SDG Pioneers, Movers and Shakers of the Business Scene
This year was special for the Ayala group because Chairman and CEO, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala or JAZA as he is fondly known, was awarded as one of the SDG Pioneers for 2017 by the UN Global Compact. He was the first to receive such an award in the Philippines, and consequently, in South-east Asia. To bring more significance in the recently held Sustainability Summit of the Ayala Group, JAZA was joined by the Founder of AYZH and also an SDG Pioneer in 2016, Zubaida Bai, and Global Compact Representative, Yayu Javier in a panel discussion moderated by Mitzi Borromeo of CNN Philippines. As the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative with more than 12,000 signatories in 170 countries, the UN Global Compact, Yayu explained, launched the SDG Pioneers program in 2016 to recognize individuals from around the world who demonstrated how businesses can be a force for good. Locally, Yayu has contributed to the program’s collaboration with 24 organizations, ranging in sectors of support services, general industrials, financial services, and industrial engineering and resources. She initiated the creation of the UN Global Compact Network Philippines, where Ayala is also a founding member.
The panel primarily featured the SDG Pioneers. Zubaida Bai established ayzh, a women’s health care company, during her formative years spent in India. In response to the problems of sanitations and safe childbirth in India, Zubaida created a userfriendly and fashionable Janma clean birth kit, priced affordably at $3.8, containing the WHO-endorsed “Six Cleans” medical necessities for safe child birth. Through her work, she is addressing the women’s health care crisis through two levels of impact: (1) providing basic happiness by engaging and involving local communities, and (2) achieving basic dignity for women through awareness campaign and provision of the Janma clean birth kit.
In the Philippines, JAZA’s efforts in pushing for Sustainability was given light. When prodded about his inspiration for adopting a sustainability culture in Ayala, JAZA revealed that, upon completion of his MBA in 1987, he returned to the Philippines to work in the NGO sector. It was during this time, before taking on the role of CEO in 1994, when he realized that majority of what he learned in business school cannot be applied in the Philippine setting yet. He pondered on the growing concerns of climate change and the role of businesses to balance profit gain and environmental impact. He shared that that many local businesses were already considering sustainability since the 90’s but today, the UN SDG’s provide a framework by which all can refer to and strive towards in their respective business practices. He remains steadfast in his belief that to be relevant today, one must deviate from thinking only of profits and instead, take a conscious shift into solving societal problems and balancing it with financial targets.
Mitzi then engaged the speakers with revealing questions about the role of innovation and experimentation, opportunities for scaling-up, and challenges for businesses to adopt the UN Global Compact and contribute to the UN SDG’s. JAZA praised the benefits of innovation and experimentation by referring to Manila Water when dealing with low-income groups in the East concession zone. By providing subsidized water connection rates and taking meter readings at the barangay, as opposed to the individual house, level, Manila Water has succeeded in servicing over 6 million people while minimizing their non-revenue water to a 10.8% level. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of long-term value added, local education and health care as opportunities for disruption, and the employment landscape with a young workforce.
In closing, Zubaida expressed her plans in scaling ayzh by listening to their endcustomers to identify current and future needs, thereby ensuring they are addressed through growth and progress. Lastly, Yayu reiterated the challenge of many businesses, from the largest down to the SME’s in moving from a Corporate Social Responsibility thinking to a Creating Shared Value mindset.
The panel ended with an acknowledgement that these are challenging times but having a strong culture on sustainability and integrating it to their core is the way to move forward to ensure that care is given to both the business and future generations .