The Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University organised a seminar on ‘Corporate Purpose, The Why of Your Business’ in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors (APACD). The event was supported by Sedgwick Richardson and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), Singapore. The event was held on 19 April 2023 at NTU@One-North, Singapore with more than 30 attendees.
The seminar featured three presentations by keynote speakers Ferdinand de Bakker, Adjunct Lecturer at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University; Gemma Byrne, Deputy Director of Corporate and Industry Partnerships, NVPC; and Dominic Mason, Managing Director, Sedgwick Richardson SEA. The presentations provided valuable insights into the concept of corporate purpose as it is perceived in Singapore and how organisations can develop and anchor it better to maximise business gains.
The first presentation by Ferdinand de Bakker set the context of why corporate purpose matters. There has been a marked shift from shareholder focus to stakeholder engagement and companies need to see beyond the bottom-line to remain successful. He also presented research conducted by himself and his colleague, Amanda Huan, on corporate purpose among top Singapore corporations. 47 out of the sampled 100 companies articulated a purpose and thematically, these purposes tend to revolve around the idea of creating value and improving the lives of people and communities.
The second presentation by Gemma Byrne focused on NVPC’s perspective vis-à-vis corporate purpose in Singapore. NVPC has played a key role in designing a blueprint and framework for companies in Singapore to help them develop and integrate a corporate purpose. She highlighted NVPC’s efforts as the steward of the Alliance for Action on Corporate Purpose (AfA-CP) and iterated that the uptake of corporate purpose varies significantly with companies in Singapore at different stages of the corporate purpose journey.
The third presentation by Dominic Mason showcased a case study on leading food and gateway services provider SATS, and how Sedgwick Richardson helped the organisation to articulate its purpose and cascade it throughout the organisation. He discussed how the combination of storytelling, authenticity, and employee participation can help give life to a purpose statement.
The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by Arun Sudhaman, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of PRovoke Media. The panel consisted of Ferdinand de Bakker, Keith Morrison, President, APACD; Adeline Ong, Senior Vice President, Head of Group Strategic Communications and Branding, Frasers Property Limited; and Robin Thadathil, Head of Human Resources, P&G Singapore.
The participants discussed various issues related to corporate purpose. Ferdinand further elucidated the findings from his research on the current landscape of corporate purpose in Singapore. Keith mentioned how a purpose statement helps provide clarity and can serve as a lever for anchoring company strategy and culture. Adeline stated that at Frasers Property, their purpose was not just a PR exercise and discussed the significance of employees’ connection with the company’s purpose. Robin explained the role of purpose, values, and principles in P&G and elaborated on how these are localised to all country offices. The panellists also discussed the challenges of purpose-washing & aligning stakeholders’ personal purpose with company purpose, the implications of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the necessary skills a communication director must have to navigate the current landscape.
In conclusion, the event offered an interactive evening for attendees to delve deep into corporate purpose and how communication professionals should approach the concept. The presentations and discussions were insightful and provided practical strategies that attendees could deploy to navigate an ever-challenging business landscape.
Reported by: Srivastava Smriti and Amanda Huan