Friday, September 5, 2014

Speech of President Aquino at the 13th Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

Speech of President Aquino at the 13th Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 13th Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility

[Delivered at Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City, on September 3, 2014]

Allow me to begin by saying that I am indeed very happy to be with you tonight, for two reasons. The first: as some of you might know, my first job—which was not that long ago—was with the Philippine Business for Social Progress. The PBSP started in 1970—I was not a founding employee at that time of course—with 50 business leaders who made a rather unusual pledge: to give 1% of their gross profits towards funding activities that now fall under the title of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR). In effect: they pooled resources to fund development efforts at a grassroots level. Working for the PBSP made concrete the lessons that my parents, the Church, and my university had taught me: that we must be men or women for others, especially for those on the margins.

The second reason is that these kinds of events show me that much has changed for the better throughout the years. In the older days, a manufacturing facility probably just considered only the desired inventory, input and output levels, production schedules, among other similar factors of production. In the older days, profit was the end-all and be-all, and businesses could view their responsibilities in isolation from the community. At best, this was a singular, and coldly practical motivation. At worst, it was myopic, with businesses acting as if they operated in a world where their actions did not affect other sectors—believing that they were contributing to society by concentrating entirely on the bottom line.

Today, the paradigm shift is clear. That same manufacturing facility now thinks of how to minimize its environmental impact; how to minimize waste, and by so doing, preserve the sustainability of source materials; and how to preserve and enhance their relations with the immediate community.

When I see corporations focused on social responsibility, I see kindred spirits who, like me, have to tackle issues in their multifaceted forms and complications—who realize that, indeed, no man is an island. After all, your continued growth cannot happen when the environment that allowed you to embark on this business venture is left by the wayside. Your continued profit cannot happen when you manufacture products that are increasingly out of the reach or relevance of your workers.

Here, today, we are honoring a number of institutions that are helping to redefine the concept of “business.” For all of you, corporate responsibility is good business; your shareholders include your employees, consumers, and now, the members of the communities in which you operate: thus redefining value not only in terms of profit, but also in terms of the empowerment of others.

For instance, we have the Jollibee Foods Corporation, or JFC, from the Philippines, recognized for two unique programs. Through the Busog, Lusog, Talino School Feeding Program, the JFC has worked with partners in both the public and private sectors to provide lunch for undernourished students in kindergarten, and in the first and second grades. The effects are clear: more than 80% of beneficiaries have reached a Normal Body Mass Index, and absenteeism has been reduced. There is also their Farmer Entrepreneurship Program, which aims to support the livelihood of Filipino farmers by linking them to the supply chain of institutional markets such as Jollibee. To date, they have helped more than 900 farmers nationwide not only to be more productive, but also to have access to a broader market.

Next, we have Unilever Indonesia, which has worked to promote the health and well-being of millions of young Indonesians, through their School Program—an Integrated Health Hygiene Promotion. Your program brings together the fundamentals of a sustainably healthy lifestyle through simple practices, such as washing hands with soap, drinking safe water, and eating a nutritious breakfast, among others.

We also have the Dow Chemical for Sustainable Industry program of Dow Chemical Thailand, which has the goal of institutionalizing sustainable and environmentally responsible industry standards and practices for key sectors. They did this by developing and applying Lean Management principles that focus on the production of goods with maximum efficiency, minimum cost, and a minimal impact on the environment. By coming up with a manual that contains standards and solutions for sustainable organization improvement, they are helping personnel all over Thailand to perform their duties more effectively.

Of course, we cannot forget the Tribal Development through Cooperative Movement program of the Valsad District Cooperative Milk Producer in India. Credit, training, and infrastructure support are provided to tribes, especially to women, in response to the need to produce more quality milk. This does not only address the problem of supply; it also gives the women dignified and meaningful livelihood that allow them to meet the needs of their children without the need to migrate for work.

Finally, there is the Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, which has worked to address the needs of seafarers, from training and scholarship programs focused on improving skills, to employee benefits that foster financial and educational security, and even to the extent of providing SIM cards enabling seafarers to keep in touch with their families at discounted rates.

Diverse though they may be, all of our awardees today are proof of the fact that the growth of companies and of private industry cannot be divorced from the growth of the communities you find yourselves in. This is only common sense. Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, we have to wonder: why was this not a common truth or an accepted idea in the dawn of big business?

After all, in working towards sustainable livelihood, responsible business practices, and employee welfare, you are ensuring a stronger consumer base for your products and services. In investing in the people, you are displaying a strong commitment to the belief that progress must be inclusive, that economic growth, and consequently, the growth of businesses, relies first and foremost on the empowerment of the people. What does social responsibility mean, after all, if not dealing with your fellow men in a correct and upright manner? Doing so leads to greater stability, which is necessary for the continued growth of your companies. This, in turn, requires an even greater immersion and even greater stakes to be held in the community. This is the virtuous cycle of corporate social responsibility, with businesses and the citizenry helping each other thrive.

These events never fail to inspire me—and I hope that they have the same, if not a greater effect on you and even your peers.Through your work, you have already shown that the simplest ideas can bring about the most profound transformations.

To those who have not yet seen the wisdom of the CSR movement: it is certainly a choice that is left to your discretion, but those of you who are truly worthy of leadership will know that it is not only the right thing to do, but also and more importantly the imperative for each one of us.
Thank you. Good evening.

GPH Website





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