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Sustainable development is an approach that takes into account the well-being of both current and future generations, ensuring that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Given the challenges faced today, such as climate change, depletion of natural resources and social inequality, sustainable development has emerged as a crucial framework for building a more resilient and equitable future.

The United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, addressing critical areas of importance by 2030: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. These goals inform projects and policies across various organizations, including guidelines on housing, urban development, transportation systems, and healthcare delivery.

In the Philippines, sustainable development has been a major concern, given the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and its rapidly growing population. Over the years, the Philippines has been grappling with issues related to poverty, environmental degradation and social inequality, among other things. Fortunately, the government and other stakeholders have been working to ensure that the development is not at the expense of the environment and that economic growth is inclusive and will benefit all Filipinos.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the country is committed to achieving the SDGs by 2030 and has been working on localizing the goals, setting subnational targets, and recalibrating 2030 targets on key SDG indicators. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is also monitoring the country’s efforts to generate data for the 230 unique indicators and 169 targets of the 17 SDGs.

In 2022, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo has underscored the country’s commitment, presenting the third Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the Philippines on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Furthermore, the UN and the Philippine government have also recently signed a new partnership framework, the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, which spans from 2024 to 2028. This framework aims to mobilize global knowledge, capacities, and resources to support the Philippines in addressing its major national priorities, including human capital development, sustainable and inclusive economic development, and climate action for environmental sustainability and disaster resilience.

While the government plays a crucial role in implementing policies and regulations that promote sustainability, other players such as the private sector also has a significant contribution to make.

One of the ways in which the private sector is promoting sustainable development is by incorporating environmentally friendly practices in their operations. This includes reducing their carbon footprint by using renewable energy sources, implementing waste management systems, and adopting sustainable supply chain practices. By doing so, they reduce their impact on the environment, conserve natural resources, and contribute to a cleaner and healthier planet.

Moreover, the private sector can also have a significant impact on local communities by creating job opportunities, promoting economic growth, and investing in social development programs. This not only helps to improve the quality of life for people but also contributes to the overall sustainable development of society.

Environmental stewardship

As the world population continues to grow, the demand for resources increases, putting a strain on the planet’s ecosystems. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable development and the need to protect the environment for future generations. Governments, businesses, and communities in the Philippines are taking action to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainable practices.

Leading corporations in the Philippines are increasingly embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a key component of their business strategy. Many companies are allocating resources towards sustainable development projects that contribute to environmental conservation. These initiatives include reforestation programs, waste reduction projects, and renewable energy investments.

Another significant effort towards environmental conservation is the use of renewable energy sources. Solar, wind, and hydropower are emerging as sustainable alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, presenting a compelling solution to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In fact, the Department of Energy has existing renewable energy policies to encourage private domestic and foreign investment to drive growth in the industry and reduce dependence on expensive energy imports.

For instance, the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) outlines the policy framework enshrined in Republic Act 9513, which sets the strategic building blocks that will help the country achieve the goals set forth in the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

Meanwhile, efficient waste management is also fundamental to environmental sustainability, as the improper disposal of waste poses severe threats to ecosystems, human health, and the overall well-being of the planet.

According to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, the country generates approximately 61,000 million metric tons of waste daily, with 24% of it being plastic waste. As a result, the government has been enacting pro-environment programs and initiatives, such as the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) approach, renewable energy promotion, and biodiversity conservation, to address these challenges.

Waste reduction initiatives include reducing packaging waste, promoting reusable products, and encouraging composting. Sustainable waste disposal practices include landfill gas capture, waste-to-energy technologies, and hazardous waste disposal.

Social inclusivity

The country strongly supports the idea of attaining a just, equitable, and inclusive society for all, emphasizing the importance of people-centered sustainable development with the active engagement of all stakeholders.

The government has taken a comprehensive approach to implementing the SDGs, with actions grounded in laws that ensure coordination across sectors through institutional mechanisms.

Several specific initiatives have been undertaken to promote social inclusivity, such as institutionalizing the Alternative Learning System for quality education, incentivizing green jobs, and promoting inclusive business models for decent work. Additionally, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) provides cash transfers to low-income families, promoting financial inclusion and poverty reduction.

Meanwhile, access to quality healthcare is a fundamental right, and the Philippines has been working towards ensuring healthcare inclusivity. A notable example is the Universal Health Care Law, which aims to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to all Filipinos, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The private sector has also implemented various programs to promote inclusive economic growth. For instance, microfinance initiatives, entrepreneurship programs, and livelihood projects have targeted marginalized groups, empowering them to become active contributors to the economy. — Mhicole A. Moral