Time is money: CSR through volunteerism

Posted on  09/06/2011  |  Media Centre

Debbie Too
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Published on The Brunei Times

COMPANIES can perform philanthropy beyond just giving money they can also do this by donating their time to certain social and environmental causes.

This was said by Mark Cheng, co-founder and executive director of the Avelife Foundation in Singapore, a social organisation aimed at tackling social and environmental causes. Cheng was recently in Brunei as a presenter for the Asia Inc Forum’s National Environment Conference, held at the Rizqun International Hotel.

His cause has gone regional counting countries like Thailand and Indonesia as active members of the organisation.

“We have close to 200,000 youths campaigning with us, some in Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. When Asia Inc invited me here, I thought that this could be a big door for Brunei,” he said, adding that although Brunei is not part of the regional network, he sees that there are opportunities in the Sultanate.

“I would like to quote HSBC when I say this: so we think globally but act locally and this is something that we are trying to engrain when we go into various countries, to empower the youth,” he said.

He added that his cause involves the “three Ps”.

These are, the public (sector), the private (sector) and the people, coming together to resolve environmental and social issues, he explained.

“I know that environment may be a new topic in Brunei, but I can see that the government and private sector are getting more involved especially with sustainability, so it would create more manifestation and have a bigger impact,” he said.

Asked about how corporate and social responsibility with companies can help such causes as Avelife, Cheng explained that companies can play different roles to support various causes.

“I see CSR not so much about giving money, but also about them giving their time, this is something that is more volunteer philanthropy rather than philanthropy itself,” he said.

Cheng explained that his idea for Avelife was formulated in 2002, where in secondary school, a group of youths went around to collect newspapers from disadvantaged communities in Singapore.

“These elderly, are actually selling recyclables for money and not getting enough to feed themselves,” said the 23-year-old, who started a campaign to incentivise people and work together with private waste collectors.

“The idea got sparked and it married social and environmental issues together and since then the movement moves into Asia,” he said.

When Cheng first started, he garnered support from the public sector, but as the organisation grew regionally, they saw a lot of private companies coming in.

Apart from Avelife, Cheng is also the deputy chairman and director of Green Prints, a green printing and green investment firm.

The Brunei Times

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