Zobel cautious about sustainability of economic gains

Published November 22, 2021, 3:42 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of the country’s leading conglomerate Ayala Corporation, expressed cautious optimism of sustaining economic gains amid still volatile COVID situation, even as he also urged businesses to take bold action to come up with sustainable business models to address climate change that threatens business.

In a closing remark at the first day of the Pilipinas Conference 2021, Zobel said the improving recent indicators “give us reason to be cautiously optimistic.”

But he also hastened to stress about sustainability of these gains. “But caution, of course, about sustaining these gains is still uncertain due to the unpredictability of the transmission pattern of the virus and the recurring lockdowns in response to surges,” he said noting that the recent surges in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe are reminders of the volatility of the COVID situation.

Nonetheless, he cited that COVID cases are now going down to a fraction of the record high 23,000 daily new cases last September 18 and infection rates are now sub 10 percent. “Clearly the vaccines are working. Economic Indicators are similarly are consequently picking up with the relaxation of alert levels and the easing of mobility restrictions,” he said.

In addition, economic indicators are similarly consequently picking up with the relaxation of alert levels and the easing of mobility restrictions.

The one good thing though the pandemic has brought about, he said, is the unprecedented level of cooperation among private sector companies and between the public sector, the private sector and the academic community.

He cited the unprecedented scale of the private sectors response to the COVID 19 crisis, also in partnering with the government, which has been noted by international observers.

“I know all of us can do more and I’m heartened by the unprecedented generosity of the private sector in providing philanthropic emergency relief, and how we’re broadening our scope in interpreting inclusive stakeholder capitalism,” he said.

But for impact to be sustainable, Zobel stressed “the social contract to private corporations needs to go beyond philanthropy, and Corporate Social Responsibility actions like emergency aid relief, annual volunteer days and even company funded vaccines.”

With that he also called on businessmen to be proactive to help avert global warming.

For the Ayala Group, he said, “We clearly see climate change as both a global environment risk as well as a business risk. If we do not take bold action, our business models will not be sustainable.”

“As climate change is here, intervention is also imperative,” he added noting that the devastating impact of climate change is just one among a wider set of challenges falling under the ambit of sustainability.

Like many other partners and like-minded peers, Zobel said, Ayala Corp. views sustainability with a broader lens covering climate change, but also inclusivity and equality.

He noted that the pandemic has worsened the fissures of inequality that were already present in the society. Squarely addressing the challenges in these areas is the only way to create sustainable impact in its broadest and most inclusive sense, he said.

With that, he said unprecedented collaboration is demanded among business, the private sector, government and civil society both locally and globally. “All of us have to work together,” he said.