Making a difference in a changing world

SUITS THE C-SUITE By Cirilo P. Noel

Business World (02/15/2010)

In a previous column, I wrote about how sound corporate values can help transform society; that in our own small way, companies can contribute positively to help alleviate poverty and increase compassion for other causes. In a capsule, it is what we in SGV & Co. have resolved to undertake and promote — for all of us to be in the business of doing good.

Corporate responsibility has always been a part of our business. In fact, the SGV Foundation has been very active in this respect for the past 43 years. However, while the SGV Foundation does carry out and administer philanthropic projects, we have now introduced corporate responsibility to the individual — the staff person, the manager, the partner — as part of his or her career in our firm.

Every person is now challenged with this question: How can I make a difference in a changing world?

We constantly ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference — not just for our clients, our business or our profession, but more importantly for our respective communities. We are now becoming more aware of the greater good of people everywhere, and are becoming more concerned for the sustainability of our planet.

These two aspects go hand in hand — society and the environment.

Our corporate responsibility is beginning to transcend what the SGV Foundation has been doing for us into how we, as individuals, can affect the world around us.

How this realization came to be was the result of a confluence of events and external changes that have been taking place around the world in the past several years. There are external forces — demographics, environmental, economic, and regulatory — that are shaping our future.

And while these are global phenomena, there are events closer to home with which we can easily identify. For instance, we have increasing rates of poverty and unemployment that are causing social problems like lack of housing, illiteracy, poor health, crime and overpopulation. Environmentally speaking, we need not look far to see the ravages of Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.

In essence, every aspect of human and corporate life entails some degree of personal responsibility. We all have an obligation to do good work for our organization and our clients, but we also have that innate responsibility to use our skills for the greater good and to benefit the communities around us.

In SGV, there are three key areas where we apply our skills in relation to corporate responsibility. These are entrepreneurship, education and the environment.

Through our Entrepreneurship Of The Year Philippines program, we have been honoring outstanding Filipino entrepreneurs for the past seven years. Of special mention are our social entrepreneurs whose enterprises impact directly and positively on societal issues and problems such as poverty, human rights and the environment.

Through the SGV Foundation, we have also shared our skills with micro entrepreneurs by teaching them how to comply with regulatory requirements. We also provide services in assurance and taxation to several nonprofit organizations so that they, too, practice transparency and good governance.

Investing in education and in people has been SGV Foundation’s battlecry for over four decades, which simply echoes SGV’s core belief in lifelong learning. We are convinced that education — as an equalizer — is necessary for the long-term health and prosperity of any community or country. As part of our corporate responsibility efforts, we help students realize their potential so that they may eventually make contributions to their communities. Through the SGV Foundation, we have provided for the education of hundreds of scholars. Quite recently, our people were involved hands on with the restoration of classrooms in Pasig City and Quezon City that were hit hardest by Ondoy.

Lastly, the environment has received so much attention because of the series of natural disasters that have struck globally. We actually believe that to be “green” is not a choice anymore but a business imperative. We must explore new ways that are both eco-friendly and business-smart to operate in a changing environment.

In addition, our own clients are looking for ways to adopt environmentally responsible business practices that support them in responding to new business opportunities, regulatory pressures and their aim to reduce operating costs. By looking continually for ways to make our own organization greener, we will become even more effective advisors to others.

While many still misconstrue philanthropy to be synonymous with corporate responsibility, this may not necessarily be the case anymore. Each of us can make a difference in our own world without having to shell out huge amounts of cash.

Let me cite a few activities that one can participate in that are equally effective and will have lasting effects on others.

Volunteer

Participate in education-, entrepreneurship- and environment-focused volunteer activities organized by your companies.
Mentor or tutor a low-income student in your community.
Use your skills to help micro entrepreneurs in your community reach their full potential.
Join other activities that address global warming.
Participate in a Gawad Kalinga build or other similar activities sponsored by your company, professional organization, or church.

Educate and communicate

Understand what it means to be socially responsible and share that information with your clients, colleagues, family and friends.
Include corporate responsibility in team-building events or meetings by planning and incorporating a volunteer activity.

Lead by example

Serve on the board or become an active member of a nonprofit organization focused on education, entrepreneurship or the environment.
Encourage and recognize others for their commitment to corporate responsibility.
Develop community partnerships that leverage your business skills and expand your network.
Business and society cannot but coexist. A company with both heart and soul, led by its C-Suite members, will make a difference not only in society but more importantly, in their own organization’s future. It is time for all of us to make a lasting difference in the world.

(Atty. Cirilo P. Noel is the Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV & Co. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.)