the importance of balancing the outputs and outcomes of charities and their activities with their strategy and operational methods.

If you would like to know more about how CFS can help you source for, identify and evaluate programmes that both meet your philanthropic preferences and address the SDGs, please visit here.

To read the other 2 stories in the ‘Sustainable Philanthropy Matters’ series, please click below:

This article was written by Adam, a Principal Consultant with CFS and an experienced sustainability practitioner. He is an advocate for sustainable practices. His colleagues are still wondering how his monthly household utilities bill is only around $70.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.

References

  1. BBC News. (16 September 2019). Indonesia haze: Why do forests keep burning? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34265922
  2. Bernstein, Sharon. (2015). California citrus farmers pull up trees, dig reservoirs to survive drought. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-california-drought-farmers-idUSKCN0RB15420150911
  3. Forseth, T.,  Barlaup, B. T., Einum, S., Finstad, B., Fiske, P, et al. (2019). Status of wild Atlantoc salmon in Norway 2019. https://www.vitenskapsradet.no/Portals/vitenskapsradet/Pdf/Status%20of%20wild%20Atlantic%20salmon%20in%20Norway.pdf
  4. Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. (September 2020). Commissioner of Charities: Annual Report 2019https://www.charities.gov.sg/PublishingImages/Resource-and-Training/Publications/COC-Annual-Reports/Documents/Commissioner%20of%20Charities%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf
  5. Ministry of Finance. (Updated 25 November 2020). Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review: Social Safety Nets. https://www.mof.gov.sg/singapore-public-sector-outcomes-review/citizens/opportunities-for-all-at-every-stage-of-life/social-safety-nets
  6. National Climate Change Secretariat of Singapore. (28 February 2020). Singapore’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy.  https://www.nccs.gov.sg/media/press-release/singapores-enhanced-nationally-determined-contribution-and-long-term-low-emissions-development-strategy
  7. SG Green Plan. (Updated 28 January 2022). https://www.greenplan.gov.sg/
  8. Singapore Food Agency. (Updated 17 December 2021). https://www.ourfoodfuture.gov.sg/30by30
  9. United Nations. (Accessed 16 February 2022). FAQ: How much will the implementation of this sustainable development agenda cost? https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/
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News

Charitable funds boost donations in a tough year for giving

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"Explore The Straits Times charity news page, highlighting philanthropic efforts and inspiring stories."

SINGAPORE – More wealthy people are setting up charitable funds that give at least six-figure sums to their chosen causes.

There were 143 donor-advised funds set up with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), disbursing $20.2 million to charitable causes in the non-profit organisation’s financial year that ended in March.

This is double the 70 funds giving out $11.7 million in the financial year that ended in March 2015.

Donors pledge at least $200,000 to set up a donor-advised fund with the CFS, which manages the money, advises donors on the various needs in the community and disburses it according to the donor’s wishes.

Its chief executive officer, Ms Catherine Loh, told The Straits Times there is a greater awareness of the CFS’ work and preference to give through donor-advised funds, which allows donors to give in a more informed, structured and sustained manner over time. And donors get to name their fund.

For example, the donated sum can be held at the foundation in perpetuity and invested, with invested returns going to the charitable causes over time.

Ms Loh said more people are also setting up legacy funds, like those in memory of a late loved one, adding to the rise in donor-advised funds. Or donors may set up a fund to be disbursed after their deaths.

So far, the largest sum donated to start a fund has been $24 million, set up by a family in their late father’s name, Ms Loh said without giving more details.

She noted that such funds have been especially needed during the current Covid-19 pandemic, where more people are in need and many charities say donations are falling.

Since February, the CFS’ donor-advised funds have given out about $1.2 million for purposes related to Covid-19, such as topping up phone cards for migrant workers and buying masks for charities caring for seniors.

Many donor-advised funds, however, are set up to give to specific causes that donors and their families care about.

Mr Lien Ber Luen gave $200,000 in 2018 to set up the Lien Shih Sheng Foundation, which gives to educational causes among others, in memory of his late grandfather, the editor-in-chief of Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau. Mr Lien Shih Sheng was a literary pioneer here, involved in many arts, education and cultural activities, his grandson said.

The Lien Shih Sheng Foundation has funded scholarships at Raffles Institution for children from low-income families and it will also support a new programme to give financial aid to children from underprivileged families to attend preschool regularly.

Mr Lien, who is in his 40s, works in a local asset management firm and is married with two children, said: “He was a doting grandfather and a role model for me. I set up this fund to remember him and to continue his legacy of contributing to the community.”

Like Mr Lien, over half of the funds at the CFS were set up by donors aged between 40 and 60, ranging from working professionals to those with inherited wealth, Ms Loh said.

While supporting education and helping the sick and the poor are evergreen favourites, causes relating to environmental and sustainability issues are also becoming more popular. Donors are also more savvy.

She said: “We have seen donors asking more questions and moving away from just chequebook philanthropy over the years.”

Instead, they are keen to understand the root causes of social problems and to find ways to tackle them, instead of simply handing over their money.

Besides the CFS, the SymAsia Foundation, which is established by private bank Credit Suisse for its clients, also offers donor-advised funds.

The SymAsia Foundation did not reveal the number of such funds, but said its clients “typically make a commitment of $1 million for donations”.

Ms Young Jin Yee, CEO of SymAsia Foundation, added: “I would say no other cause has brought our donors together like the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

She said about a third of its donors from across the Asia-Pacific region have stepped up to alleviate the difficulties brought about by the virus. This includes giving financial aid to students in Singapore whose families were affected by Covid-19, and supporting the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus being jointly developed by the Duke-NUS Medical School and an American pharmaceutical firm.

Source: The Straits Times

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Events

CFS participates in OCBC Sustainability Day

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a group of people wearing face masks at OCBC sustainability day

CFS is honoured to be part of the inaugural OCBC Sustainability Day! Our thanks to the Bank of Singapore for the invitation to co-host a booth at the employee-driven event themed ‘Sustainability – it’s all in our hands!‘. This initiative was created by a group of passionate and dedicated OCBC Bank Group employees known as SING (Sustainability Interest Networking Group), which aims to encourage every individual to make more sustainable choices.

The event was a tremendous success with hundreds of employees and partners who attended a mixture of virtual sessions, and a Bazaar showcasing OCBC Group’s sustainability achievements as well as companies showcasing green products and innovations.

CFS is honoured to be part of the inaugural OCBC Sustainability Day! Our thanks to the Bank of Singapore for the invitation to co-host a booth at the employee-driven event themed ‘Sustainability – it’s all in our hands!‘. This initiative was created by a group of passionate and dedicated OCBC Bank Group employees known as SING (Sustainability Interest Networking Group), which aims to encourage every individual to make more sustainable choices.

The event was a tremendous success with hundreds of employees and partners who attended a mixture of virtual sessions, and a Bazaar showcasing OCBC Group’s sustainability achievements as well as companies showcasing green products and innovations.

Learn more about our sustainability efforts at https://www.cf.org.sg/corporate-sustainability/ and the Legacy Giving Initiative at https://legacygiving.sg/.

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Stories Of Impact

KidsExcel – Leaving no child behind

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a group of children in a classroom

At a time when after school tuition and enrichment programmes have become the new norm, children from less affluent backgrounds are increasingly disadvantaged by their inability to afford these lessons. This creates an educational landscape that places each child at different starting points by virtue of their socio-economic backgrounds.

KidsExcel is a values-driven, academic and sports enrichment programme that aims to support schools and parents in providing a holistic education for kids. Its mission is to provide a holistic, well-rounded programme that develops healthy minds, healthy bodies and strong character, using sports and academic enrichment to nurture the physical, intellectual and social skills of children.

“KidsExcel seeks to address the prevailing asymmetry in educational opportunities for underprivileged children. The programme aims to develop these children holistically through a structured integration of sports and drama with academic enrichment,” said Victor Pok, Director of Vivakids which runs the programme.

By providing primary school students under the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s Financial Assistance Scheme access to a year-long enrichment programme, KidsExcel hopes to inculcate in students an intrinsic motivation to excel, which will hopefully follow them through their lives.

At a recent site visit to Fuhua Primary School – one of KidsExcel’s school partners – the Community Foundation Singapore (CFS) and its donors bore witness to the work they do. Each week, students spend three hours on academic enrichment and an additional three hours on sports as an added incentive for them to turn up for classes.

At the after school programme, students learn through interactive and engaging lessons that provide effective development opportunities. Math classes saw students engaging in friendly competition to solve problem sums flashed out by their teacher. Speech and drama lessons visibly instilled in them a sense of confidence. Frequent proficiency testing also helped facilitate differentiated lesson plans to suit the varied capabilities of students.

While the sports component was conceived to encourage students’ attendance, it plays a pivotal role in developing them holistically. A range of carefully designed and modified games provides opportunities for the students to learn values – such as teamwork and self-confidence – that are beneficial for their intrinsic development.

And the overall results are encouraging. The programme at Fuhua has seen full attendance since its inception. Through timely and consistent tracking of exam results, statistics from KidsExcel’s school partnerships reflect overall improvements in students’ literacy and numeracy levels.

In a spirited sharing of the school’s experience, Fuhua’s co-ordinating teacher-in-charge praised it as an affordable programme that provides sustainable value-add to students. “I have seen an improvement in many of the students and they really enjoy the time they spend with their friends during the programme. Many of them often come to my office just to ask me if the programme is on this week, the following week, or even in the following year. It really speaks to how the programme has given them something constructive to look forward to. Otherwise they will probably be doing nothing at home or gallivanting at the malls.”

“The support of CFS and its donors has been crucial in realising our aims, providing the platform to engage even more in the future.” said Victor.

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