Big business had been labelled by environmental activists as a villain in the ongoing climate change crisis – heartless, with no regard for anything other than the bottom line, or profits.
But the recent Inquirer Project Webinar session showed that major companies were not only facing up to their responsibilities but were seriously taking steps to make their entire production process – from sourcing of raw materials to distribution – mindful of the environment and sustainable.
Participating in the session on Sustainability, with the theme “Ensuring a Greener PH”, Arlene Tan Bantoto of Nestlé Philippines Inc., Juan Lorenzo Tañada of Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. and Ramon Gil Macapagal of the SM and Henry Sy Foundations revealed their organizations’ efforts and initiatives to make their operations kinder to and more protective of the fragile environment.
Bantoto said Nestlé had set a net zero greenhouse gas (a major contributor to global warming and climate change) emissions target by 2050 and saw it as a “whole of business” effort. It called for the involvement and participation of everyone – end to end.
“All our partners – farmers, transport providers, agents, suppliers, distributors – must company with (our) social and environmental standards,” Bantoto said.
Bantoto, who said the company’s year-long campaign from August 2020 to August 2021 achieved its goal of plastic neutrality, was working with partners, like suppliers,
on how they could reduce their own carbon footprint and what could be done in their places of operation to promote sustainability.
She said Nestlé’s successful effort at plastic neutrality was equivalent to clearing Edsa of 23,000 cars a year and represented 44 million liters of diesel fuel saved.
Some 2,700 dump trucks carrying about 27 million kilos of plastic waste were diverted from landfills.
As for water, she said what the company had saved could fill 350 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Tañada also underscored their impressive record in water conservation. The beverage company, which uses large amounts of water for its products, “gave back 132 percent of the water it used”, Tanada claimed.
The lawyer said they not only used water efficiently but reused as much as they could. At the same time, they provided many communities access to clean and potable water that contributed to their 132 percent efficiency in water use and reuse. “We even used old technology, like the ram pump, in giving communities access to (a steady water supply).”
Tañada said they had also shifted to renewable energy sources, like geothermal (energy drawn from earth’s core) and solar. Coca-cola had already installed 14,000 solar panels in different parts of the country and would soon be adding 24,000 more panels.
Even its transport fleet was given an upgrade to make it compliant with latest standards in energy efficiency and emissions.
Both Bantoto and Tañada underscored their companies’ efforts to reduce waste from the packaging they used.
Tañada said they were now moving towards the complete use of clear plastic for their beverages as it was easier to reuse, recycle or upcycle. Bantoto said they wanted to encourage and support innovation for packaging that would replace the plastic they were currently using.
“There is still no biodegradable alternative to plastic. It remains the most affordable and accessible packaging to keep the integrity of food and beverage products,” she said.
Macapagal pointed out that several SM malls had had problems with flooding. This prompted Hans Sy, former president of SM Prime Holdings, to declare the major retail chain could and should not allow itself to be “victims” of floods every year.
The SM group had since been working on and adopting risk reduction measures, providing at least a 10 percent extra on development budgets to make its structures safer and more disaster-proof, he said.
Moving past the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and as focus started to move back to climate change particularly after the recent COP26 (26th Conference of Parties to the Paris environmental agreement), Tañada said everyone now recognized that there was a problem and would want to be part of the solution.
Bantoto said Nestlé would be willing to work with anyone to find solutions to problems created by climate change and to adopt and adapt to new ways of doing things.
The world would not be the same, Macapagal said, so there was a need to bring all adaptations, innovations and changes together not only to recover after the pandemic but “to prepare for the future”. All future endeavors, he said, should be inspired by sustainability.
The Project rebound session was hosted by Ruel S. dDe Vera of Inquirer Lifestyle and Doris Dumlao-Abadilla, Inquirer Business features editor.