With the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, businesses are seen to heed the growing demand from consumers for sustainability to show that they care for both the environment and the community they operate in.
During this year’s ASEAN Sustainability E-Summit organized by SM Investments Corporation and the Global Reporting Initiative, Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Alain Gaschen said life after the pandemic will not be the same and sustainability will be required under the new normal.
He said the new normal “requires the new generation of consumers and workers to articulate the expectations, and to assume their role as a driving force of the transition. I think that they can, I think that it should. And I think that they will.”
“What does this mean for businesses? It means that while it is important to be responsible, it is not good or not good enough or not good enough anymore, business now needs to serve to show purpose, and to project, meaning they need to embrace transparency and accountability,” Ambassador Gaschen added.
While companies still need to earn money, he said that, “if they want to thrive, they need to show empathy, they need to show that they care. They care for the planet and for their environment that they care for the people and communities around them, and for the society they operate.”
SM Supermalls, the country’s leading developer and operator of large retail complexes, is a showcase of how big business can make a difference for the society and the environment by keeping its operations sustainable and profitable at the same time.
In his keynote speech during the event, SM Supermalls President Steven Tan highlighted the need for their operations to be sustainable.
“One of the most fascinating things about the mall is how it is a microcosm of the relationship between business and society,” said Tan noting that, “it is inside the mall where all kinds of people, businesses and communities converge.”
He added that, “a mall is all about symbiotic relationships. A mall does not succeed on its own. The mall’s well-being is closely tied to the well-being of its tenants, customers, workers and the community it belongs to. Running a mall makes you realize a fundamental truth about modern society: We are all inter-connected. A mall does not operate in a vacuum.”
Thus, Tan said “To make the mall’s business sustainable over the long-term, you have to think of many other people and many other concerns, not just those of your own business. You have to make choices that lead to a win-win for as many stakeholders as possible. Both internal and external.”
“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 Tan.
Thus, 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.
SM is also working its way to divert plastic waste from oceans and landfills. “We recently launched our Plastic Waste Collection program in partnership with the Plastic Credit Exchange. In this program, SM malls are a venue to collect empty and clean dried plastic waste from customers, and the surrounding communities,” said Tan.
He added that, “In response to the growing challenge posed by electronic waste, we also recently launched our Electronic Waste Collection program where all SM Supermalls nationwide have collection areas for electronic waste. The collected e-waste will be processed and will separate recyclable parts from those that are non-recyclable.”
“All these efforts come from the belief that service is essential during a pandemic. We are thankful that our stakeholders are fully aligned with this belief. Our chairman himself, Mr. Hans Sy, has expressed this belief on record by saying that in these times, profit is secondary to shared prosperity,” Tan said.
He noted that, “We must help one another rise above these unprecedented times because this is to revitalize the economy for all of us Filipinos. In the end, this is what the pandemic has been teaching us: We are all interconnected; our shared fortunes depend on each other. That’s why the only way out of this pandemic is together.”