WHILE much has been said about the importance of social entrepreneurs, corporate watchers say it is now also time to talk about the role of the social intrapreneur.

The term - a relatively new one in the world of management speak - refers to an employee of a large organisation who has come up with a way for the company to make money while doing something good for society.

This differs from corporate social responsibility (CSR), which relates to projects or activities undertaken by firms at their own cost to help the community, said Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, dean of the School of Human Development and Social Services at SIM University.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a forum on social intrapreneurship organised by the Singapore Institute of Management on Monday.

He cited an example of CSR: A company donates money to a charity or organises volunteering activities for its employees.

But social intrapreneurship is about undertaking an initiative or tweaking the way the company does business in a way that keeps it profitable, yet helps the environment or the community.

"Change from within can be more powerful," said Prof Tan.

This is especially so in large organisations, which have the resources to carry out such initiatives on a large scale and thus can make a big impact on society.

Fuji Xerox Singapore's sustainability business analyst Gareth Liew, who also spoke at the forum, said his firm has done this by partnering small companies to co-develop products and services with a social benefit.

For example, the firm has joined hands with Prevview, a portal where job seekers can upload video resumes, to design a site where people with disabilities can search for jobs.

Fuji Xerox in turn will benefit financially as employers can search for potential employees through this portal with a paid subscription to the firm.

Social intrapreneurship can be a tall order for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with limited resources, said Mr David Ong, founder and director of data security firm Data Terminator.

He told the forum: "As SMEs, our resources are quite limited and the focus is more on traditional money-making.

"But SME owners can also make decisions that are not directly related to profit as they don't have many shareholders to be accountable to."

While his firm is too small to do social intrapreneurship on a big scale, it does its bit by helping out whenever it can. One of its businesses is to dispose of electronic waste, and the firm realised many people were throwing away computers that were still in working condition.

Mr Ong has since struck up a partnership with family services organisations to donate second- hand computers to those in need.