Industries’ contributions towards zero-carbon environment tracked in 2nd leg of BusinessWorld Insights Sustaining Sustainability Series

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

In an accelerated push for sustainability among businesses, reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas driving climate change, is inevitable. This is much agreed by the panel in the second leg of BusinessWorld Insights‘ Sustaining Sustainability Series, with the theme “Reducing Carbon Emissions for a Sustainable Future.”

The online forum, held on Oct. 28, gathered thoughts from key executives on what the private sector has contributed so far regarding carbon emission reductions and what else remains to be achieved.

Pushing for an alternative

Representing an industry concerned about carbon emissions, Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) President Edmund Araga, stressed that their organization has been very vocal in adopting electric vehicles (EVs) as an alternative mode of transportation.

In a video presentation the president shared, reasons for and benefits of embracing EVs were pointed out. First among these is energy security, since adopting EVs is found to lessen the dependence on oil and minerals. It was also pointed out that EVs produce 20-30% lower fuel-cycle greenhouse gas emissions.

EVs are also beneficial for the health of Filipinos. In fact, replacing all jeepneys in Metro Manila with e-jeepneys is found to provide health benefits of P18.8 billion annually.

Moreover, EVs can open up possibilities for the local industry. One of these is the country’s potential to become one of the major players in manufacturing batteries for EVs since cobalt and nickel reserves in the country are abundant.

Mr. Araga added that while the present pandemic stalled activity in the EV industry, it has nonetheless highlighted EV’s perks when it was used to transport frontliners. “It really shows that there is a good effect in using EVs, that it is better to use an environment-friendly vehicle,” he said.

As the industry moves forward, the president looks forward to the passage of the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act. “The collaboration and coordination between private and public sector is essential for us to push forward and sustain [the adoption of] environment-friendly vehicle,” Mr. Araga added.

Taking initiative

The rest of the speakers shared their company’s practices in reducing carbon footprint on top of sharing their perspective on carbon emissions.

As he shared Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) sustainability story, Raymond Ravelo, the company’s chief sustainability officer (CSO), highlighted that Meralco and its subsidiaries have begun to make great strides in reducing its own carbon footprint through its initiatives on direct emissions reduction and resource efficiency.

The company’s practices in direct emissions reduction, he continued, are driven by energy transition and vehicle electrification.

Specifically, its efforts in energy transition are highlighted by investments in renewable energy and own-use solar. In terms of vehicle electrification, the company has its own green mobility program which includes deploying EV vans and motorbike for its employees. Moreover, Meralco has been supporting EVs for public transportation with the operation of Makati-Mandaluyong e-jeeps through ESakay.

Meralco’s move towards resource efficiency, on the other hand, are marked by launching its own energy-efficiency dashboard, equipping industrial customers with MServ’s solutions, and educating consumers through its Bright Ideas campaign and Orange Tag labels on appliances.

Yet, with all these practices Mr. Ravelo says the company has just started. “While we have made significant progress, we really believe we still need to do a lot in order to not only minimize our carbon footprint, but also to further our sustainability agenda.”

The CSO also noted the value in collaborating between players and sectors. “We’re all on the same side,” he noted. “Ultimately, this is a shared task. This is a shared journey.”

Urgent action

Agnes de Jesus, CSO of First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPH), meanwhile, emphasized that climate change is a creeping event, and it keeps calling stakeholders to act immediately.

“We’ve seen [climate change] reach our shores in 2009, and… we saw it accelerate in the past 10 years,” Ms. de Jesus said, adding that climate change caused disruptions not just in the environment, but also in the economy and in the health of citizens.

Seeing the emerging threat of climate change, FPH has been proactive in addressing it, she shared. In 2009, it joined the Philippine Climate Imperative with business leaders, the government, and NGOs. Fast forward to 2016, the firm have made a bold stance of not venturing to coal; and in 2018, it joined the pledge of maintaining global temperature below 1.5C.

Another significant move for FPH is the shift of its sustainability strategy from shared value to system value. “We saw that… we are dependent on people to buy our services, and people depend on nature, and people and business are embedded on environment — which means that both people and business must live within the limits or the capacity of the environment,” Ms. de Jesus explained.

The firm also realized that it has to go beyond the sustainability path, so it decided to change its mission, which now states that FPH is forging collaborative pathways to a decarbonized and a regenerative future.

As a result of these efforts, the CSO contnued, FPH’s clean power has reduced the country’s grid intensity by 15%. In addition, the forests the firm protects in its georeserves are absorbing 3.9 million tons of CO2 in a year.

Furthermore, the CSO noted that while addressing climate change entails costs, delaying action will even cost more.  “[T]here are now studies that said that if you act now, there’s really a pay-off. For every $1 that you invest to prevent or mitigate carbon emission, it’s a $3 to $7 payoff for avoided costs,” she explained.

The existential threat of climate should be recognized, she added, and this should spur organization and individuals to do their part. “There is no time, and we need to start now. But when we act, we should remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution…You don’t need to make the solution perfect, but we need to act now.”

Efficient management

Gerhard Tan, director of technology strategy at Globe Telecom, Inc., noted that the key challenge that should be addressed through sustainability efforts is urban influx, which drives the increased use of resources to sustain work functions and consequently contributes to increased carbon emission and environmental degradation. This can be addressed through what is called efficient resource management, consisting of collection of data through Internet-of-Things, automation of events, and analysis of historical data.

For their part at Globe, Mr. Tan said that they recognize their role in supporting a low-carbon future. “We have the responsibility to demonstrate a high standard of environmental management and stewardship in order to reduce our [and our stakeholders’] impact,” he added.

As Mr. Tan presented, Globe’s efficient management towards mitigating carbon emissions is anchored on a remote management. Furthermore, Globe is leveraging on efficient power solutions, which include fuel cell systems, which are great alternatives to diesel gensets; lithium-ion batteries, replacing lead-acid batteries; super capacitors, which are viable alternatives to chemical batteries; and solar on-grid solutions for reducing operational expenditures.

The executive also highlighted the importance of balancing the opportunities and challenges in addressing carbon emissions. “From [Globe’s] investment, we can see now the significant change in our company. We monitor our carbon footprint reduction and at the same time monitor our sites’ power usage effectiveness,” he said.

Mr. Tan also noted that while companies are taking this responsibility, it still remains a personal one. “We play an important role in making a difference by reducing our own personal greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

BusinessWorld Insights Sustainability Series is made possible by Globe, Energy Development Corporation, First Gen Corporation, Meralco, media partner The Philippine STAR and e-learning
platform partner Olern; with the support of the Bank Marketing Association of the Philippines, British Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.