Kwek Leng Joo



Kwek Leng Joo (24 April 1953, Singapore1–16 November 2015, Singapore) was a prominent businessman, photographer and philanthropist. The younger son of Kwek Hong Png, founder of conglomerate Hong Leong Group, Kwek was the deputy chairman of City Developments Ltd (CDL) and held directorships in Hong Leong Finance Ltd and Hong Leong Investment Holdings Pte Ltd, among other positions. He was also known for his pioneering role in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement and as a photographer.

Early years
Kwek was born into one of Singapore’s wealthiest families. His father was the founder of Hong Leong Group, a finance and real estate empire. The younger of two sons, Kwek received his early education at Anglo-Chinese School and Maris Stella High School in Singapore.2 He then graduated with diplomas in economics and hotel management from New York and Takushoku universities in the United States and Tokyo, Japan, respectively.3

Businessman
Kwek joined the family business in 1976. Over the years, he held positions in various companies under the Hong Leong Group, but was most closely associated with the group’s property arm, CDL.4 After their father’s passing in 1994, Kwek and his brother Leng Beng took over the reins of CDL as managing director and chairman respectively.5 On the board of CDL since 1980, Kwek helped to steer the company’s strategic direction.6

CSR pioneer and environmentalist
Kwek had begun pushing for CSR in CDL from as early as the 1990s – at a time when CSR was embraced by few in the corporate world. He was responsible for officially kick-starting sustainability efforts in CDL in 1995; today, CDL is established internationally as a leader in corporate sustainability.7 Under his leadership, CDL was guided by the principle of a three-pronged approach to success: profit, sustainability and social engagement.8

In October 2015, Kwek was honoured with the President’s Award for the Environment, Singapore’s highest accolade for contributions to environmental sustainability.9

Photographer
Kwek bought his first camera when he was in secondary school, and thus began his journey in photography. He visited the Botanic Gardens frequently to photograph nature, which remained his pet subject for the rest of his life. However, he had to put aside his hobby in 1976 when he joined the family business.10

After a hiatus of 25 years, Kwek returned to photography serendipitously in 2001. Due to cost-cutting measures in CDL at the time, Kwek had to shoot a series of photos for the company’s corporate calendar himself instead of hiring someone else do it. A professional photographer who was impressed by Kwek’s photographs featured in the calendar invited him to participate in a group exhibition that year.11 Since then, there had been various exhibitions and publications of his works,12 some of which were sold at charity auctions.13 He reportedly raised over S$3 million from sales of his photography works and photobooks.14

Philanthropist
In addition to fundraising through his photography, Kwek also made donations to universities to support education causes. In 2015, he gifted S$3 million to the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Management University to establish the Create4Good Challenge, in which students compete to create innovations for a smart and sustainable Singapore. The inaugural competition was held in 2016.15 Kwek also pledged a S$5-million donation to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to spread awareness of CSR among students.16

A firm believer in youth engagement and arts development, Kwek provided NTU with funds to establish the Kwek Leng Joo Prize for Excellence in Still Photography, which was instituted in 2009.17

In September 2015, Kwek was named one of Forbes Asia’s “heroes of philanthropy”.18

Other positions
In 1993, 39-year-old Kwek was elected the president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI). He was the second youngest ever to lead the SCCCI, which was founded in 1906.19 As president, Kwek brought about fundamental changes at the chamber: he sought to create a “modern, efficient and professional trade organisation” by abolishing the traditional clan-based system of representation in the committee and admitting female council members. Kwek served as SCCCI president from 1993 to 1997 and 2001 to 2005.20

Kwek was also the founding chairman of Singapore’s first professional football league, S.League, which he helped to set up between 1995 and 1996.21

In 2002, Kwek became the founding vice-chairman of the Singapore Business Federation. As the then president of the SCCCI and the Singapore Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SFCCI), he had proposed the establishment of the Singapore Business Federation to better align the endeavours of the local business community with national interests and the needs of globalisation. The Singapore Business Federation replaced the SFCCI.22

Additionally, Kwek was at various times the president of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore23 and the Singapore Compact for CSR (now known as Global Compact Network Singapore),24 member of the board of trustees of NTU,25 as well as board member of MediaCorp26 and the National Arts Council.27

Death
Kwek passed away on 15 November 2015 from a heart attack.28

Awards
1991: Friend of Labour, National Trades Union Congress29
2000:
Public Service Medal, government of Singapore30

2005: Public Service Star, government of Singapore31
2011: Outstanding Volunteer Award, Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports32
2012:
Lifetime Creative Achievement Award, American Creativity Association33
2015:
President’s Award for the Environment, government of Singapore


Selected publications
2002: Timeless Jiangnan 《江南晴雨》34
2005: Heart Voyage 《令裕心集》35
2008: Heart Voyage II 《令裕心集二》36
2011: Heart Voyage III 《令裕心集三》37
2015: Embrace: A Journey through the Singapore Botanic Gardens38



Author
Fiona Lim



References
1. Tan, S. (1993, May 2). Daring to break out of tradition. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Visscher, S. (2007). The business of politics and ethnicity: A history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 250. (Call no.: RSING 381.0605957 VIS)
3. Businessman Kwek to head S-League. (1996, May 6). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Wee, E. (2002, November 28). Property tycoon Kwek Leng Joo has a hobby. It’s on show, along with paintings by Ong Kim Seng. The New Paper, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Visscher, S. (2007). The business of politics and ethnicity: A history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 250. (Call no.: RSING 381.0605957 VIS)
5. Kwek brothers take over helm at CityDev. (1994, December 30). The Business Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. City Developments Limited: A lasting impression. (2013). Singapore: City Developments Limited, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 333.33095957 CIT)
7. Kan, F. (2016, February 29). Making the business case to be sustainable. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg; Cheam, J., & Chua, J. (2015, November 18). Kwek Leng Joo: Singapore’s CSR pioneer. Eco-Business. Retrieved 2017, October 12 from Eco-Business website: http://www.eco-business.com/news/kwek-leng-joo-singapores-csr-pioneer/
8. City Developments Limited: A lasting impression. (2013). Singapore: City Developments Limited, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 333.33095957 CIT); Lee, S. S. (2012, June 8). Corporate social responsibility not just about charity. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Liyana Othman. (2015, October 8). 4 individuals, organisations awarded Singapore’s highest environmental accolade. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
10. Cheam, J., & Chua, J. (2015, November 18). Kwek Leng Joo: Singapore’s CSR pioneer. Eco-Business. Retrieved 2017, October 12 from Eco-Business website: http://www.eco-business.com/news/kwek-leng-joo-singapores-csr-pioneer/; Wee, E. (2002, November 28). Property tycoon Kwek Leng Joo has a hobby. It’s on show, along with paintings by Ong Kim Seng. The New Paper, p. 19; Leong, W. K. (2005, June 28). Kwek Leng Joo, the passionate shutterbug. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Leong, W. K. (2005, June 28). Kwek Leng Joo, the passionate shutterbug. The Straits Times, p. 1; Photo buffs who make the news. (2001, April 30). Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tay, S. C. (2006, October 28). The boss’ blooms. The Straits Times, p. 22; Tracks of time. (2011, July 29). The Business Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chow, C. (2002, December 10). O brother, I’m charmed. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. CDL deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo dies. (2015, November 16). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
15. Singapore University of Technology and Design. (2016, May 20). A first-of-its-kind S$3 million ‘Create4Good Challenge’ for SUTD and SMU students to develop innovation solutions for a more sustainable and caring nation [Press release]. Retrieved from Singapore University of Technology and Design website: https://sutd.edu.sg/About-Us/News-and-Events/Press-Releases/2016/5/A-first-of-its-kind-S$3-million-Create4Good-Chall
16. CDL deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo dies. (2015, November 16). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
17. Nanyang Technological University. (2015, April 3). NTU welcomes new members to its board of trustees [Press release]. Retrieved from NTU website: http://media.ntu.edu.sg/NewsReleases/Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=b8ac68bf-cc4c-4028-b8c0-fc90a8da739c
18. Koppisch, J. (2015, September). In Asia, 40 heroes of philanthropy are making their mark. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from Forbes website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoppisch/2015/08/26/in-asia-40-heroes-of-philanthropy-are-making-their-mark/#55dc4576149b
19. Phua, K. K., & Tan, E. (1993, February 12). Leng Joo second youngest head of Chinese chamber. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Visscher, S. (2007). The business of politics and ethnicity: A history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. xii, 248–251, 319. (Call no.: RSING 381.0605957 VIS); Lee, S. (1993, March 1). New SCCCI chief set on abolishing clan-based election. The Business Times, p. 2; Tan, S. (1993, May 2). Daring to break out of tradition. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Dorai, J. (1995, May 6). Businessman Kwek to head S-League. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Football Association of Singapore. (2015, November 16). Media statement on the passing of Mr Kwek Leng Joo [Press release]. Retrieved from Football Association of Singapore website: http://www.fas.org.sg/newsroom/press-release/media-statement-passing-mr-kwek-leng-joo
22. Singapore Business Federation. (2015, November 17). Condolences – Loss of prominent business leader, Mr Kwek Leng Joo [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, October 13 from Singapore Business Federation website: http://www.sbf.org.sg/condolences-loss-of-prominent-business-leader-mr-kwek-leng-joo
23. Kwek Leng Joo elected president of Redas management committee. (1989, February 13). The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lee, S. S. (2012, June 8). Corporate social responsibility not just about charity. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Almenoar, M., & Liaw, W.-C. (2006, April 1). Trustees will have bigger say in running NUS, NTU. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Kwek joins MediaCorp board. (2004, September 7). Today, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; CDL deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo dies. (2015, November 16). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
27. Liu heads NAC for another term. (2002, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. CDL deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo dies. (2015, November 16). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
29. NTUC to award May Day honours to 13. (1991, April 23). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. National Day Awards 2000. (2000, August 12). The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Teo, A. (2005, August 9). Corporate captains on National Day honours roll. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tai, J., & Durai, J. (2011, October 29). Honouring those who helped others. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. City Developments Limited: A lasting impression. (2013). Singapore: City Developments Limited, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 333.33095957 CIT)
34. Ong, K. S., & Kwek, L. J. (2002). Timeless Jiangnan 《江南晴雨》. Singapore: Kwek L.J.; Ong K.S. (Call no.: RSING 951 ONG)
35. Kwek, L. J. (2005). 令裕心集 = Heart voyage. Xinjiapo: Guo Lingyu. (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 779 KLJ-[SRN])
36. Kwek, L. J. (2008). Heart voyage II 《令裕心集二》. Singapore: Kwek Leng Joo. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.092 KWE)
37. Kwek, L. J. (2011). Heart voyage III 《令裕心集三》. Singapore: Kwek Leng Joo. (Call no.: RCLOS 779.092 KWE)
38. Kwek, L. J. (2015). Embrace: A journey through the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: Kwek Leng Joo. Available via PublicationSG.



Further resources
Chew, H. M. (2015, November 16). Remembering Kwek Leng Joo: Property tycoon and avid lensman. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg

Kwek Leng Joo’s legacy will endure: PM Lee. (2015, November 17). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg

Making sustainability an ‘action item’ in boardrooms. (2011, November 22). The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Quek, S. (2014, May 23). ‘Green gifts’. The Straits Times, pp. 36–37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 13 October 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Community and Social Services
Commerce and Industry
Personalities
Economy