BORN
1951

INDUCTED
2018

CATEGORY
Business & Enterprise

THE HONOURED INDUCTEES TO THE SINGAPORE WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME

Claire Chiang

Champion of Corporate Social Responsibility

A meeting in the 1980s with a pioneering feminist activist planted a seed in Claire Chiang’s mind that would later take shape as a commitment to sustainable tourism development and a global network of village cooperatives linked to the Banyan Tree hospitality group.

Claire, who co-founded the Banyan Tree group with her husband Ho Kwon Ping in 1994, was inspired by Shirin Fozdar, who had campaigned in Singapore during the 1950s for an end to polygamy and then spent more than a decade in Thailand fighting prostitution by educating village girls and creating jobs for women.

Recalling the meeting with Shirin, Claire said in an interview in 2015: “She asked me to buy cushions which would support one girl to go to school. So I thought maybe I can buy 2,000 and help a village. It was that power and the possibility of giving girls a chance to learn that made me decide to leave academia and together with my husband we decided to establish Banyan Tree and Banyan Tree Gallery.”

Banyan Tree Gallery, which is the group’s retail arm, practices what Claire calls ‘community capitalism’ – it works with village cooperatives and not-for-profit marketing agents to create employment for artisans in the areas around the group’s resorts and hotels, and to help conserve local culture and heritage. The traditional Asian village craft items that these cooperatives make are sold at Banyan Trees’ more than 70 outlets around the world.

Apart from running Banyan Tree’s retail arm, Claire also heads Banyan Tree Global Foundation, which is the group’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) unit and which is driven by the goals of ‘Embrace the environment. Empower people’. The group has over the years won an impressive list of social and environmental awards for its CSR efforts.

She is a Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd and Chairperson for China Business Development. Since 2006, she has focused on the acquisition of new management contracts and oversees key strategic issues in organisational and human capital capability.

Born in 1951, Claire Chiang was the youngest and only daughter of six children of an accountant father and a mother who did odd jobs. The family lived in a shophouse on Race Course Road and the limited space meant Claire had to share a room with five brothers and her paternal grandmother. Growing up in a male-dominated household, Claire learnt early ‘how to fight for her fair share’, a skill which proved useful in her later career as a businesswoman.

Graduating in 1974 with a Sociology degree from the University of Singapore, she was initially a sociology tutor and then, having moved to Hong Kong with her husband in 1978, she conducted research on factory women and got a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Hong Kong in 1985. For four years between 1990 and 1994, Claire was a research sociologist at the National University of Singapore and co-authored an award-winning book “Stepping Out – The Making of Chinese Entrepreneurs” which was later made into an award-winning TV series, focusing on the lives and struggles of early Chinese immigrants in Singapore.

Claire has, in the last three decades, also been active in social and community work. She joined the feminist organization AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) in 1988, and two years later helped it set up a women’s centre and helpline at her former family home in Race Course Road. She became AWARE president in 1993.

In 1995, she became president of the Society Against Family Violence. In the same year, Claire was one of first two women to be elected to the board of the 89-year old Board of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She served as a Nominated Member of Parliament for two terms (1997-2001), raising for debate many policy issues related to the social service sector, women, family, education and the disadvantaged.

Claire is a pioneering member of the Diversity Action Committee, which was established in 2014 to increase female representation on company boards. In 2015, she was elected Director of the Board for Denmark based ISS A/S, and in April 2016 she was elected Director of the Board for Dufry AG, Switzerland.

Claire co-chairs the ACCORD (Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence) Family & Community Council set up by the Ministry of Defence. She chairs the Singapore Book Council and hopes to promote local and regional books with Asian content, and she also chairs the Shirin Fozdar Program at the Singapore Management University and the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund. Claire’s other contributions include serving as a Justice of the Peace, and as a Director in the National Arts Council, Singapore Art Museum and Mandai Park Holdings. She chaired Wildlife Reserves Singapore for seven years, during which time the Rover Safari was developed and the Conservation Fund set up.

Claire has won many national and international business awards. In 1999, she was the Her World “Women of the Year” and in 2008 she was awarded the Public Service Medal. In 2011, she received an Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports, Singapore and in 2014 the Public Service Star for her contribution to implementing work-life integration in Singapore. In April 2016, she received the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award. In March 2017, she was declared winner of the Supernova Category at the inaugural The Women Entrepreneur Award.

Claire Chiang

Champion of Corporate Social Responsibility
BORN 1951  INDUCTED 2018
CATEGORY Business & Enterprise

A meeting in the 1980s with a pioneering feminist activist planted a seed in Claire Chiang’s mind that would later take shape as a commitment to sustainable tourism development and a global network of village cooperatives linked to the Banyan Tree hospitality group.

Claire, who co-founded the Banyan Tree group with her husband Ho Kwon Ping in 1994, was inspired by Shirin Fozdar, who had campaigned in Singapore during the 1950s for an end to polygamy and then spent more than a decade in Thailand fighting prostitution by educating village girls and creating jobs for women.

Recalling the meeting with Shirin, Claire said in an interview in 2015: “She asked me to buy cushions which would support one girl to go to school. So I thought maybe I can buy 2,000 and help a village. It was that power and the possibility of giving girls a chance to learn that made me decide to leave academia and together with my husband we decided to establish Banyan Tree and Banyan Tree Gallery.”

Banyan Tree Gallery, which is the group’s retail arm, practices what Claire calls ‘community capitalism’ – it works with village cooperatives and not-for-profit marketing agents to create employment for artisans in the areas around the group’s resorts and hotels, and to help conserve local culture and heritage. The traditional Asian village craft items that these cooperatives make are sold at Banyan Trees’ more than 70 outlets around the world.

Apart from running Banyan Tree’s retail arm, Claire also heads Banyan Tree Global Foundation, which is the group’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) unit and which is driven by the goals of ‘Embrace the environment. Empower people’. The group has over the years won an impressive list of social and environmental awards for its CSR efforts.

She is a Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd and Chairperson for China Business Development. Since 2006, she has focused on the acquisition of new management contracts and oversees key strategic issues in organisational and human capital capability.

Born in 1951, Claire Chiang was the youngest and only daughter of six children of an accountant father and a mother who did odd jobs. The family lived in a shophouse on Race Course Road and the limited space meant Claire had to share a room with five brothers and her paternal grandmother. Growing up in a male-dominated household, Claire learnt early ‘how to fight for her fair share’, a skill which proved useful in her later career as a businesswoman.

Graduating in 1974 with a Sociology degree from the University of Singapore, she was initially a sociology tutor and then, having moved to Hong Kong with her husband in 1978, she conducted research on factory women and got a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Hong Kong in 1985. For four years between 1990 and 1994, Claire was a research sociologist at the National University of Singapore and co-authored an award-winning book “Stepping Out – The Making of Chinese Entrepreneurs” which was later made into an award-winning TV series, focusing on the lives and struggles of early Chinese immigrants in Singapore.

Claire has, in the last three decades, also been active in social and community work. She joined the feminist organization AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) in 1988, and two years later helped it set up a women’s centre and helpline at her former family home in Race Course Road. She became AWARE president in 1993.

In 1995, she became president of the Society Against Family Violence. In the same year, Claire was one of first two women to be elected to the board of the 89-year old Board of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She served as a Nominated Member of Parliament for two terms (1997-2001), raising for debate many policy issues related to the social service sector, women, family, education and the disadvantaged.

Claire is a pioneering member of the Diversity Action Committee, which was established in 2014 to increase female representation on company boards. In 2015, she was elected Director of the Board for Denmark based ISS A/S, and in April 2016 she was elected Director of the Board for Dufry AG, Switzerland.

Claire co-chairs the ACCORD (Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence) Family & Community Council set up by the Ministry of Defence. She chairs the Singapore Book Council and hopes to promote local and regional books with Asian content, and she also chairs the Shirin Fozdar Program at the Singapore Management University and the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund. Claire’s other contributions include serving as a Justice of the Peace, and as a Director in the National Arts Council, Singapore Art Museum and Mandai Park Holdings. She chaired Wildlife Reserves Singapore for seven years, during which time the Rover Safari was developed and the Conservation Fund set up.

Claire has won many national and international business awards. In 1999, she was the Her World “Women of the Year” and in 2008 she was awarded the Public Service Medal. In 2011, she received an Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports, Singapore and in 2014 the Public Service Star for her contribution to implementing work-life integration in Singapore. In April 2016, she received the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award. In March 2017, she was declared winner of the Supernova Category at the inaugural The Women Entrepreneur Award.

“You should never avoid profits and beauty in hospitality, but it can’t come at the cost of environment and communities’ well-being. This is the only way we will do business, and one resort at a time will hopefully change the paradigm.”

LIVEMINT.COM, SEPTEMBER 2014

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