In 2022, 39 SMEs were recognized as Champions Of Good by The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre of Singapore (NVPC) for their efforts in giving back to the community during a time of turbulance and uncertainty brought about by Covid. PALO IT was honored to stand alongside these champions and in this interview with NVPC, my colleague Jessica Dourcy, Chief People and Culture Officer and I share our journey and reflections as a Champion of Good.
NVPC: In a few sentences, share your journey in discovering your corporate purpose.
VD: “By 2030, a single computer you buy at a retail store will have the computing power of the entire human race. What does it tell us about the tech industry? Well, that singularity is close. But more importantly, and as our ancestors from the parliament said after the French Revolution over 200 years ago, that "with great powers come great responsibilities". It might sound a bit dramatic for people who are not from the tech industry, but this is the reality.
The power of modern technologies has brought us to critical crossroads, where leaders are going to have to make a choice, and this choice will decide the future of our world and the fate of mankind. As individuals, companies, and leaders in the tech space, we have a particularly important responsibility to ensure that technology is used for good, that we care about the usage of what we design and build for the future.
6 years ago, we decided to change our vision towards building tech for good. We have made a conscious choice to become gatekeepers of that critical crossroad, making sure we and others we consult take the right path. While we still need to run a business, now the stakes are far greater. We have a responsibility to bring others into this journey as it is only together that we will change the world.
At PALO IT, we are eternal optimists, optimists that technology can help us build a better world, a world where we can solve global grand challenges, a world of more conscious organizations and individuals.”
NVPC: What is the business value and opportunities of having corporate purpose?
VD: Corporate purpose is not something that comes naturally when running a business, simply because it does not really get measured. And we all know that what does not get measured does not get managed.
That is the reason why we decided to become a B-Corp in the first place, to know where what and how our positive and negative impact was, and to join a community of like-minded businesses marrying purpose and profit.
From there, the next step was to translate our vision (harnessing the power of technology for the greater good) into tangible actions. That is when PALO IT's impact lab was created where we look at our impact on the planet. Early on, we set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. Last year, we joined the World Economic Forum New Champion program and recently launched the Singapore local chapter. All these actions are benefiting us in several ways:
- It is offering us a significant competitive advantage with customers and prospects when it comes to selecting the right partner that is climate and society conscious – a principle that’s becoming mainstream.
- Giving us levers for talent attraction and retention, especially with the newer generation.
- Being aligned and in step with the Singapore government since a lot of these initiatives are having a direct impact on the public.
- It also helped us to get support from our ecosystem (B-Corp community, WEF members, government, for good community at large).
- By being a purpose driven organisation, we get exposure as we are invited often to speak at events and in schools.
NVPC: How do you bring along other stakeholders (eg: employees, suppliers) in your purpose journey?
JD: Since we changed our vision 6 years ago to “harnessing the power of technology for the greater good”, we have not stop looking at how to embed positive impact in our entire value chain. It has pushed us to relook every process of our organisation:
- A much tighter selection process of suppliers to align with our values and vision.
- The creation of a Go/No Go committee when selecting new clients we want to work with (based on values and vision once again).
- Setting up Companywide positive impact metrics and OKRs.
- Regular communication and messages during townhall on our commitments, initiatives and metrics.
- Training our Leaders and all employees on positive impact (eg. climate change awareness, conscious leadership, etc.).
NVPC: What are the values that you feel are tied to your corporate purpose?
JD: The change in our vision came with 5 core values we are living and working by: We care for our world. We act with courage. We share it is in our DNA. We choose positivity and self-improvement. We deliver awesomeness. The change in our vision naturally created a change in our culture and value system.
NVPC: How has your corporate purpose influenced your employees?
JD: Our corporate purpose has changed our entire value chain, for the better.
We all felt a collective consciousness to help each other. It was one of the highlights of the covid period if I can say so.
- It starts with how we hire new Palowans. The traits, skillsets and the values we assess are specific to our culture and corporate purpose. They must resonate with candidates if they want to go down the hiring funnel.
- The way we mentor and manage our employees, based on conscious and servant leadership postures.
- When covid happened, I witnessed a direct translation of our value and vision on the ground. Some Palowans stepped forward and started helping with mentorship, coaching, support of Palowans who needed attention and help.
NVPC: What are some of the challenges in defining and working out your corporate purpose?
VD: Having a corporate purpose is a substantial investment in time, money and energy.
- It does not always generate revenue as the outcomes can be intangible and long term.
- Not all employees resonate with having a corporate purpose, which can slow down its deployment.
- A lot of companies are using corporate purpose purely as a PR tool instead of embedding it across processes - which discredits the companies who are truly committed at changing things for the better.
- Having a corporate purpose requires constant communication and education of our people and clients.
- If a company is going through business issues, you can be sure that corporate purpose related initiatives will get deprioritize first.
NVPC: What do you think will be helpful for companies who are seeking to (re)discover or justify the need for corporate purpose?
VD: Companies who don't have a corporate purpose will slowly become obsolete as we observed newer generations of workers want to work for organisations aligned with socially and environmentally conscious companies.
Consumers are now paying attention to the way they buy and use products and services. Being carbon neutral, fairly-traded or sustainably-made are key consideration factors today.
A corporate purpose will generate other tangible and intangible benefits as well,
- Cost savings when it comes to energy and carbon footprint.
- Employee commitment and shared values.
- Premium that clients will pay to work with companies that are purpose driven.
- Communities of supporter and ambassadors relaying your messages to the public.
Being purpose driven require an investment, and like any investment, majority of people will look at its return on investment rather than looking at its return on Impact.
The impact of 2 years of uncertainty in Singapore has caused many organizations to now embrace a broader corporate purpose beyond profit and are calibrating their work culture to align. Kindness and sustainability are slowly becoming less fuzzy and transforming work environments for the better. This interview represents a drop in the ocean of companies who are making that fundamental shift in the way organizations are run - and there's still more to do. If you are an organization on this journey in making that fundamental shift, please reach out and I'll be happy to share more at my email below.