Firms need to embrace sustainability for survival

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More consumers are looking for products that are sustainable and green. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Angelica Y. Yang

BUSINESSES must embrace sustainability to survive amid the so-called new normal, experts said on Wednesday.

Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) Director Senen M. Perlada said companies should adapt to the new global economy which is becoming digital, green and circular. Failure to do so, he said, would result in the closure of business.

“The movement of social, economic and environmental sustainability is destined to keep growing. For businesses to thrive, they must embrace this movement or face extinction,” said Mr. Perlada during the first episode of BusinessWorld Insights’ “Sustaining Sustainability” series.

Mr. Perlada cited 2019 statistics from independent market research provider Euromonitor International, which noted a rise in businesses that considered the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as supporting local communities as part of achieving sustainability.

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The survey got the inputs of more than 600 professionals working across the globe in different industries. In its Voice of Industry: Sustainability survey, Euromonitor International showed that 50.6% of respondents believed that businesses valued the promotion of the environment the most. About half of the respondents said SDGs played a big role in creating strategies for corporate sustainability.

“COVID-19 continues to challenge the economy, the infrastructure, the routines and we have all been affected by that…The time is right now to ramp up a sustainable practice and sustainable business model,” Mr. Perlada said.

He said the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a change in consumer behavior, with consumers now placing more importance on sustainability.

“Consumers are changing very much and companies are moving production to the pursuit of greater good, ethical values… Health and beauty and fashion brands are investing more in locally produced goods than ever before. Quality of life is coming into focus and companies are keen into supporting local communities…You have to adjust to what the consumer needs right now,” Mr. Perlada said.

Timothy Daniels, an investor relations consultant for SM Investments Corp., said sustainability does not have to be “purely about spending money.”

“It’s about actually guaranteeing your own survival for the very long term because you’re focusing on all those elements of the externalities of your business that need to be in place for your own survival… It’s not just about spending money. It’s about stepping back and saying, if you have a responsibility to these stakeholder groups, and we need them to thrive for us to thrive and grow,” Mr. Daniels said.

The shift towards sustainability is happening now amid the global health crisis, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines deputy resident representative Enrico Gaveglia.

“Many countries are embarking on a great reset, taking the painful lesson from COVID-19 to rebuild greener economies, promote greater collaboration between governments and private sectors,” Mr. Gaveglia said.

Based on UNDP estimates, achieving SDGs in the Philippines could open up market opportunities worth $82 billion in the food, agriculture, energy and health sectors, among others, he said.

“[SDGs] can also create 4.4 million new jobs by 2030. I think this makes a lot of business sense,” Mr. Gaveglia said.

Watch the first episode of BusinessWorld Insights’ “Sustaining Sustainability” series here.

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