Pope Francis is no communist (Part 5)

Published June 29, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas

We can give some examples of our own large corporations re-envisaging their social role in Philippine society.  Take San Miguel Corporation.  From its simple beginnings producing and marketing beer and soft drinks, it has expanded significantly its Mission-Vision Statement, incorporating a clear social purpose beyond producing goods and services that promote the welfare of their consumers.   The latest statement of its Vision is: “Guided by a strong sense of social, environmental and economic responsibility, our business all lead to efforts to deliver on national goals, setting the pace of progress of the Philippines.”  Its Mission:  “To provide goods and vital services well within the reach of every Filipino, making everyday life a celebration.”   The millions of Filipinos who have benefited from the electricity generated from its power plants and the infrastructures that have made travel faster and more pleasurable know that SMC does not stay at the level of motherhood statements.  The same can be said for another large conglomerate, the Ayala Corporation.  Its Mission is “Anchored on values of integrity, long-term vision empowering leadership and with a strong commitment to national development, Ayala fulfils its mission to ensure long-term profitability and value creation.  Ayala creates synergies as it builds mutually-beneficial partnership and alliances with those who share its philosophies and values.”  Its Vision: “We will be the most relevant, innovative and enduring Philippine-based business group enabling shared value and prosperity for the many stakeholders we serve.”  A concrete evidence of its commitment to national development is its massive and pioneering investments in renewable energy such as solar and wind. 

A prime example given by Dr. Canals in his paper on corporate purpose is IKEA, the largest furniture company in the world that is about to start its operations in the Philippines in the third or fourth quarter of 2021.  A Swedish multinational, IKEA’s corporate purpose is “To create a better life for many people, this is the IKEA vision.  Our business idea is to offer a wide range of well-designed functional home furnishing products at prices so that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”  It lists its core values: “Leading by example, will power and humbleness; differentiation; desire for innovation and creativity; enthusiasm and togetherness; and cost consciousness.”  In trying to achieve the lowest costs possible in the manufacture of its products, the ultimate goal is not to make higher profits, but to so reduce its prices so that more and more people can afford its products.  Its concern for the environment moves it not to aspire to continuously increase its volume of sales without limit, but to diversify its business into the sale of second-hand furniture and furniture repair services.

Another example of a local publicly listed company that has a very distinct corporate social purpose is DMCI, one of the largest construction and engineering enterprises in the country, founded by the late David M. Consunji.  Its Vision statement: “We are the leading integrated engineering and management conglomerate in the Philippines.  Through our investments, we are able to do the following:  (1) deliver exceptional shareholder value; (2) motivate and provide employees with opportunities and just reward to achieve their full potential; (3) cultivate progress in remote areas, unserved markets and growth industries; (4) integrate sustainable development with superior business results through principled contracting and innovative engineering.”  Its Mission:  “To invest in engineering and construction-related business that bring real benefits to people and the country.”  Among its accomplishments that concretize these statements of corporate purpose are the innovation in engineering design of the famous circular chapel of the University of the Philippines Diliman campus; the various agribusiness projects in some of the most remote areas of Mindanao; and the infrastructure projects that significantly eased travel in the National Capital Region.

It is not only the large conglomerates that are increasingly “re-envisaging the social role of property,” to quote from Pope Francis in his social encyclical Fratelli Tutti.  Young entrepreneurs are getting more involved in start-ups that incorporate social purpose.  In an undergraduate program called the “Entrepreneurial Management” (EM) Program at the University of Asia and the Pacific, the students are being guided to incorporate a social purpose even before they decide what business they will start at the beginning of the four-year program.  Since 1989, the EM Program has produced hundreds of young entrepreneurs who incubated their respective businesses during their first year of the course.  Thirty years ago, the process of choosing what business to start was quite simple:  the entrepreneurs-to-be just scanned from the research findings of the business economists among their  mentors in the program the so-called sunrise industries in which high profits were being made by the existing business people.  I remember that at time, the most popular start-ups were restaurants, fashion goods, tourism services, educational supplies, and food processing, among others.  The idea was to maximize earnings as much as possible.  Today, the mindset has changed under the guidance of their mentors, who are very experienced business executives.  

They start the process of choosing their so-called “New Business Ventures” by scanning what is now famously called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as determined by the United Nations.   There are seventeen of them, as follows:  no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reducing inequality; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate act;  life below water; life on land; peace and justice strong institutions; partnerships to achieve the goals.  They would identify a specific SDG which they want to promote with the business they are planning to start.  If they choose “no hunger,” they would then identify a small business which would improve the productivity of farming, food distribution, food processing, food retailing or any other phase of the agribusiness chain.  I remember that one of our most successful graduates, who started in water distribution at a small scale, is now big enough to challenge Manila and Maynilad Water in some municipalities outside the National Capital Region. This is a very specific example of how business is re-envisaging the social role of private property.  I hope we have given more than enough examples of re-envisaging the social function of private property to demonstrate that the phrase has nothing to do with veering towards communism, that Pope Francis had not the slightest idea of proposing the abolition of private property.  More Horvart can relax.  Pope Francis is no communist even by the widest stretch of the imagination.  For comments, my email address is [email protected].