Recently, ATRAM, an independent asset and wealth manager company, awarded Philippine businesses who gradually crafted initiatives that address multiple, interlinked impact areas concerning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations (UN).

Sustainability teams on Globe Telecom, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Axelum Resources Corp. were hailed as ATRAM Sustainable Investing Champions for Wellness, Progress, and Fairness.

According to PWC, a multinational professional services network, companies must recognize the need to reorient strategic directions in these challenging times to protect their profitability and enhance business reputation — incorporating uptick sustainability strategies that integrate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1: No Poverty, SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being, SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals.

Considering the span in which the country recovers from the pandemic, local and foreign analysts speak of how the future of the economy may depend highly on specific market trends that revolve around corporate sustainability.

In the Breaking the Digital Divide seminar that featured a panel of experts discussing the current state of the Philippines’ hospitality and professional services industries, YCP Solidiance Partner Anna Rellama talked about how forward-thinking companies invest funds in operations and emerging business trends such as digitalization, customer dynamics, hybrid work setups, offsite IT infrastructure and evolving employee-employer relationships.

The seminar also tackled how these organizations can also manage to allocate for the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics of their businesses especially when facing crises.

According to MassChallenge, a global startup accelerator, ESG can help promote industry resilience, collaboration and participation in climate change action, a well-rounded approach to corporate sustainability inclusive of four pillars — Social, Human, Economic, and Environmental.

Looking to the future, several corporate sustainability trends are likely to continue into the second half of 2022 based on the current adoption rates cited by a London-based strategic global market research provider Euromonitor International.

It identified circular economy, climate action, environmental pollution mitigation, commodity price volatility, and resource security as the five key trends propelling the global sustainability agenda.

The circular economy, which was gaining traction pre-pandemic among consumers and businesses, was negatively impacted by COVID-19. In June 2021, around one fifth of professionals reported a pause or delay in initiatives related to waste and recycling. Year 2020 highlighted activities such as renting and buying second-hand products being badly affected by the outbreak.

The survey shows that this pandemic-induced consumer behavior is set to see a reversal of trends where only 13.5% of professionals surveyed expect lower demand for second-hand products to be a permanent change while most professionals (74.2%) report planned investments in recycling initiatives in 2021-2026.

Moving from a linear to a circular world is not only a way to decouple economic growth from the use of resources and avoid unnecessary waste, with market analysts, it is also a tool to reduce emissions and combat climate change.

The report recorded an increasing number of businesses promising to decarbonize supply chains, logistics and portfolios, creating opportunities for green growth and innovation in clean products, services and technologies.

A total of 51.8% of professionals reported that their company is investing or planning to invest in pollution-related initiatives between 2021 and 2026. One fifth of them expect investments in electric vehicles, and others to support suppliers decrease unnecessary emissions, while only 13% foresee investments in the development of carbon capture technologies.

The report also cited that the average consumption of renewable energy has been rising, with China leading the way. However, COVID-19 caused a crash in oil prices which made renewable energies far less competitive and delayed work on certain solar and wind projects.

But the shift to renewable energies is expected to continue, as action to reduce carbon emissions remains a priority for companies, consumers, investors and governments worldwide. According to the survey, 42.3% of professionals stated that their company is investing or planning to invest in the switch to renewable energies.

On the other hand, the report recorded a growing consumption and competition over finite resources alongside climate change. This puts business trades at risk of disruptions to the supply, increased costs of production, and introduction of new tax regulations.

The research noted that the unhampered increase in energy prices appears to have affected prices of other commodities (especially food and metals) through increasing production expenses due to higher energy costs, domestic inflation, and exchange rates.

In conclusion, as the world is highly dependent on resources extracted in emerging and developing countries, based on this recent report, eco-innovation and cross-sector collaboration are seen as keys to reducing costs of resource- and energy-efficient technologies that propels collective sustainability.

The UN believes that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies which improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve oceans and forests.

Hence, investors and business owners are encouraged to perceive ESG as a form of social responsibility — a broader obligation to society as they reinforce a more sustainable future, especially in the post-pandemic world as it conveys a company’s resiliency to unforeseen global or local crises.

Overseas, small and large companies publish reports about their ESG initiatives. Locally, companies need to comply with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines for Publicly Listed Companies on a “comply or explain” basis as part of efforts to help them assess and manage their economic, environmental and social impacts in the country.

To amplify the call towards sustainability in the business sector, the SEC is planning to make sustainability reporting for publicly listed companies in the Philippines mandatory beginning 2023. — Allyana A. Almonte