Corporations feel growing public pressure for sustainability

Published October 22, 2021, 3:05 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The pandemic and the climate crisis are increasing the pressure on corporations globally, including the Philippines, to take accountability for their impact on the environment and push for sustainability efforts.

During the ASEAN Sustainability E-Summit on Friday, Tim Daniels, investor relations representative of SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), said that over the last two years, the public has become more serious in urging companies to be more sustainable and responsible in their operations.

“We are expected to be a responsible company, which has heightened over the last two years. 10 years ago, when you talk about sustainability, it’s more like a niche [or a vocation],” Daniels said. “In the last couple of years, people now want companies to be authentic and understand your values.”

“People want transparency and authenticity,” he stressed.

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Allinnettes Adigue, head of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) ASEAN Regional Hub, said that while companies contribute largely to the economy by paying taxes and providing jobs, their operations also have a negative impact on the environment.

As for the real estate sector, Raymond Rufino, chief executive officer of NEO, admitted that there is not enough accountability coming from the sector despite the fact that it contributes 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to be more accountable as an industry,” he said.

The ASEAN Sustainability E-Summit is a two-day event organized by SMIC in partnership with GRI, which is currently working closely with various stakeholders to promote the use of sustainability reports as an effective risk management tool that will help companies consider their current and future impacts on sustainability issues and communicate their sustainability performance.

The summit, held on October 21 to 22, 2021, was attended by thousands of leaders and C-suite participants. It tackled the threat of climate change issues in businesses and in countries, and identified strategies on how to deal with them.

With the pandemic as the near-term threat, the greater long-term peril is climate change where Asia will be hit the hardest. Surveys have shown that climate change is the most critical issue for millennials and Gen Zs – both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic has also been a wake-up call for companies as it forced them to accelerate the adoption of significant sustainable corporate strategies.

During the summit, SMIC encouraged like-minded business leaders in the ASEAN region to operate sustainably even amid the challenges triggered by the global health crisis.

Through SMIC’s initiative, business and sustainability leaders across ASEAN caught a glimpse of how SM Supermalls was able to simultaneously operate and prioritize the well-being of its internal and external stakeholders, including communities in which their businesses stand.

“In the Philippines, malls are a public service. Malls provide access to essential goods and services. We anticipate that there will be enduring changes triggered by the pandemic and we see these enduring changes as new opportunities to be of service. We are reimagining new ways to be of service to people, to businesses of all sizes, to the local communities that our malls belong to and ultimately to the country and to the planet we share,” said SM Supermalls President Steven Tan.

To move closer toward sustainable development, there is a need to accelerate action on modern renewable energy and promote sustained and inclusive economic growth.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, SM Supermalls continued to ramp up its use of renewable energy. In August, SM completed a series of solar panel projects, with a total of 8 malls with solar power in the following locations: the Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Cauayan, Cabanatuan, Iloilo, Tuguegarao, Trece Martires and Bacoor in Cavite, and Seaside City Cebu.

SM is also working its way to divert plastic waste from oceans and landfills by initiating collection programs in its malls scattered in the country that have become venues to collect empty, clean and dried plastic waste, bringing these closer to customers and communities.

Now that the pandemic has increased people’s reliance on technology, increasing electronic waste has also become a perennial problem. To help address this, SM malls nationwide established collection areas for electronic waste that will be processed and segregated.

SM envisions an entire ecosystem of sustainable businesses that contribute toward a green, prosperous environment that provides a better future for stakeholders. By putting emphasis on sustainable development and integrating these goals into the foundation of SM Supermalls’ blueprints, it is encouraging more businesses to operate sustainably while protecting the environment.

 
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