FIVE students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) combined their interest in community service with their business acumen to take the top prize for Young Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Leaders on Thursday at the fourth annual CSR summit.

Working with security services company Mainguard since May, the team met company representatives and security guards before devising a three-pronged plan to improve their CSR.

The suggested strategies included plans to raise awareness of security officers' roles through a poster campaign, provide recycling bins at security areas, and tap the knowledge of security officers to conduct workshops to inform the vulnerable elderly of what to do in an emergency.

Said team leader Lim Qi Kai, 23, of the experience: "It made me realise that a company which cares for the community is a good company to work for." Their thorough proposal earned them the award, which is in its second year.

Along with two other student teams, seven companies were also recognised for their efforts this year at the summit organised by Singapore Compact, which champions the CSR cause. The two-day summit ended yesterday.

Winning in various categories were NTUC FairPrice Cooperative, NatSteel Holdings, CapitaLand, Adrenalin Events and Education, Keppel Land, Shell Companies in Singapore and Holiday Inn Atrium. CapitaLand, for example, allocates up to 0.5 per cent of its net profit to its foundation which supports underprivileged children.

Speaking on Thursday at the event, Mr Kwek Leng Joo, president of Singapore Compact, suggested that the Government set up a cross-discipline agency to promote and oversee CSR efforts.

"With an umbrella body to spearhead efforts in planning and implementing national CSR policies with a more dedicated and strategic approach, businesses will be more encouraged to align their strategies and practices to national priorities," he said.

Guest of honour at the summit, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, commended the award-winning companies for embracing CSR, and described such efforts as helping to address "the unmet needs of society".

He cited the example of Adrenalin Events and Education, a four-year-old start-up which employs and trains the physically challenged, hearing impaired, and youth-at-risk as part of its team.

Mr Kwek also noted that getting young people involved was a key priority, and an important way to nurture early CSR awareness.

To encourage Singaporeans to start young, Singapore Compact and the National Youth Achievement Awards (NYAA) Council signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday to launch a new youth membership scheme, targeting the 17-30 age group.

Members get access to Singapore Compact's workshops, lectures and network of around 420 corporate, institutional and associate members.

Singapore Compact hopes to attract a core group of 500 youth members by next year. Plans for a youth forum on CSR next year are also under way.