Who says business giants and civil society groups can’t see eye to eye when it comes to environmental concerns and sustainability goals?
The opposite was demonstrated during a recent virtual forum organized by Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) and the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) on the subject of how to achieve a sustainable future through Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles.
“The largest sustainability issues we are currently facing are COVID (coronavirus disease) and climate change. During these highly unusual times, the role of businesses and even of CSOs (civil society organizations) are most needed,” Dr. Carlos Primo David, ADRi trustee and PBEST convenor reckoned during the event last April 21.
The online meeting, which was attended by the sustainability officers of major companies like Globe Telecommunications and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), took place two days ahead of the annual celebration of Earth Day.
“We’ve up[ped] the ante and we’ve actually committed to adhere to global sustainability standards and frameworks,” said MPIC Chief Finance Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla.
“We’ve put sustainability pillars across the businesses which include exceptional service, operational efficiency, environmental stewardship, human capital excellence, positive community impact, governance, and business ethics. We’ve also put our focus on enabling genuine progress and development,” she said.
Yoly Crisanto, senior vice president for corporate communications and chief sustainability officer of Globe Telecommunication, spoke about the environment-friendly policies from government that allow the country to be resilient.
“Even without incentives, the drive of the government to keep pushing for opening up the marketplace for more investments that will bring about sustainability-driven businesses, like electric cars, renewable energy―the things that are useful―and even digital transformation are the things that allow us to be resilient,” Crisanto said.
ADRi President Dindo Manhit said that the government, with the help of civil society, “should set the much-needed responsive policies and frameworks that are conducive to doing business while ensuring compliance with ESG principles.”
“We believe that the private sector, through ESG, plays a vital role in advancing the country’s sustainable development. The interconnected challenges in public health, the economy, and the environment cannot be ignored,” he added.
To this, Young Environmental Forum Executive Director Ludwig Federigan said: “CSOs can help build the political will for a new approach to development that integrates environmental and social goals.”
On the other hand, non-government organizations (NGOs) “can serve as alternative to weak or inadequate democratic institutions, as avenues for more inclusive dialogues, and as conduits for disseminating information on activities and issues within the system,” Federigan said.
Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, agreed with Crisanto’s view. “Businesses would agree that the incentives are not as important as predictability and other measures that allow businesses to thrive,” he said.
“There is the bigger incentive―cut red tape, make things more predictable, show us where the directions are, what is the ultimate investment strategy, and we will respond,” he added.
For her part, Nazrin Castro of The Climate Reality Project Philippines said that “economic recovery programs of the government and the private sector should channel massive investments not only on our short-term goal of reviving our industries and creating jobs, but also on programs, projects, and initiatives that will achieve our long-term resilience and sustainability objectives.”
“This shouldn’t be a problem because the current climate crisis also unlocks many opportunities for investments,” she noted.