American Express – Employees in the spotlight, Life & Culture
BEEJAL Sonigra, senior manager for digital acquisition at American Express (Amex), is on an online call, and the conversation revolves around budgeting and ad targeting.
Lest anyone thinks that a multi-million dollar deal is underway, Ms Sonigra is in fact guiding an Australian-based charity – which is supporting vulnerable families in Africa – through the ins and outs of social media strategy in a bid to help it raise funds.
“The organisation was interested in putting up ads on Facebook but they weren’t sure how to do so. I introduced them to Facebook Ads, and we discussed their objective, which was to increase donations on their website.”
This skills-based volunteering is part of Serve2Gether Consulting+, one of Amex’s latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
American Express Singapore country manager Ho Yat-Wai said: “In 2020, we adapted our volunteer programme to prioritise practical and safe ways to support non-profits during the pandemic, such as through our Serve2Gether Consulting+ platform, where American Express colleagues around the world can leverage their expertise in marketing, IT, social media and more to help non-profits remotely.”
Since its global launch in July 2020, more than 50 non-profits worldwide sponsored by Amex have received consulting help through the programme.
Ms Sonigra said that as she had to work on everything end-to-end for the non-profit, “it was up to me to research areas I was less experienced in. This helped me hone my skills and reminded me how lucky I am to be working in an organisation with a full team of experts, where I can reach out and ask anyone questions”.
Working for a company that is steeped in the giving culture benefits the firm too, as besides forging camaraderie among colleagues, it can inspire loyalty. The senior manager of digital acquisition said that working for an organisation which is constantly looking into the needs of others is important.
“This sets the narrative for the whole company – one that is looking out for others – and the quality of people who work there.”
The financial services corporation said that being recognised as a Champion of Good last year by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s Company of Good helps reinforce its commitment to the community.
Mr Ho said: “As a Champion of Good, understanding your organisation’s mission and how it relates to the community at large is critical. Beyond that, being focused and collaborating with non-profits or even other corporations will ensure the success of any initiative that is aimed at giving back to the community.
“Pandemic or not, we see giving back as a social responsibility that we have to the communities that we live and work in. Operationally, the way we do it might look different based on local safeguarding rules, and businesses must be flexible and adapt to meet the needs of the community.”
He added that a good example is the Serve2Gether Consulting+ global online matching platform, which gave volunteers the opportunity and flexibility to help non-profit organisations when physical interactions were prohibited or discouraged.
In Singapore, Amex’s CSR efforts are also led by a ground up initiative, Serve2Gether, established more than a decade ago. The efforts are focused on helping and supporting seniors and youth as well as the environment, and in 2019, more than 30,000 volunteer opportunities were provided to employees across 15 countries, with about 40 per cent of staff here volunteering.
“This ‘ground-up’ approach has been successful for us as this gives colleagues a bigger sense of ownership over our contributions,” said Mr Ho.
Under the initiative, the team here collaborates with beneficiaries such as AWWA, Community Foundation of Singapore, and Waterways Watch Society to develop volunteering events.
“The partnership with AWWA has grown over the last decade. At the start of each year, the team engages leaders from AWWA to discuss ways we can engage their senior and youth segments. This collaborative approach has ensured that events and initiatives are engaging to both the beneficiaries and our volunteers.”
Room for collaboration
When asked what more can be done to help the underprivileged, Mr Ho said the company believes that there is room for more collaboration with like-minded organisations.
“Last year, we partnered LinkedIn to mentor youths who were entering the job market during an unprecedented period, via virtual coaching sessions. Such partnerships enable us to use our talent pool and execute meaningful, long-term programmes.”
When asked if companies should be “rated” on their doing-good efforts, Mr Ho said that while third-party ratings and rankings do a good job of holding companies accountable and help to reward companies that are making progress on their ESG/CSR efforts, they are still evolving and do not always perfectly capture social and environmental value creation from one business to the next.
“But generally, the role they play in the ESG ecosystem is a positive one that we welcome, especially as they continually improve over time.”
This concept is something that resonates with credit ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service. Julian Knapp, vice-president for global ESG communications at Moody’s, said that ESG assessments are an increasingly important part of the investment process.
“There is a growing demand for ESG insights and we believe that sustainability is essential for seizing opportunities and managing risk in today’s global markets,” he said.
The firm therefore used Mission Measurement’s Impact Genome Project to standardise the way that social programmes are measured and evaluated. As one of the first companies to participate in the Impact Genome Project, Moody’s adopted and applied the platform’s methodology to its own corporate social responsibility initiatives.
“Using the Impact Genome Scorecard – a single-page report that includes programme overviews, performance summaries and benchmarks – we were able to analyse our grant portfolio based on measurable outcomes. This analysis helped us assess our progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enabled us to make better decisions about our investments in the social space.”
The rating house says that as a Champion of Good, its employees understand the value of community engagement and volunteering, especially during these challenging times. The company also empowers its employees to shape and contribute to CSR efforts, while regularly measuring and evaluating its social impact.
Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, global head of corporate social responsibility at Moody’s and president of The Moody’s Foundation, said: “Measuring social impact can be challenging for many companies, but it’s essential for determining proper social investment. Companies can become better at doing good by examining the holistic impact or shortcomings of their social investment decisions, and adjusting their approach accordingly.”
Hence, in 2017, Moody’s underwent a strategic evaluation to advance its approach to CSR, and the CSR Impact Leader programme was introduced the following year.
The initiative consists of 255 employees globally – 54 are based in the Asia-Pacific region and 11 in Singapore, specifically.
Ms Isaacs-Lowe said: “The role of CSR Impact Leaders is essential to ensuring CSR is integrated into Moody’s overall business strategy and processes, as it touches everything we do. From a tactical standpoint, this means a CSR Impact Leader will be involved in a variety of activities ranging from sharing our CSR strategy at external events to recommending strategic grant partners to leading office or region-wide volunteer efforts.”
In 2020, due to the pandemic, all volunteer programmes and activities pivoted to virtual delivery. Led by the CSR Impact Leaders, 10 Moody’s volunteers delivered training to 28 women business owners in Singapore as part of a two-day virtual boot camp in August.
Alka Anbarasu, senior credit officer at Moody’s, said: “Participants were able to benefit from the expertise of our employees on topics such as credit, financial statements, goal planning, sources of financing and capital planning.
“There is an urgent need for women-owned businesses to have equal access to markets and capital, which has only been exacerbated by the current pandemic. Through Moody’s and WEConnect International’s Financing your Growing Business programme, we support women to grow their businesses and create long-term impact at scale by providing tools, education, and access to networks and institutions,” added Ms Isaacs-Lowe.
Graeme Knowd, Singapore country manager for Moody’s and CSR Impact co-chair for Singapore, said such programmes have benefited him as an employee, and the company as a whole.
“As an expat living abroad, I often look for ways to connect with and integrate into the community. This event provided me with the opportunity to give back to the community by sharing my professional knowledge to help women business owners. I also learned a lot from participants during the session – an invaluable experience that I would be happy to do again.”
- Champions of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good. Check out the full featured highlights of our Champions of Good 2020 at companyofgood.sg/champions.
Tag: American Express