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SM makes going green easier

IN the past, if one wanted more sustainable finds to place in the home or wardrobe, one needed to go to some obscure little shop run by some free spirit. This means that living sustainability, now a bit of an urgency, would have been inaccessible to many. SM Retail, Inc., the retail arm of SM Investments Corp., is now making sustainable living easier to achieve with SM Green Finds.

Like charity, sustainability begins at home, so on June 10, media guests were taken on a tour of SM Retail’s new headquarters in the Mall of Asia complex. The new building boasts of lighting automation, centralized air, recycled water, energy-saving glass, and waste management programs.

The tour ended with a display of their green products. One can expect to see wooden bowls and woven grass baskets and such in a store like Kultura, SM’s Filipiniana store, but apparently, SM’s green initiatives extend to other parts of the home. Watsons, and other beauty brands, for example, boasted bottles of lotion and conditioner in recycled (and recyclable) plastic, made with natural and biodegradable ingredients. Catherine Ileto, Vice-President for Corporate Communications for SM Retail, pointed to baby toys made with silica (no plastic), and bedsheets made with bamboo fibers (bamboo uses less water and resources to grow), packaged in cardboard bundlers instead of plastic. Selections from their own stocks have also done away with a lot of plastic, using paper bags and paper packaging in stores.

They’ve also been partnering with a lot of micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) for sourcing products made with sustainable materials, consulting with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Speaking about mainstreaming sustainability, Ms. Ileto said, “That’s really the intent: to make all of these green finds accessible.”

Still, it’s a business, and businesses need to make profit. In the long run, does SM see green in going green?

In response to a question about sustainability translating into profitability, SM Retail, Inc. President and CEO Ponciano C. Manalo, Jr., said in an interview, “It will have to be. We’ll have to be able to find the right scale among our local producers to be able to make it really profitable and make it sustainable for them. But for us, it’s also (for) our suppliers.

“When we give them work to do, and we feature their products, what happens is people buy it, and there’s a ripple effect,” said Mr. Manalo in a mixture of English and Filipino. “We have a lot of MSMEs that we partner with, and we help them. Over time, that should build itself up.

“The question is not: ‘is it expensive?’ The question is, ‘is it a good investment?’ As an investment, what it does is it pays out in the end.”

He says that the Filipino mindset has always been geared towards sustainability, or at least recycling. He points out how our elders used to keep and pack away packaging for future use, among other practices. “It’s now aligned with what is now being a global phenomenon.”

According to the SM Investments Corp. website, as of the fiscal year ending 2020, SM Retail operates 66 SM Stores, 59 SM Supermarkets, 52 SM Hypermarkets, 209 Savemore stores, 71 WalterMart stores, 1,012 Alfamarts, and 1,550 specialty stores scattered over several brands. Its sister, SM Prime Holdings, is the largest mall operator in the Philippines.

On a related note, both sources said that SM Malls have sustainability measures in place, such as using LED lighting, water efficiency measures, among other green building initiatives.

Asked why sustainability measures have become so important to SM, Ms. Ileto said, “We’re the largest retail brand in the Philippines. We can really launch this at scale. We can advocate being the brand that advocates for green lifestyles. There’s really an awakening for the consumer now —  even in the little choices they make.”

“Sustainability is a growing phenomenon in the world. It’s not just SM. Everybody in the world is looking at sustainability,” said Mr. Ponciano. “I think my generation, probably, we’re part of the modern generation where we waste everything. But younger people… they’re becoming more conscious.

“It’s because of you. It’s your future. We can just make money and forget about everything else. I’m being very candid, or almost joking, in a way,” he said.

“But we understand what it’s all about. It’s a big word. It’s education, it’s social, it’s economic; it’s everything that you can think of. You can put all the labels that you want. At the end of the day, we know it’s important. It’s for the generation that’s coming. We know that. The earlier that we’re able to get people to be aware and conscious: that’s our part to play.” — Joseph L. Garcia