By Arjie Aguja | One News / Philippine Star
QUICK READ: For EDC, sustainability is no longer enough—the call to be regenerative is more aptly needed in modern times.
It has been almost 30 years since the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 178 governments attended the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to adopt Agenda 21, a step-by-step action plan toward sustainable development to be implemented at local, national, and global levels.
Almost three decades later, the problems identified still remain. And though mankind had significant progress since then, there is still a need to develop systemic and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges—from climate change, pollution, rapid population growth, and limited resources, to the most daunting yet: the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In the Philippines, renewable energy producer Energy Development Corporation (EDC) has been at the forefront of campaigning for sustainability even before it became a buzzword in our country. As the world’s largest vertically integrated geothermal energy company, EDC believes that while sustainability continues to be an important principle, there is an urgent call for governments and private sector partners to do much more.
Going Beyond EDC’s Sustainability Policy
The key toward overcoming the world’s greatest challenges lay in a desire to set out on a different path, to study fresh approaches.
EDC’s Sustainability Framework has always been in place to embody its commitment to improve people’s lives, care for the environment, and contribute to the positive transformation of the country. Aware that business can thrive if people and nature will prosper, the company recognized that it must work towards sustainable development that will benefit all involved stakeholders.
In its 2019 Integrated Report, EDC revisited material topics with its technical working group and investors to come up with a list of of those that reflect the impact of EDC’s activities, both social and environmental.
Using the International Integrated Reporting Council’s Integrated Reporting Framework, these topics were reviewed in light of their significance on EDC’s ability to achieve business goals and create value for its stakeholders, namely the employees, suppliers, local government, farmers and community associations, IPs, academe, local media, regulatory agencies, investors, landers, and partner communities.
By working closely with all of its stakeholders and engaging them through various channels, EDC is able to gain their valuable insight and feedback about programs and activities, thereby guiding the company’s reporting and communication practices on sustainability.
But during his recent talk on the call to be regenerative for the Global Catholic Climate Movement and Focolare Movement’s joint online celebration of the “Season of Creation,” EDC President and COO Richard Tantoco highlighted why sustainability is no longer enough and why the call to be regenerative is more aptly needed in modern times.
“We recognize that our planet’s life support systems and social institutions are now at a breaking point. Our alienation from nature, and the profound social and economic divisions, have become existential threats to humanity today. Overcoming all of these challenges will require paradigm shifts in the ways that we think, live, and do business. It is now clear that pursuing sustainability that seeks only to do less harm is no longer good enough.”
“For us in the Lopez Group, which EDC is proud to be a part of, it is about aligning our business, our resources, and our capabilities to fulfill our new and higher mission, and that is to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future. Being regenerative is all about elevating everything we touch. Regeneration includes our employees, our community, our environment, our customers, employees, and our partners. All need to benefit from the positive impact of our decisions and actions. While our investors are important, regenerative thinking demands that we look at our business from a wider lens than just profitability,” Tantoco emphasized.
Light Amid Darkness: The SIKAT Education Program
Good quality education is among the keys to a regenerative future. By equipping the youth with the necessary tools and knowledge, societies are better able to promote the skills, understanding, values, and actions required to create a sustainable world, which ensures environmental protection and conservation, promotes social equity, and encourages economic sustainability.
EDC’s banner education program, also known as the SIKAT Education Program, embodies EDC’s aspirations for its communities to have access to quality education that would enable them to become productive citizens and change-makers of the issues besetting our society.
The company believes that investing in quality education regardless of their track, whether academic, technical-vocation, as well as talent or skill-based, will help transform the scholars into future change-drivers.
In Filipino, SIKAT means “sunshine” or “ray,” a necessary component to spur growth from seedlings into mature trees. This alternate meaning of the brand highlights the education program’s complementation with the company’s forest restoration program, BINHI. The company aims to develop students who are not only competent but also socially and environmentally aware. It is also the company’s hope that the scholars will become future development partners and local champions of sustainability in their communities and spheres of influence.
Over the last five years, the SIKAT Education Program led education initiatives that benefitted the following:
- 189 scholars studying at the University of the Philippines (UP) and other local state colleges and universities (SCUs) across all project sites
- 77 graduates, two of which graduated magna cum laude and nine cum laude
- 63 public schools assisted during the National School Maintenance Week or “Brigada Eskwela”
- 24,130 elementary students who are annual recipients of school supplies and other materials
So as not to deter its current 110 SIKAT scholars from learning and attending online classes during this COVID-19 pandemic, EDC provided pocket WiFi and partnered with Taiwan-based multinational electronics and computer company ASUS to provide them with free laptops.
Last September 3, the EDC SIKAT Scholars Batch of 2020 capped their educational achievements with a virtual graduation and recognition ceremony via Zoom with the theme “Getting ahead of the curve.” Tantoco also gave his inspirational message for all SIKAT scholars and a glimpse of some of its successful scholars now making inroads in their careers after graduation was shown during the virtual program.
EDC is likewise instrumental in supporting two educational foundations: KEITECH Technical-Vocational Training Center in Leyte that provides full scholarship and employment placement support for poor yet deserving students since 2009, and the Mount Apo Foundation Inc. (MAFI) in Mindanao that has granted 287 academic scholarship grants to youth since 1993, mostly from IP communities within the Mount Apo Natural Park.
A Helping Hand During The Pandemic
Back in March, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929, placing Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) while a six-month state of calamity was enforced for the rest of the country. Work and school were suspended and most businesses were closed except those providing essential services. While millions of Filipinos have been living in a state of lockdown, health services have been stretched thin as hospitals and medical workers are swamped with a rising number of patients.
To address the health and economic impact of the pandemic, the private sector stepped in to aid the most vulnerable sectors of society hardest hit by the lockdowns. Over the last eight months, EDC was among the most active companies spearheading COVID-19 efforts, especially in their host communities.
With the belief that supporting partner communities is one of top priorities, EDC led the following COVID-19 relief efforts:
- Sponsoring P27-million worth of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) equipment for Ormoc City’s first molecular diagnostic center
- Donating P11-million worth of equipment, including two RT-PCR machines, to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) for the the province’s first molecular testing center
- Donating over 6,600 rapid antibody test (RAT) kits worth P16.7 million to various local government units (LGU) in Leyte and Samar, Negros Oriental, Bicol, Kidapawan, and Ilocos Norte
- Donating P4.2 million to fund the expansion and refurbishment of RITM-accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the Bicol region
- Lending of 11 container vans to LGUs in all its geothermal sites that can be temporarily used as patient extension, testing, or medical personnel’s sleeping quarters
- Turning over of food items for frontliners in all its sites
- Giving the LGU of Ormoc City a check of P500,000, 100 N95 masks, 2,000 surgical gloves, and 100 PPEs, through the Ormoc Chamber
- Providing about 1,000 food packs with rice, canned goods, and noodles to barangays in La Carlota City and Bago City, Negros Occidental
- Turning over 50 sacks of rice to the Diocese of Bacolod as part of EDC’s third wave of COVID-19 community assistance
The challenges of today require an inclusive approach, a new mindset that can form workable solutions to complex problems. Rather than simply asking how we can bounce back, count on EDC to lead the approach toward a regenerative future: one that evolves, learns, and responds more effectively to the difficulties that we face.
The Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is a pioneer in generating 100% clean, renewable, and reliable power as an electricity supplier in the Philippines for over 40 years. With power plants all over Visayas and Mindanao, the company is one of the biggest producers of geothermal energy in Asia and is expanding its reach in the international market, allowing it to offer customers affordable energy rates. EDC also strives to provide the best customer service it can to all its clients by having helpful salespeople and easy to understand contracts. Because of all of this, it is poised to become the premier supplier of electricity for the Philippines’ Green Energy Option Program. EDC takes its mission as a renewable energy provider seriously and goes beyond sustainability by investing in programs that enhance the environment and empower its partner communities, thereby fostering regenerative development. The company has also been working toward being carbon-neutral by improving its energy efficiency, as well as implementing various greening projects to ensure that its mission to provide future generations with a better life remains intact.