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Development, sustainability not mutually exclusive, say experts in Stratbase forum

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Environmental sustainability should not be seen as a separate objective from economic recovery and development because the country’s most pressing problems are best addressed by the efficient use of resources, experts agreed during a recent forum conducted by leading think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

“What I see is not a crisis but an opportunity,” said Professor Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, founder and managing director of The Stratbase Group, during the virtual town hall discussion called “Promoting an Investment-Led and Sustainable Economy” held online on June 23.

“This is an opportunity to build a sustainable environment in partnership with the private sector, which has the capability to make investments that comply with international standards for ESG — environmental, social, and governance,” Manhit said.

Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David, convenor of Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST), said the order of the day is to establish that the most important problems we confront every day are actually solved by efficient resources – precisely the basic tenet of sustainable development.”

“We need not separate environmental advocacy from solving pressing societal problems. But in doing this, the government needs to engage the private sector positively,” he said.

Rene “Butch” Meily, President of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, said that while his organization is made up of major companies, some of whom compete with each other commercially, they work together toward a common goal before, during, and after disasters.

“It’s easier to work with the private sector if you’re not always asking them for money, but if you ask them to help in areas they’re already active in, whether it’s water or generators, planes or boats, and that’s how we all work in terms of preparing for emergencies,” he said.

Institute of Corporate Directors Trustee Atty. Pedro Maniego Jr. echoed the importance of tapping our vast RE potential, saying the need to be energy-independent is more critical now given the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on fuel supply and prices.

“What we are promoting is doing well by doing good. Is it possible? Is it doable? Certainly, it will require a new lens – steward leadership,” he said.

“It is a combination of leadership, which is the genuine desire and persistence to create a better future, and stewardship by creating value, integrating the needs of stakeholders and society.”

Dale Pascual Jose, Microsoft’s National Technology Officer, said technology plays an important role in sustainability efforts because protecting and building long-term value is not only about the volume of available data.

“It is the quality, including its timeliness and the ease of converting it into business decisions,” he said.

“It is essential that companies are able to effectively integrate data from various sources and then analyze them through technology.”

Dr. Jose Leviste Jr., Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, cited the Philippines’ first-ever Sustainable Finance Roadmap that deploys the engines of finance and green projects across the country.

There is also a loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank – a $250 million policy that makes the Philippines a pioneer in climate policy funding.

Elvin Uy, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Social Progress, said COVID-19 merely exacerbated existing challenges – poverty, joblessness, hunger and malnutrition, learning disruption, natural disasters, and climate change — for the Philippines and the world.

“Restoring and accelerating our SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) progress in all countries, including the poorest and most vulnerable, should be a major priority as the world and local economies gear towards post-COVID recovery and rebuilding and resilience,” he said.

Finally, Alex Cabrera, Governor-in-Charge, Management Association of the Philippines Committee on ESG cited a survey that said there are three things that make people trust business: how it wards off cyberattacks, how it takes care of its people, and how ethical its business practices are.

“There is no equal to a company policy that says, ‘we are part of the problem, and therefore we should be part of the solution.”


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