Sustainable practices needed to weather crisis

Published November 15, 2020, 7:19 PM

by James A. Loyola

The Aboitiz group is urging local businesses to adopt sustainable practices in order to weather the widespread disruptions taking place today as the world struggles with the immense impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. 

This was the recent rallying call of Aboitiz business units namely Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) and Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) during recent The BEST (Business for Environmentally Sustainable Transformation) Project Forum.

The BEST Project is a technologically-powered social enterprise that allows businesses and organizations to reduce marketing, create more targeted messaging, and deliver direct environmental, social, and economic benefits to those who need them most.

UnionBank Vice Chairman Justo A. Ortiz and AboitizPower President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel V. Rubio explained how UnionBank and AboitizPower are addressing disruptions by harnessing digitalization as a tool to serve customers and adopting collaboration to achieve efficiency.

“Governance is critical; we don’t have a big carbon footprint although we could influence that. Where we can really make a difference particularly in a country like the Philippines is in ‘S’… social by focusing on inclusive prosperity, which digital now makes possible,” Ortiz noted, citing that about 70 percent of the people in the country, especially in rural areas are unbanked digitally.

Ortiz said that, in the future, banking will be “invisible” or will be an automatic activity as access to technology and banking applications make “all branch banking activities possible at the palm of your hands anytime, anywhere.”

This idea, the UnionBank chief said, has graduated to a more disrupted prediction. “Today, we see the utility of banking itself getting more elusive, imperceptibly disappearing in the background of other industry platforms,” he said, referring to the customers’ ability to pay product and service marketplaces such as Lazada, Amazon, eBay, and others with just a click.

Ortiz stressed that value rendered to the customers increases exponentially when financial services are embedded invisibly and imperceptibly into platforms, and banks can keep up with tech platforms while continuously acting as an “intermediator” and repository of customer trust.

Meanwhile, Rubio explained that, “Our pursuit of operational efficiency and sustainability is anchored on a digital strategy, which aims to transform AboitizPower into an organization with a strong culture of working in a digital ecosystem.”

Among other innovations, AboitizPower distribution utility Davao Light recently launched its first fully-digital substation, while Cotabato Light launched its Collection On Wheels project, bringing the payment centers closer to customers and communities during COVID-19. AboitizPower also previously pioneered mobileAP, an avenue for customers to view and manage bills any time, anywhere.

“Even before the pandemic, we have made huge steps towards a digital transformation. We have invested in technologies that have allowed us to operate and maintain our facilities remotely. We also have digital tools and platforms that have kept our team members connected and engaged. These investments have enabled us to keep the business running smoothly despite the hurdles posed by COVID-19,” Rubio added.

The BEST Project’s triple bottom-line approach revolves around three major principles: Be Green (create sustainable products and services), Be Digital (use technology to create smart solutions), and Be Kind (adopt an inclusive approach).“These are trying times for all of us. The world that emerges in the aftermath of this crisis will not be the same as the one that entered it. We must all innovate or be left behind. Together, let us work towards reshaping our planet for the sake of a greener and brighter future,” the company said.