Dindo Manhit, President, Stratbase ADR Institute
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the interconnectedness of public health, the economy, the environment, and society, and stressed the need to aggressively move toward a “green” economy. Private and public enterprises are now embracing the synergistic and sustainable benefits of environment, social, and governance (ESG) principles.
Through effective policies, impact-sensitive business practices, and the right adoption of technologies, we should be able to responsibly and efficiently utilize our natural resources, control pollution, and become responsible stewards of the environment. A survey conducted by Pulse Asia early this year found that aside from economic concerns, stopping the destruction and abuse of the environment was cited by the respondents as one of the most urgent national concerns.
The Stratbase ADR Institute and the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) recently held a virtual townhall discussion on “Moving Towards a Sustainable Future Through ESG,” where the private sector highlighted their ESG initiatives to create a more sustainable economy.
At the forum, Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David, Stratbase ADRi trustee and PBEST convener, emphasized that businesses possess the characteristics needed to solve environmental and societal problems, such as being more efficient, using monitoring and evaluation tools, and embracing technology and innovation.
The pandemic has only accelerated the shift to digital technologies as the convenient and safe medium to make goods and services available despite the mobility and supply chain disruptions of the lockdowns. For industries and consumers, the digital realm is now the primary medium for all transactions. Digitalization is central not just for commerce, but also as the solution toolbox for implementing the many objectives of the sustainability spectrum under ESG. Efficiency, connectivity, transparency, and accessibility are some of the benefits of digital transformation, and they are also the requisites for a viable green ecosystem.
Environment Undersecretary Analiza Teh stressed the need for ICT in accelerating climate change action, and how technology is essential for climate research and monitoring and for climate change mitigation. “If you want to really pursue or achieve a sustainable future, the solution is the promotion of transformational change to restore the balance between natural systems and human systems, which human activities have destroyed,” she said.
For climate action, Renato Redentor Constantino of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities pointed out that “The pandemic is an opportunity to mainstream climate concerns to make it into long-term development strategies, because we are provided with a window where we can change things and directions for the better, instead of going back to where we were in January last year.”
Through an inclusive and all-of-society approach to achieve a green economic recovery, we can bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis. All stakeholders—government, businesses, civil society, consumers—have a responsibility as inhabitants of this planet to do their part in addressing climate change, amid the challenges and complexities of the economic crisis and the pandemic.
The model of a closed loop circular economy to efficiently manage resources and waste is a viable framework that will only work with an all-of society approach. The growing solid waste pollution in our oceans is the consequence of gaping leaks in cycles of production, distribution, and consumption. In the long run, efficient resource and waste management bolsters the sustainability and profitability of business operations, and that will in turn support gainful employment opportunities for the people.
Becoming a sustainable and prosperous green economy may seem like an overly daunting objective, as the country is mired in a pandemic and the catastrophic prospects of climate change. But we must overcome the paralysis of fear and muster our strength and resiliency as a people. The hard lessons we encounter must be used to drive each other forward to build a better world.
This article was originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.