Ayala CEO on the heightened responsibility of businesses in the COVID-19 crisis
Makati, Philippines – September 25, 2020 On September 10, 2020, Ayala Corporation Chairman & CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala joined an online panel entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility Revisited” with The University of Chicago Booth School of Business to discuss the private sector’s evolving definition of CSR, especially in today’s COVID-19 crisis.
“When you have a broader point of view where we are part of civil society, you realize that the business sector has a role in addressing some of the pain points that we have in our development needs… your institution has a bigger responsibility than just to the shareholders. It has a responsibility to the society it’s working in,” Zobel said at the webinar.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Ayala Group (Ayala) has been at the forefront of the private sector response to this ongoing health, economic, and social crisis. The group continues to work with other private companies as well as the government to scale COVID initiatives throughout the country.
Here are some other thoughts that Zobel shared at the webinar.
Calling for cooperation, not competition
“When you have a global or national situation where the broader problem can only be addressed by a sense of unity, a sense of cooperation, and a sense of common purpose, then cooperation is more needed than competition.”
In today’s crisis, Ayala believes that companies must work together to serve a bigger purpose. A good example of this timely and effective collaboration is Project Ugnayan, a food relief program by a consortium of 270 private companies and individuals. This consortium raised PHP 1.7 billion in just a few days, and through the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and Caritas Manila, distributed PHP 1,000 vouchers to 1.7 million families, or more than 7 million individuals in the Greater Manila Area. With additional contributions from ABS-CBN's Pantawid ng Pag-Ibig, ADB and the government's Bayan Bayanihan, and Jollibee's FoodAID Program, food aid reached 2.8 million families, or over 14 million individuals. This helped government buy time while it mobilized resources to execute its own relief initiatives.
The Ayala Group, together with other private companies, has also been collaborating closely with government to ramp up crucial testing and treatment capacity. The group participated in Task Force T3, an initiative by the IATF’s National Task Force and the Department of Health, to increase the country’s national testing capacity by 13 times from just 4,500 on April 24 to 60,000 on July 12. Ayala then joined Aboitiz, ABS-CBN, JG Summit, Metrobank Foundation, the Razon Group through Bloomberry Cultural Foundation, and the Yuchengco Group, to build seven Biosafety Level 2 laboratories to boost COVID-19 testing throughout the country.
Going beyond CSR
“It’s not about social responsibility—it’s about changing a business model to become more inclusive… All of us, I think, have a responsibility on our own, not just the government’s, to address the pain points in society and see if we can use business methods, not just social interactions but embed some of those solutions into the way we do business. Businesses have to take on this broader responsibility of contributing to society in a more positive way.”
As more and more Filipinos adapt to online shopping while they confine themselves to their homes, GCash’s total users doubled during the quarantine period while its transaction volume doubled in June, compared to pre-quarantine levels. By offering Filipinos a secure means to transact online, Ayala is able to provide a safer and seamless shopping experience for Filipino—which is crucial during this time—while making financial services more accessible to the unbanked.
Business owners, too, have been benefiting from their partnership with Ayala. As of August 2020, the group has helped ease the strain on its partner businesses through PHP 6.8-B worth of waived fees, deferred loan payments, free services, and rental condonations.
The group also launched the Ayala Enterprise Circle (AEC), a group-wide Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) network that enhances the group’s ongoing initiatives to educate, connect, and enable SMEs. This synergistic initiative is currently focused on helping its existing 250,000 SME partners continue their operations and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The AEC was launched as a platform to help these businesses, who provide 63% of employment and 35% of the national GDP, to give them training modules, networking opportunities, and support services that would help them cope with the unprecedented challenges they now face.
Revitalizing the healthcare sector
“This crisis has put a focus on how far behind we are on the healthcare side… It’s an industry that has not been given the attention it deserves, and it deserves far more support. I think we will never go back to looking at the industry in the same way again. I think there will be a renewed focus on both the government side and the private sector side to try and address some of the pain points that we’ve had during this crisis.”
The group has been rolling out countrywide initiatives to make healthcare more accessible to Filipinos as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
Ayala has launched two new healthcare innovations to help treat Filipino patients and protect healthcare frontliners. These innovations include an FDA-approved, lower-cost breathing aid device from Integrated Micro-Electronics, Inc. (IMI) for COVID-19 patients; and an all-in-one health app from Globe Telecom and AC Health that will help decongest healthcare facilities.
In August 2020, Ayala’s electronics manufacturing unit, IMI, secured FDA approval to locally produce the UCL Ventura Flow Generator, a lower-cost, non-invasive ventilation system specifically designed to aid COVID-19 patients with breathing difficulties. Based on an existing off-patent continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system, the design has been modified to optimize oxygen consumption. It is designed to reduce the spread of aerosols, to help keep healthcare workers safe from infection. The UCL Ventura Flow Generator is an alternative and preventative system used to avoid the need for an intubated ventilator treatment.
The Ayala Group has also released HealthNow, an all-in-one health app from Globe Telecom’s corporate incubator, 917 Ventures, and AC Health’s health tech arm, Vigos Health, to help address the pain points that have long discouraged Filipinos from seeking proper medical care. This free app allows patients to consult licensed physicians via video calls, and by September and October 2020 respectively, users will be able to have medicines delivered, and book clinic and lab appointments through the app.
Lastly, Healthway Medical plans to expand its network to over 100 Family, Multi-Specialty, and Corporate Clinics, to become the largest network of clinics in the country. It aims to make primary to multi-specialty healthcare services more accessible and affordable to Filipinos. Healthway will soon have a network of 70 Healthway Family Clinics, 7 Healthway Multi-Specialty Centers, and 45 Healthway Corporate Clinics, located across the Greater Metro Manila Area.
These are just some of Ayala’s initiatives to help the government combat the virus and contribute to national development despite the ongoing pandemic. Ayala believes that by aligning private businesses to the national good and to the national development agenda, true progress can be to help the Filipino emerge stronger from this crisis.
This online panel discussion was the first of several keynotes in Chicago Booth’s online series. The September 10 webinar also featured Ahmed Saeed of Asian Development Bank, and was moderated by Henny Sender of the Financial Times.
Watch the full session here: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/why-booth/stories/corporate-social-responsibility-revisited-videos