In photo during this BusinessWorld Insights forum (clockwise, from top left) are moderator Patricia B. Mirasol, BusinessWorld multimedia reporter, and panelists Floradema Eleazar, leader of the Climate Action Team at UNDP Philippines; Jolan Formalejo, vice-president for Inventory Generation at Aboitiz Infracapital Economic Estates; and Chaye Cabal-Revilla, chief finance, risk and sustainability officer of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

By Angela Kiara S. Brillantes, Special Features and Content Writer

The global call for responding to an intensifying climate change has intensified recently, and various industries are beginning to take heed by making significant moves. In this fight against climate risks, the environment, social, and governance (ESG) standard has a great potential in helping businesses embrace sustainability and integrate it into their operations.

With more companies seeking to become more sustainable in the near future, how does ESG further guide them in ensuring that they will have a positive impact on the environment today?

Last Aug. 30, at the BusinessWorld Insights online forum with the theme “ESG, A Bridge to a Greener Environment,” industry experts discussed how ESG is helping and can continue to help the country progress to a greener and more sustainable future.

Floradema Eleazar, climate action team leader at United Nations Development Programme Philippines (UNDP) Philippines, views ESG as a means of addressing environmental risks and serves as a pathway that leads us to the direction of sustainability, bringing greater advantages for people and the environment.

“The Philippines is considered one of the two biodiversity hotspots in the world, and this decline together with ecosystem degradation is reducing our resilience to disasters and climate impacts. But the government has done a lot, and the UNDP is partnering with the government in developing plans of action to address this,” Ms. Eleazar added.

Meanwhile, for Chaye Cabal-Revilla, chief finance, risk, and sustainability officer of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), ESG could be utilized to advance national development and enhance the quality of community and life for Filipinos.

Ms. Cabal-Revilla shared how ESG could serve a tool for addressing climate risks, including pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change, which resulted in their sustainable projects and advocacies that help advance national development and enhance the quality of Filipino lives and the community that they serve.

“We have done many programs that are sustainability-linked advocacies, and this is something we put to heart and that we’re actually doing because we know and believe that addressing climate change can help to reduce your carbon footprint and take care of nature and our biodiversity resource,” she said.

Jolan Formalejo, vice-president for the Inventory Generation Group at Aboitiz InfraCapital Economic Estates, shared that they are committed to sustainable development by integrating ESG principles into their operations because they know how much businesses and the environment are interdependent with each other. Guided by ESG, their company has developed numerous projects to help build better and thriving communities in the Philippines.

“ESG is reshaping Philippine businesses, moving beyond trends to transform how we operate and expand. It’s not about profits anymore but also about our impact on the environmental society and governance,” Mr. Formalejo said.

“In a country like ours, with pressing environmental concerns, ESG has ignited positive changes. By weaving ESG into our strategies, we collectively address reduced carbon footprints, resource conservation, and sustainable practices. Beyond its altruistic side, ESG really makes business sense, it safeguards against climate risks, enhances long-term resilience, attracts conscientious investors, and alliances with evolving stakeholders in expectations.”

Partnerships and knowledge-sharing

A partnership between the public and private sectors matters, Aboitiz InfraCapital’s Mr. Formalejo emphasized. With the rise of ESG, it is clear that one sector cannot do it alone, which is why collaboration and partnerships are important factors in sustainable development. Public and private partnerships are a gateway to provide combined opportunities, from resources and skills that the other sector desperately needs that will generate a variety of social, environmental, and economic benefits that are aligned to achieving sustainable development goals.

Partnerships can start with understanding and awareness. Both sectors can help in promoting the importance of ESG and its benefits to communities in the long run.

“We need to bring ESG into the institutional sector, encouraging awareness of the benefits that this gives in the long run,” Mr. Formalejo said. “[By] promoting these initiatives, we can encourage more as well to follow us,” he added.

Ms. Cabal-Revilla of MPIC added that government support is needed in boosting the influence of ESG.

“From the Philippine perspective, what we need is government support because this has been started largely by the private sector and our local communities also know why they have to do it,” Ms. Cabal-Revilla explained. “So, we have actively partnered [way] before sustainability has [turned into] something that most companies need to comply to.”

She added that for ESG to be successful, the public sector must embrace it. The Department of Energy and Natural Resources, for instance, can implement a larger budget for environmental programs since the public sector has relied heavily on the private sector over the past few years.

Regarding policies, the private sector has also expressed the need to work on more policies from the government through incentives that can benefit companies that utilize and practice the ESG approach, Mr. Formalejo and Ms. Revilla agreed.

The initial success of ESG among leading companies reflect ESG as an effective tool for sustainable development. These experiences of businesses with ESG, for Ms. Eleazar of UNDP Philippines, should be shared in the business community, alongside the benefits the standard brings, how it responds to the customers’ changing needs, and how it affects profitability, branding, and relationships with customers and clients to make sure that ESG reaches out to every business.

“If we are able to collectively systematically report on this, make sure that these experiences are shared more widely, and ensure that ESG constraints and our implementations are addressed, then that would be [a start of going] into a more sustainable world and slowly addressing the triple planetary crisis that is presetting us at the moment,” Ms. Eleazar said.

This online forum is part of BusinessWorld Insights’ series on sustainability under Project KaLIKHAsan, PhilSTAR Media Group’s newest initiative that converges print, digital, and on-ground platforms to raise the cause of meaningful, concrete sustainability in industries and communities.

This session was in partnership with Aboitiz InfraCapital Economic Estates and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.; and is supported by Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Philippine Franchise Association, and The Philippine STAR.