Some of the next generation leaders in the Philippines are bent on pushing for sustainability, even as they noted of challenges that need to be addressed to achieve the goal.

Session 1 | Next Generation Leadership: Driving Force for Sustainability

During the first session of ASEAN Sustainability E-Summit on Thursday, Oct. 21, Mariana Beatriz Zobel de Ayala, vice president at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), said that in order to achieve sustainability, companies must need to address the affordability gap when it comes to offering products and services in line with what is environmentally sustainable.

“The sustainable choice is not always the affordable choice for Filipino consumers – in food, power, etc. Our choice is always the easiest and cheaper. We need to close the affordability gap,” said Mariana, the eldest daughter of Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of listed conglomerate Ayala Corp.

Mara Sy Coson, the group sustainability adviser of SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), agreed with Mariana, but also added that in order to close that gap there is a need to make sustainable products available and accessible.

Coson, who is the daughter of SMIC’s co-chairperson Teresita Sy-Coson, also said it is important that the company’s sustainability goals are communicated properly to its people, its stakeholders, and customers.

According to her, sustainability efforts start with small solutions such as promoting green products, lessening the use of plastics in terms of packaging, and encouraging suppliers to obtain green certification for their products.

“Sustainability is about scale. Now that you have the pillars, how do you make a long term positive impact? In our group, it is good that we are all aware and align in terms of sustainability. Sustainability is the future and is the future of SM,” Coson said.

For Cherrie Atilano, founder and chief executive officer or AGREA Agricultural Systems International Inc., sustainability, among others, is about utilizing innovations that are climate friendly and climate resilient.

Some of AGREA’s sustainability efforts include using solar powered water pumps in farms and promoting crop diversification, she said.

The ASEAN Sustainability E-Summit is a two-day event organized by SMIC in partnership with Global Reporting Initiative (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.

“Sustainability is a critical aspect of business strategy and operational decision-making, which needs to be embedded in the corporate DNA through a transformative process. The GRI ASEAN Regional Hub provides guidance and support to organizations as they progress on their sustainability journey,” said Dr. Allinnettes Adigue, head of GRI ASEAN Regional Hub.

“GRI’s partnership with SM Investments creates a multiplier effect as our joint advocacy can reach more stakeholders that can create a stronger awareness on sustainability and encourage more companies to take effective and innovative sustainability initiatives,” she added.

While businesses have a positive outlook in the ASEAN region amidst the pandemic, they still lag in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) due to inadequate financing mechanisms and lack of reliable data across the global goals.

Source: Manila Bulletin