Together, doing good
There are many ways to give back to the community, from skills-based volunteering, humanitarian aid to even creating greater awareness for a cause you champion through your own network. Linklaters and Johnson & Johnson provide some inspiration to do good.
What does an ideal world look like to you? Green earth, human equality, or world peace? We all have a part to play in building a brighter future, and for multi-national corporations like Linklaters and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), creating social impact happens through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
To find out more, we spoke to our tenants at Linklaters at One George Street – Andrew Wallis, Chief Operating Officer (SEA) and Michelle Lee, an Associate in the Financial Regulation Group, who also chairs the Southeast Asia Social Impact Committee. Both sits on the same committee and lead the firm in its regional volunteer efforts, and share that the very nature of their work drives Linklaters’ CSR efforts. “We believe that the rule of law is essential to human progress,” says Andrew. “We work to enable the world of business—and through our pro bono activity, wider society—to benefit from the rule of law and the integrity, fairness, and certainty that it brings.”
Alice Chiu, Senior Manager for Employee Engagement Asia Pacific, Global Community Impact team from Johnson & Johnson (J&J) at Ascent in Singapore Science Park also shared about the company’s commitment to social and community impact activities for over 130 years. These activities take their cue from their company credo, crafted by founder Robert Wood Johnson. “As the world's largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, we blend heart, science, and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity,” says Alice.
Throughout their journey, Linklaters and J&J have engaged in volunteerism that aligns with their values and expertise—an experience that can serve as inspiration to all, whether you’re an individual employee hoping to make a difference, or leading a corporation and exploring ways to give back.
Sharing Is Caring
Sometimes doing good can be as simple as sharing your knowledge with the next generation. Empowering students is one way to help impact our future society, and Linklaters and J&J conduct professional development programmes on career mentorship .
For example, J&J conducted multiple CV workshops and mock interviews for over 200 students with Junior Achievement, a local non-profit organisation. "Students have gained knowledge and tips on interview strategies, current hiring trends, and skills to enhance their employability, which is extremely relevant during recession times ,” Alice says. J&J's employees also contributed their time and talent to conduct virtual storytelling sessions to children from low-income families or single parent families with limited access to virtual extracurricular activities during the Circuit Breaker period.
Similarly, Linklaters held virtual mentorship programmes with Heartware Network and Empact, expanding their reach even beyond our borders. “My Heartware mentee was a Singaporean who was a medical student in Australia,” says Andrew. “With Empact, we had local mentors work with mentees in Hong Kong.” Even though this was the first time some of these programmes were conducted virtually, Michelle says they were a success. “It’s incredible how you can deliver the same programme online.”
Skills-based volunteering is another way to apply your professional skills to projects that you have an interest or aptitude in. For example, two I.T. staff from J&J volunteered to provide User Interface and User Experience consultation for Dagiz, a local woman-owned social enterprise, in building a digital B2B social marketplace. Have a side hobby like photography or music that you’re pretty good at? Try volunteering on weekends with local organisations to pass your skills on to children who might not have the financial capability to explore such hobbies.
Seeking Out The Unseen
Seeking out areas of need sometimes requires us to go beyond what we’re familiar with. Like Linklaters and J&J, taking a closer look around us reveals marginalised communities that need help.
An area of need that is often overlooked is mental health: a landscape study by J&J found that there are only about 500 mental health workers in Singapore actively serving 800,000 people who are in need of help. “We’re looking to support community-based mental health care, and address the shortage of community mental health workers,” says Alice.
On an individual front, J&J also believes in the importance of creating opportunities for greater awareness and education amongst their own team. One recent example was with Hush TeaBar, a Singapore-based social enterprise, where J&J created a space for their employees to interact with individuals with hearing loss or recovering from mental health conditions. “We wanted to build awareness around mental well-being and resilience to power through the pandemic,” says Alice. In collaboration with Dagiz, the company also curated a HeartGifts portal—an online giving platform for differently-abled artists to showcase their talents and sell their crafts. J&J employees supported the artists by purchasing handmade gifts or donating food vouchers during circuit breaker last year.
At other times, changing circumstances and events can bring to light other marginalised communities that need help. “During the pandemic, we initiated a fundraising campaign with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to donate SIM cards to migrant workers living in dormitories so they could make phone calls,” says Michelle. Another organisation Linklaters works with is Hagar, which supports women and children recovering from trauma of trafficking and abuse. “Hagar reached out for legal research on cybersex trafficking. This fell under our pro-bono capabilities and our legal expertise, so we were able to help,” Michelle says.
The needs of these communities change over time—for instance, migrant workers received plenty of food and daily necessities during the peak of the pandemic, but now, there’s a greater need for PPE and other safety equipment. “We’re not rigid in terms of what causes we choose to support,” Andrew agrees. “We react to the events around us and that impacts how we run our programmes.” As such, if you're an individual or corporation that would like to help marginalised communities, it's recommended to work directly with organisations who have specialised experience. “With ever evolving societal challenges, there are never enough resources to solve all problems. But companies don't have to try to solve a problem alone—instead, they should recognise that there is tremendous value in partnerships,” says Alice. “Pooling resources and expertise from different partners can have a multiplying effect leading to a larger impact.”
Global Issues, Local Efforts
It can often feel like our actions are too small to make an impact on global issues like climate change and humanitarian crises. However, Linklaters and J&J show that every effort counts, and this can come from both a top down or bottom up approach.
At J&J, disaster relief is one of their international efforts; their Global Community Impact (GCI) organisation drives their community giving, social impact, and philanthropy worldwide, putting the needs and well-being of the people they serve first. “When disaster strikes, our objectives are to reach and support the most vulnerable, maintain access to proper care for all, including essential medical resources, and bring community health programs back to baseline as soon as possible,” Alice says.
Similarly, Linklaters’ Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) practice enables them to tackle social issues with clients. “We advise them on climate change, human rights, anti-bribery and all aspects of ESG and how they affect business,” says Michelle. Additionally, in conjunction with World Environment Day, Linklaters launched firm-wide carbon reduction targets for 2030 as part of their Science-based Targets Initiative action plan. This move towards greater sustainability was encouraged amongst employees as well, even as most of them continued to work from home. “One of our key themes last month was eco-friendly shopping,” Michelle elaborates. “We encouraged everyone to reduce plastic bag usage, buy food in reusable containers, and recycle clothes if they can.”
Who knows—your own small steps towards making the world a little better can have a positive effect on those around you. A culture of volunteerism is contagious, and whether CSR activities are management-led or employee-initiated, it’s heartening to see everyone doing their part to do good, not to merely clock in the hours. Globally, Linklaters had a total of approximately 53,000 volunteer social impact hours in the last fiscal year, of which 40,000 hours (approx.) were dedicated to pro bono legal work and 13,000 hours (approx.) to non-legal community investment work, but Michelle says that the firm focuses on quality rather than quantity. "Everyone is very passionate about the initiatives,” she adds. “It's really encouraging to see our colleagues putting up their hand for volunteer work in addition to their everyday work.”
When doing good is ingrained—whether as an individual or as a company—giving back doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that makes a huge or immediate impact. What's more important to remember is that every little effort adds up, and perhaps Michelle sums it up best: “It's not just doing things right, but doing the right thing.”
If you’d like to start small, consider joining us for Giving As One, where we’ll have opportunities for you to volunteer and give back to the community. Here are some programmes happening this September and October:
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