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LOOK: How Marina Bay Sands’ CSR initiative creates real business value

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Marina Bay Sands has found several ways to tap into employees’ expertise to carry out corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

At the recently-concluded annual CSR programme, Sands for Singapore Charity Festival, Marina Bay Sands held two career workshops for secondary school students, conducted by the HR and banquet operations departments, and the sustainability and legal departments.

The career workshops are just one way the employer leverages on skills of its 9,500-strong workforce to give back to the community, and the photos here provide further insight into the activities undertaken.

We also spoke to Chan YitFoon, senior vice president HR, Marina Bay Sands to find out how to get employees involved and the benefits such activities can bring to their engagement.

Q. What is the business need behind CSR initiatives such as this?

At Marina Bay Sands, our business needs go beyond our contribution towards Singapore’s economic and tourism goals. As a large corporation that has anchored our roots in Singapore, it is equally important for us to benefit the society at large, through serving underprivileged communities for example.

Our CSR programme, Sands for Singapore, is therefore an integral pillar of our business. It allows us to shape and frame our belief in contributing back to Singapore, to better the lives of our youth and the less fortunate.

The Sands for Singapore Charity Festival is the annual highlight of our CSR programme. We started this yearly festival in 2013 to inspire our employees and members of the public to join us in giving back to the community. It helps us to engage both our internal and external stakeholders for a common charitable objective, in a fun and engaging manner.

Clean the World initiative

Clean the World initiative

Q. How do you as a business leader find value in such activities, and how do they affect the bottom line?

Our CSR efforts started since we began operations in 2010, and we continue to witness how these activities create a shared value for both our business and the society.

From an organisational perspective, our CSR programme is a great way for us to leverage on the expertise of our team members to give back to the community and boost employee morale. By actively engaging our staff in various volunteerism activities, it empowers them to make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged. I believe that this increases the synergy between the company and employees. Not only do we get them to embrace the corporate values that Marina Bay Sands espouses, we also foster a sense of belonging to the company — and this is no small feat when we have close to 10,000 employees.

At the same time, the value to society comes in the form of funding and support that we provide. Since we first started our Sands for Singapore Charity Festival in 2013, we’ve raised more S$16 million for local charities over the past 4 years. Through such large-scale charity events, we also help increase awareness of the charity organisations that we partner with.

Play It Forward Charity Race

Play It Forward Charity Race

Q. How do you support such causes once convinced about their value-addition?

Our support for such causes is not ad hoc but rather a full-time commitment all year round. The value of CSR has long been established across all our senior executives and team members, and we have always received strong internal support for our Sands for Singapore programmes.

We have a dedicated working committee behind our annual Sands for Singapore Charity Festival, who help to identify and execute activities that fills up the gaps in the local community

It’s clear that the success of these initiatives is largely attributed to our enthusiastic team members, who are always eager to volunteer and participate in these activities that we roll out. We see strong participation in our Sands for Singapore programmes all year round, and I am very honoured to have a committed workforce that is willing to volunteer above and beyond their normal scope of work.

Racial Harmony Day at CPAS

Racial Harmony Day at CPAS

Q. How are the results of such an activity tracked — employee satisfaction improved or more applications from graduates, for example?

We can look at several ways to understand the impact of our CSR initiatives on our employees. One would be to gather feedback through surveys among our team members.

In Marina Bay Sands, we conduct the Sands Passion Survey. The last one was completed in 2014. We asked our Team Members whether they are satisfied with the actions that Marina Bay Sands is taking to be socially responsible, and 90% of our employees responded favourably. In fact, 87% also agreed that Marina Bay Sands is highly regarded within the community – which reinforces the positive reception of our CSR initiatives both on an internal and external level.

The rate of volunteer sign-ups for each activity is another way to gauge the effectiveness of our CSR initiatives. Over the years, we’ve seen a growing number of team members participating in our Sands for Singapore volunteerism events — for example, we started with 917 volunteers in 2013. But just last year, we had nearly 4 times the number with 3,667 volunteers involved. On average, the total number of volunteer hours accumulated in Marina Bay Sands has been increasing, from just 3,838 hours in 2013 to 10,536 hours last year.

These numbers are testament to the positive reception among our staff to the CSR initiatives, and provide ground for us to continue implementing these volunteerism events within Marina Bay Sands.

Scoops For Hope gelato workshop

Scoops For Hope gelato workshop

Q. What are dos and don’ts to getting employees involved and engaged in such activities?

Employee involvement is a critical success factor for a company’s CSR programme. Sands for Singapore is championed by team members from different departments and guided by a senior leadership team. These team members are the ones who lend a voice to what departments on the ground would like to see in the company’s community investment efforts.  This is backed by strong internal communication which helps educate and engage team members at all levels.

Our team members are also ambassadors of Marina Bay Sands whenever they go out and interact with the beneficiaries and charity organisations. It is vital that they are well-informed about the Sands for Singapore programme, its objectives and the corporate values that we uphold.

After getting employees involved, don’t forget to gather feedback on such activities – be it through company-wide surveys or post-event debriefings. We want to show them that we value their opinions, and it also helps us in improving our CSR initiatives so that we continue to attract them to volunteer.

Sustainability and Career Talk

Sustainability and Career Talk

Q. With employees spending time on such initiatives, what do you do in case their manager is not comfortable with devoting time away from the core job?

At Marina Bay Sands, more than half of our employees work on a shift basis. This means that whenever our team members volunteer, it is always outside of their working schedule and they make time to give back to the community.

We also see managers and employees coming together to volunteer as a department. These volunteerism activities also serve as great team bonding opportunities for our team members — not just intra-department, but inter-department as well.

Just last week, we had several departments head down to Food from the Heart and Willing Hearts to prepare and pack food for the underprivileged community. All these initiatives work on a voluntary basis, hence our team members do not have to participate at the expense of their core job.

All images: Provided by Marina Bay Sands

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