Moving for a collective impact

More and more companies are seeing a clear connection between social progress and business success. Not a day passes without hearing companies trumpet their triple-bottom approach to conducting business. These stories are being chronicled in sustainability reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission will reportedly mandate for all listed companies by 2023. Recent data shows that while this requirement is still on a comply or explain basis, the compliance rate among listed firms in the local bourse has been over 90% for the past two or three years. Indeed, local firms have gone a long way in implementing and chronicling their efforts to manage business impacts on people, profit, and the planet. Even without an expressed admission, companies are now fast becoming agents of social change.

And this is something we should all welcome. Seeing businesses influence community development, nation-building, and overall social amelioration is indeed a positive development. These days we are feeling the impact of shared values i.e., pursuing business success that promotes societal benefits.

We have heard and seen for decades how the global community has called into question how businesses are being conducted — where even the legitimacy of enterprises is put into question primarily because of their adverse impact on society. Thankfully, all stakeholders realize that the seeming antagonistic relationship between companies and communities is not the solution to huge problems such as environmental degradation and climate change. We are seeing several steps toward a more concerted approach to better sustainable business practices. Businesses realize they cannot work in silos as they exist in an ecosystem that involves the broader society — impact communities, suppliers, distributors, consumers, non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organization (POs), and state entities, i.e., national and local governments.

Hence, in pursuing shared value initiatives, we are seeing a positive theme called “collective impact,” which is fast becoming a “movement.”

As some management literature posits, a collective impact presupposes that social malaise is brought about by a complex combination of actions and omissions by stakeholders in any given situation; hence can be solved and managed only through careful, strategic, and coordinated efforts of all the stakeholders — the businesses, government, NGOs and POs, and the impact communities.

Indeed, a collective impact is an imprimatur for systemic changes. By bringing together relevant stakeholders — armed with appropriate data — the collective impact can foster a common understanding of the problem, eventually leading to developing and implementing mutually agreed upon solutions to social problems.

And businesses can bring so much to the table. They bring expertise in problem-solving within an understanding of time and budget. They embrace change management, pragmatism, and accountability, and have the ability to weave through ideological disagreements that sometimes affect governments and NGOs. Ultimately, motives can drive businesses to participate in collective impact initiatives because their growth and resilience can be affected if and when social problems distress their businesses.

A clear example of a successful collective impact initiative is the Net Zero program being implemented by a global firm in the Philippines. Characterized as bold and yet realistic, this firm commits to: 1.) reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% in their operations by 2025 and achieve net-zero by 2050 at the latest; 2.) collect and divert 26,000 metric tons of plastic waste annually away from landfills and the ocean; 3.) reduce the use of virgin plastics by a third by 2025 and 100% of packaging to be recyclable or reusable; and, 4.) switch to 100% clean and renewable electricity in all its factories.

Early on, the company already realized that it could not achieve these targets alone. Thus, it has forged several strategic partnerships and collaborations with several organizations. It partnered with EcoPlanet Bamboo and One Tree Planted to help plant 2.5 million bamboo clumps and 1 million trees in Mindanao over the next three years.

It is also collaborating with the Climate Change Commission (CCC) to engage the youth in developing workable solutions to address issues and challenges linked to climate change through its innovation hub — Klimathon: Our Race Towards a Net Zero Reality. It is also in strategic alliance with the University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) to develop a program for its Department of Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship (DAME) to harness the youth’s potential for climate action through the “Net Zero Nation” competition.

Another company at the forefront of collective impact initiatives is one of the leading energy companies in the Philippines, which, for over 40 years, has been generating power from geothermal sources. It has earned its reputation as the Philippines’ leading renewable energy producer and the world’s largest vertically integrated geothermal producer.

Given its responsibility to carefully manage its impact on where it operates, this company has adopted a revolutionary framework that calls for regenerative development. It is particularly welcoming to hear its senior executives profess and commit action towards arresting the negative impacts of climate change.

This renewable energy firm has realigned its business, resources, and capabilities to fulfill a new chosen purpose: to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future. Embarking on this path, the company seeks to elevate the environment, its employees, communities, customers, other co-creators, and shareholders to create a broader, more positive impact on the planet.

As we continue to reel from the impact of COVID-19 amidst our battle against a number of social ills and the harmful effect of climate change, a new social mandate should be adopted by all businesses: a collective impact should be the new normal. More than a clarion call, a battle cry, or a mission, the collective impact should be a movement — a shared value for all. Only when a concerted and unified effort addresses social problems can we mitigate the bad, and, most importantly, grow and expand the good.

 

Ron F. Jabal, APR, is the chairman and CEO of PAGEONE Group www.pageonegroup.ph and founder of Advocacy Partners Asia www.advocacy.ph