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P&G's Pro-Bono School: How CSR creates a win-win situation for everyone involved

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Such initiatives help employee-volunteers fuel innovation that they can bring back to the workplace, says Shankar Viswanathan, Vice President, P&G Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Corporate social responsibility is not an obligation but an opportunity for large firms to engage with local organisations—NGOs and SMEs— in the communities we operate in.

NGOs and SMEs have local expertise: they know the home-grown stakeholders best, and are in a better position to address their pain points. Large multinational firms, on the other hand, have the benefit of scale with access to top talent and industry’s best practices from across the globe. When the two parties come together to exchange knowledge and capitalise on their respective strengths to bolster the other side’s weaknesses, it is easy to see how local communities can reap the benefits.

Yet this type of collaboration has merit for the firms involved as well. While the smaller firms can improve their business practices by learning from bigger businesses, the latter gains new perspective from working in unfamiliar contexts.

2019 marks the fourth year that Procter & Gamble (P&G) employees have engaged with Singapore-based social service agencies, NGOs, social enterprises and ground-ups as part of the Pro-Bono School. A true testament of P&G’s purpose to touch and improve the lives of the consumers and be a force for good and for growth for the communities we serve, we set up the Pro Bono School in 2016 together with our key partner Empact. In 2017, we extended this partnership to President’s Challenge.

Our goal was back then and still is to offer our employees the opportunity to share their business expertise with community organisations.
I myself have been involved in programs to exchange knowledge with SMEs and NGOs during my recent assignment in the Philippines and, I am truly glad to be able to continue this work by supporting the Pro Bono School here in Singapore.

Interest in this skill-based volunteering program has grown year on year reaching record participation this year. During our most recent Pro-Bono School, 38 NGOs, 60+ NGOs and social enterprises employees and more than 50 P&G employee-volunteers participated in our biggest ever Pro-Bono School till this day.

Aside from P&G employees, having the opportunity to participate in an impactful sharing session, this event has proven extremely useful to community organisations as well. Our partners tell us that with limited funds, investing in skills training for employees is not always the main priority, although there is a strong need for such development. This is why it is beneficial to tap on talent at large multinational firms as a resource for these organisations.

Since 2016, we have had 9 Pro Bono Schools reaching out to over 100 Singapore-based NGOs and Social Enterprises with close to 100 P&G volunteers on different topics including marketing, human resources, and sales.

During the Pro Bono School session, beneficiaries share the issues they face in their businesses with our employee-volunteers, who brainstorm solutions and work with them to develop solutions using P&G’s frameworks.

With such a platform to apply their expertise in a foreign context, employee-volunteers get the opportunity to strengthen their skillsets and exercise their creativity, both of which fuel innovation that they can bring back to the workplace.
Moreover, employee-volunteers find a sense of meaning in doing something to give back to the community. It gives them a channel to tune into the issues facing our community directly, and have some impact on addressing them through the work of the NGOs and SMEs—and it is empowering to be able to do so using the skills they already possess and are adept at. In addition, this positive experience is a great chance to build rapport among employees by encouraging them to cooperate across departments within the firm.

To sum it all up, the Pro-Bono School is one of our flagship programs through which we want to demonstrate our commitment to be a force for good and a force for growth. The feedback from the participating companies of this program has been very positive and it encourages us to grow this program further. We know that they are benefitting from the training and the frameworks we utilise in P&G.

Our employees here in Singapore and also in other markets will continue to help NGO’s and Social Enterprises with great enthusiasm to improve their operations, accomplish their goals and overcome the challenges they are facing in their business.

P&G Pro-Bono School

Photos / Provided

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