DBS Disburses Record SGD 9 Million to Help Social Enterprises Tide Through Pandemic

DBS disburses record SGD 9 million to help social enterprises tide through pandemic

SGD 2 million awarded to SEs this year through grant initiatives, including the 2020 DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme

Additional SGD 7 million in loans disbursed to SEs in Singapore so far in 2020, up four-fold from 2019

With businesses hard hit by Covid-19, DBS has stepped up its support for social enterprises (SEs) with SGD 9 million in loans and grants this year. This is the bank’s largest collective disbursement of loans and grants within a year to SEs since the inception of DBS Foundation – DBS’ foundation arm which was set up in 2014 to champion the growth of social entrepreneurship. Much of this support has gone towards creating and preserving livelihoods, with many of the SEs able to use the funding to create and retain jobs that hire people from disadvantaged communities.

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Karen Ngui, Board Member of DBS Foundation, said, “In the world we’re living in today, companies must not only think about delivering value to shareholders, but also consider the interests of the communities they serve. This has really come to the fore amidst Covid-19, which has sparked unprecedented social and economic challenges – yet, these very issues have also heightened opportunities for social enterprises to make a difference, and helped to cement the importance of their role in society. At DBS, we believe social enterprises represent the future of business. As a purpose-driven bank, DBS is committed to supporting the growth of this sector, helping these social enterprises to protect the lives and livelihoods of their staff and beneficiaries, and standing by them as we continue to navigate this pandemic together.”

SEs are increasingly being recognised for the important role they play in society. In a 2020 DBS Foundation survey (“Public Perception Survey of Social Enterprises[1]), conducted in partnership with the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises (raiSE), 72% of respondents said that they are aware of SEs and what they do – a sharp rise from 13% in 2010. In addition, almost all the respondents view SEs as being relevant and important, with 95% of respondents agreeing that they are a good way to address social issues.

2020 DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme awards close to SGD 1.4 million to 13 SEs, including two based in Singapore

DBS Foundation announced today that it has awarded some SGD 1.4 million in grant funding to 13 SEs from DBS’ six key markets (Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Taiwan) in the 2020 cycle of its flagship DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme (“Grant Programme”).

The grant funding aims to support the awardees in deploying their social innovations, which include leveraging technology to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities and the elderly, as well as empowering women and youths in rural communities. The Grant Programme’s inaugural ‘Zero Food Waste’ category also makes available funding to SEs that contribute towards the UN’s global target of reducing food waste. All Grant Programme awardees will also have access to DBS’ resources which include capacity-building; inclusion in awareness-raising initiatives through various programmes and platforms; procurement, networking and opening doors to new business opportunities.

The 13 SEs were selected from a record 820 applications across Asia – a 30% increase from the 2019 cycle. Awardees were subject to rigorous evaluation criteria including their social impact, innovation, as well as the sustainability and scalability of their business models. They were also required to demonstrate a path to achieving key business and social impact milestones.

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Two of the awardees are Singapore-based SEs[2]:

  • Ento Industries aims to address the perennial problem of food wastage by expanding opportunities for food by-products. With the help of its army of Black Soldier flies, the biotechnology company converts and upcycles organic waste into high-value and quality animal feedstock for the agriculture industry, effectively closing the loop on food waste. Their grant will be used to support technology adoption and commercialisation of Ento Industries’ food waste conversion system, to reduce the amount of waste that is incinerated and eradicate the need for new landfills.
  • Zigway is a fintech company dedicated to helping low-income households in ASEAN break free from poverty and achieve financial security with technology. Recognising that low-income households often suffer ‘poverty penalties’ – for example, by not being able to afford buying basic necessities in bulk, they often end up paying up to 20% more for the same quantity – Zigway makes bulk-buying affordable through a monthly subscription model. They also provide low-interest nano loans to assist families or small businesses in need, and train women, who are often disproportionately impacted by poverty, to take up roles as Zigway’s community champions, or ‘super users’. The grant will support the upgrading of Zigway’s mobile application platform, its ability to train more women, and geographical expansion.

The Foundation’s SGD 1.4 million grant award follows two other SE grant initiatives that DBS Foundation introduced earlier this year:

  • The inaugural DBS Foundation Business Transformation and Improvement Grant (“BTI Grant”), an SGD 550,000 commitment launched in response to Covid-19. The BTI Grant sought to enable SEs to retain their workers, create new jobs or pivot and transform their business models to include new revenue streams. It was awarded to 14 SEs across Asia, including three based in Singapore (Homage, TreeDots and Bettr Barista), and has since supported 6,700 jobs and impacted over a million beneficiaries and their families.
  • The DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize, held in partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU) as part of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Competition, was awarded to Singapore-based SE Stratificare in October this year. This inaugural prize was launched to support early-stage start-ups from across the world that offered sustainable, scalable and enterprising business solutions that can help make cities of the future healthier, greener and more inclusive. SGD 100,000 in prize money was awarded to the winners[3].

Over SGD 7 million disbursed in loans to cover SEs’ working capital needs

Access to working capital to protect jobs and ensure business continuity was an immediate priority – and challenge – for many SEs when the pandemic emerged. Recognising that SEs may be overlooked by lenders as they typically lack borrowing history with banks or relevant credit profiles, DBS quickly moved to roll out its SE Digital Business Loan in May this year, to cover working capital needs at preferential rates.

The SE Digital Business Loan was availed to eligible SEs at an interest rate as low as 2% per annum. SEs were able to receive up to SGD 200,000 in funding within five days of signing and accepting their letter of offer. In the last six months, over SGD 1.4 million worth of SE Digital Business Loans have been disbursed.

This is in addition to other existing SE loan offerings aimed at addressing cashflow issues. They include the Social Enterprise Business Loan, aimed at helping SEs to kickstart their businesses with unsecured loans at a preferential interest rate, and the Temporary Bridging Loan, which provides relief assistance to help SEs bridge short-term cashflow gaps in daily operations. In total, over SGD 7 million in loans have been disbursed to SEs in Singapore this year, a four-fold increase from a year ago.

Other forms of support provided by DBS this year include procuring goods and services from SEs[4]; providing SEs with 20 interns from SMU via the DBS Business for Good internship, as part of the DBS-SMU Sustainability Initiative; providing business and technical expertise through skills-based volunteering and mentoring by DBS employees and partners; and partnering raiSE for the virtual Festival for Good – Asia’s largest celebration of social enterprises.

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