Listening to the presentations and dialogues of subject matter experts, regulators, government officials and business leaders from various sectors at the recently concluded GRI-SM Sustainability E-summit 2021 entitled “Leaving No One Behind” gave me hope in a sea of perturbing crises and endless forecasts of doom from the devastating effects of climate change.
Collaboration for Regeneration
I particularly liked Session 4: Starting the Journey to Credible Net-Zero Target Achievements. I was alarmed learning from Mr. Federico Lopez that we have about 6-8 years (!?!) before 1.5 C° global warming. Then, he talked about regeneration and that aspiration resonated with me. I would like to believe that regenerative development is possible when owners, investors, employees, suppliers and customers truly find a way to work together with the same vision of protecting the planet and its people.
“Tiny milestones add up and create big impact. I just want to see a better world,” Mara Sy Coson, SMIC Group Sustainability Adviser, said in Session 1: Next Generation Leadership. The Driving Force for Sustainability. I could not agree more.
In these sessions and Session 2: How Financial Markets are Driving Demand for More Sustainable Practices, I was enlightened about how particular industries play essential roles in sustainability — the banking sector supports green businesses and promotes financial inclusion, property developers can create net zero properties and sustainable communities, retailers support MSMEs in promoting eco-friendly products, agriculture entrepreneurs assist farmers in food sustainability and environmental protection, among others.
Honesty and Accountability
While the speakers and panelists discussed the harrowing situation, it was engaging to learn about the sector-relevant strategies being prioritized in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
I also appreciated their forthright admission that over the years, there has been a lot of greenwashing and ‘soft agreements’ without concrete follow-throughs. With impact-driven and unequivocal leaders like them in this generation and the next, sustainability will hopefully not just be mere lip service. As Mr. Gino Borromeo, Corporate Planning VP of SM Supermalls, advised – information can be abused and so we need to read data properly and exercise critical thinking. “Be very critical of institutions. Keep leaders honest and accountable. We need that just as much,” he said.
Empathy in Action
It was heartening to hear from the speakers in Session 3: The Purpose-Driven Businesses, Lessons from the Pandemic. They discussed how their organizations supported their employees amid this global crisis – from work from home arrangements, sustained wages, additional financial assistance, and even organizing mindfulness workshops, among others.
SM Supermalls President Steven Tan also talked about generating jobs such as personal shoppers or riders for people who lost their posts abroad and those who could not do their usual work because of the government-imposed lockdowns.
The leaders in all sessions also emphasized raising awareness about sustainable practices not just in their organizations but also how they can offer affordable green products that more consumers can embrace.
With more captains of industry initiating ecologically sound innovations and championing environmental and social causes, I am optimistic that there will be more concrete adoptions of sustainability in the new normal.
The speakers inspired each other and the viewers to contemplate on what their purpose is. It was great to see that the leaders had clarity on their purpose of being enablers of sustainability in their industries and in using their knowledge, resources and circles of influence to develop value-based enterprises.
“Be the change that you want to see and lead that change,” said Andrew Glass, Head of Sales and Partnerships of the Viridios Group. I also liked the advice from the next generation leaders — find your passion, lead with compassion, have fun, do not be afraid to screw up, and just get started!
Sustainability for All
Purpose is not just a buzz word for organizations but that North Star each has. At the very least, I think a meaningful life purpose always includes internal growth, fulfilling experiences and external contribution. Wherever we are, armed with our passion and skills, is a starting point to get better (and greener!). Setting the intention is the first step.
Sustainability used to be a big word for me, some jargon speak that was only for the experts and large organizations. Now, I can truly see that it is for all. Sustainability serves us all. Sustainability is the responsibility of all. Every little green move counts!
I read an article where the message of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed was shared – that we need to “Rebuild our economies sustainably and inclusively. Remember, we are in this together. No one will ever be truly safe until everyone is safe”. Truly, no one should be left behind.
Let’s then move every one forward. The summit gave examples of what can be done. Let’s get creative and do more. Think critically. Have compassion. Join forces. Be the change you want to see. Start now. Don’t we all just want a better world?