DBS Foundation announces 23 new grant awardees across Asia, including eight SMEs

Singapore.06 Dec 2022

Together, the 23 awardees are estimated to impact two million lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 319 tonnes and reduce 132,000 tonnes of food waste

Next-gen business owners are a key force in driving sustainability among SMEs and transforming traditional family businesses into impactful businesses

Singapore, 06 Dec 2022 - DBS Foundation (“the Foundation”) today unveiled 23 new awardees of its flagship grant programme, which for the first time include small-and-medium enterprises, that were selected for their unique and innovative efforts to address pertinent social and environmental challenges in their communities. A total of SGD 3 million will be disbursed to scale the growth and impact of these new grant awardees, who will join the Foundation’s growing community of over 100 businesses for impact in the bank’s key markets.

The 23 grant awardees comprise 15 social enterprises (SEs) and eight small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs). These SMEs are the inaugural batch of recipients of the Foundation’s new SME grant launched this year, which is tailored to support SMEs looking to kickstart sustainable transformation.

These enterprises were chosen following a rigorous review of a record 900-plus grant applications. They stood out for their emerging potential and laser-focus on accelerating innovation, scalability, and the positive impact of their solutions on the community and environment. With DBS Foundation’s support, the grant awardees will be able to scale up to their next phase of growth, which could include expanding to new communities, improving their products and services through research and development/ piloting new prototypes, and ramping up of operational capacity – this will in turn enable them to create greater impact through their businesses. Over the next two years, they are collectively targeting to:

  • Support over two million lives and livelihoods by providing access to education, healthcare, accessibility solutions, and employment opportunities
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 319 tonnes (equivalent to growing about 16,000 trees in a year [1])
  • Customers will be able to monitor the portfolio solution’s performance digitally at all times. They are also empowered to adjust their investment preferences (e.g. retirement drawdown amount, frequency) along the way should circumstances change.
  • Reduce over 132,000 tonnes of food waste (equivalent to the food wasted by half a million average Singapore households per year [2])
  • Provide 1,000 million litres of clean water (equivalent to water for 17,000 average Singapore households for a year [3])

Karen Ngui, Group Head, DBS Strategic Marketing and Communications and Board Member of DBS Foundation, said: “In the midst of greater economic uncertainty and escalating socioeconomic challenges, these businesses play an increasingly important role in creating new solutions to improve lives and livelihoods, and enable change. We are privileged to stand alongside these enterprises to help them to build and scale their businesses, as they strive to provide long-term solutions to improve the state of our planet and support the communities in which they live and work in. By coming together and marshalling our collective strengths, we hope to create greater impact together.”

Based on 2020 data, the Asian Development Bank estimates that there are at least 71 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Southeast Asia alone, accounting for 97% of all businesses in the region and employing 67% of the working population – a count that’s likely to be even higher as many microenterprises operate informally. The sheer size of the sector suggests the immense potential for impact, should sustainability be integrated into how these enterprises work.

Providing SEs with the patient capital they need to flourish

Since its establishment in 2014 as Singapore’s first foundation committed to championing social entrepreneurship in Asia, DBS Foundation has disbursed over SGD 13 million in grant funding to support high-potential SEs in developing and growing their businesses. The Foundation also serves as a conduit to the bank’s resources, enabling the SEs to access wide-ranging support including specially designed SE banking solutions, capacity- and skills-building, mentorship, and business opportunities, among others. DBS Foundation also works closely with grant awardees to track impact outcomes, monitor business growth, and provide connections to the wider ecosystem to build a community network.

Homage and TreeDots are examples of enterprises that received DBS Foundation’s recognition and support at a very early stage – in 2016 and 2018 respectively, when their businesses had just started. These businesses were well ahead of their time, harnessing technology to solve two of Singapore’s biggest problems, namely elderly care and food wastage. They have since successfully grown by leaps and bounds, having expanded beyond Singapore and going on to raise more than USD 60 million in additional funding.

“Social enterprises are in effect businesses for impact, driven by a strong sense of purpose, planet and profit. They are acutely aware of what’s happening in their communities and determined to tackle existing pain points and existential challenges. DBS Foundation hopes that by providing patient capital and other forms of capacity building support, these businesses will be able to grow stronger and scale their ability to create impact and do good,” continued Ngui.

As issues of rising income inequality and social isolation continue to plague societies today, there is a growing need for solutions with which to build more inclusive communities. About a third of this year’s grant awardees are focusing on providing livelihoods especially for women, access to affordable education and accessibility solutions, to ensure that no one is left behind.

Recognising that Singapore is home to a rapidly ageing population, Joshua Goh, founder of Red Crowns Senior Living developed a co-living concept for the elderly that comes with concierge services for medical assistance, so that they can live comfortably and independently. In the similar vein of empowering vulnerable or underserved segments of society, City Sprouts co-founders Zac Toh, Zhi Kin Chee, and Simone Lim seek to deliver impact-driven programs to these communities by repurposing community spaces.

Next-gen business owners powering wave of change among Asia’s SMEs

In Singapore, three in five SMEs believe that sustainability is key to business growth [4] – but while the direction is clear, the road towards it is less so. DBS Foundation established its inaugural SME grant this year to encourage and support SMEs looking to embark on this journey, topping off a robust suite of initiatives that the bank has put together in recent years to empower the sector.

Joyce Tee, Managing Director and Group Head of SME Banking said, “SMEs make up more than 90% of enterprises in the region and employ more than the simple majority of the working population – should sustainable practices be integrated into every single one of their operations, the potential for impact will create a snowball effect for positive change. For the regional economy to move towards a net zero operating environment, it is imperative that SMEs are part of the transition story. It’s still early days, but we’re heartened to see green shoots of change sprouting in the region, and look forward to partnering more SMEs to accelerate their journey moving forward.”

The eight SME grant awardees are driving change in at least one of three focus areas that the grant seeks to address: reducing energy consumption, reducing food waste, and building sustainable supply chains. Notably, the new generation of business-owners are emerging as a key force in driving this shift towards becoming more environmentally-sustainable by taking the lead to innovate new solutions for traditional industries, be it by pivoting their family businesses or setting up new business lines.

Founder Kenneth Ong of Little Green Ranger is a next-gen entrepreneur who wants to transform his family’s traditional business of providing diesel generators for the construction sector by replacing these with battery-powered and solar-powered generators, thereby reducing carbon footprint. Yet another home-grown business Brewerkz, a craft beer maker, is focused on upcycling brewers’ spent grains (BSG), a by-product of brewing beer which is mostly discarded today. They are partnering a start-up to transform BSG into food products for human consumption, with the aim of reducing food waste, increasing resource circularity, and even creating a new line of sustainable food products.

For more information on the 2022 grant awardees, please visit: https://go.dbs.com/3Vs0dwm



[1] https://www.climateneutralgroup.com/en/news/what-exactly-is-1-tonne-of-co2/

[2] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/tackling-food-waste-at-home

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/962969/per-capita-household-water-consumption-singapore/

[4] https://www.dbs.com.sg/sme/dbs-step-up-for-smes/sustainable-business/sustainability-pledge-for-smes?pk_source=google&pk_medium=organic&pk_campaign=seo#_ftn1

About DBS
DBS is a leading financial services group in Asia with a presence in 19 markets. Headquartered and listed in Singapore, DBS is in the three key Asian axes of growth: Greater China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. The bank's "AA-" and "Aa1" credit ratings are among the highest in the world.

Recognised for its global leadership, DBS has been named “World’s Best Bank” by Global Finance, “World’s Best Bank” by Euromoney and “Global Bank of the Year” by The Banker. The bank is at the forefront of leveraging digital technology to shape the future of banking, having been named “World’s Best Digital Bank” by Euromoney and the world’s “Most Innovative in Digital Banking” by The Banker. In addition, DBS has been accorded the “Safest Bank in Asia“ award by Global Finance for 14 consecutive years from 2009 to 2022.

DBS provides a full range of services in consumer, SME and corporate banking. As a bank born and bred in Asia, DBS understands the intricacies of doing business in the region’s most dynamic markets.

DBS is committed to building lasting relationships with customers, as it banks the Asian way. Through the DBS Foundation, the bank creates impact beyond banking by supporting social enterprises: businesses with a double bottom-line of profit and social and/or environmental impact. DBS Foundation also gives back to society in various ways, including equipping communities with future-ready skills and building food resilience.

With its extensive network of operations in Asia and emphasis on engaging and empowering its staff, DBS presents exciting career opportunities. For more information, please visit www.dbs.com.



About DBS Foundation
DBS Foundation is focused on creating impact and improving lives through championing social entrepreneurship and preparing communities for the future.

The existing “Business for Impact” chapter was established when DBS Foundation commenced operations in 2014, and focuses on championing businesses and social enterprises with a dual bottom line.

In 2022, the DBS Foundation expanded the scope and scale of its operations with the formation of the new “Community Impact” chapter. The new chapter looks to supporting communities by equipping them with essential skills for a better future, specifically financial and digital literacy skills. It also aims to tackle climate change with a focus on food waste reduction.

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