The Day We Go Zero: Business Leaders Pledge A Carbon Neutral Phl

Epi Fabonan III |

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an even bigger global catastrophe continues to threaten humanity.

The enduring threat of global warming and climate change is adversely affecting communities and economies worldwide through rising temperatures and more frequent and intensified weather events such as typhoons, snowstorms, droughts, and wildfires.

 A warmer planet also threatens to further the melting of the polar regions, rising sea levels, and inundation of coastal communities, especially in countries like the Philippines.

Numerous scientific studies have already shown that the global rise in temperatures is caused by humanity’s increasing use of fossil fuels. To reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels, several agreements have been made by United Nations member countries that attempt to limit and reduce carbon emissions, the latest of which is the Paris Climate Accords that was signed by 194 countries and states in 2016.

 A warmer planet also threatens to further the melting of the polar regions, rising sea levels, and inundation of coastal communities, especially in countries like the Philippines.

Numerous scientific studies have already shown that the global rise in temperatures is caused by humanity’s increasing use of fossil fuels. To reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels, several agreements have been made by United Nations member countries that attempt to limit and reduce carbon emissions, the latest of which is the Paris Climate Accords that was signed by 194 countries and states in 2016.

Creating ripples of positive impact

With the Philippines’ ratification and approval of the Paris Climate Accords, local businesses are pledging to help the country achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. Some have voluntarily switched to renewable sources to power their business and implemented measures to reduce their fossil fuel and electricity consumption within their day-to-day operations. But there are also some that have yet to commit to these obligations.

In a recent webinar organized by The Philippine STAR and Energy Development Corporation, an alliance of business leaders expressed their respective companies’ commitment to reducing their carbon emissions. The webinar, titled “The Day We Go Zero”, brought together the members of the Net Zero Carbon Alliance, an organization of Filipino businesses that commit to helping the country achieve carbon neutrality.

Leading the Net Zero Carbon Alliance is Energy Development Corporation, an energy company that has worked in the past 40 years to help decarbonize the Philippines with pure renewable energy in its portfolio, particularly geothermal, solar, and wind energy.

“We know that we can’t save this planet all on our own. For this reason, we would like to fulfill our mission by partnering with other stakeholders to take concrete steps toward becoming carbon neutral by forming a community where we can empower each other. To be part of each other’s journey, we create ripples of positive impact through pockets of excellence that collectively help our planet heal,” said EDC president and COO Richard Tantoco on why his company established the Net Zero Carbon Alliance.

 Joining Tantoco in the webinar are representatives from various Net Zero Carbon Alliance member companies, namely: Carlos Salonga, SVP and head of human resources at First Balfour Inc.; Benjie Villacorte, climate change and sustainability services partner at SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. (SGV) and a net-zero carbon advocate; Jane Belarmino, VP for development at Silliman University; Ed Sunico, VP for communications in Southeast Asia for Unilever; Sam Pobre, sustainability manager for Arthaland; Joseph Liwag, VP and managing director for Knowles Electronics; Harris Guevarra, president and CEO of Drink Sustainability Communications; and Agnes de Jesus, chief sustainability officer at First Philippine Holdings Corporation.

The attendees signed a Pledge of Commitment wherein they recognized the need to act to limit the global temperature to 1.5 °C and expressed their commitment to act toward achieving carbon neutrality by transforming their environmental impact into positive contributions and collaborating on best practices with alliance members and other like-minded organizations.

Harnessing energy toward a collective goal

During the webinar, which was moderated by BusinessWorld Live anchor and TV host Danie Laurel, the attendees shared the reasons why their company joined the Net Zero Carbon Alliance as well as some of the best practices that their companies have adopted to help reduce carbon emissions and bring the Philippines closer toward net-zero carbon neutrality.

“As a corporation, Knowles is committed to conducting our business in an ethical, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable manner and this commitment is consistent with our corporate objectives and essential to our continued business success,” said Liwag.

As for a sustainability communications agency like Drink, joining the alliance was a necessary step to take, said Guevarra. “We really have to walk the talk so we can inspire more clients and partners to do the same and commit to a net-zero agenda,” Guevarra stated.

Likewise, Unilever Philippines has had a long history of advancing sustainable development by working with civil society groups, industry organizations, and even with competitors. For them, joining the alliance is a huge but necessary commitment.

From an economic perspective, SGV thinks achieving net-zero carbon emissions is not just a possibility but also an imperative. “Our businesses and industries will not thrive if they don’t create a pathway where they can decarbonize their operations and achieve a circular economy. I think if everyone will work together, I think it’s possible for the Philippines and the whole planet,” Villacorte explained.

“Many of these companies face similar issues that can be addressed only by collaboration. So, for Unilever, we are proud to be part of this alliance. We’re ready to work with everybody, with like-minded groups for climate action in the country,” Sunico stated.

Before joining the alliance, Silliman University, the only academic institution in the alliance, already has environmental sustainability as part of its mission, vision, and goals. So, joining the alliance was just a matter of common sense.

“The university wants to be a model for a sustainable campus, demonstrating the principles of energy conservation, renewable energy utilization, and reduced carbon footprint, among others. And it’s this commitment to the environment that’s the basis of the university’s participation in this very noble project,” said Belarmino.

For Pobre, joining the alliance is a very big commitment for real estate developers like Arthaland, but when the opportunity came to join, the company immediately said yes.

“Net-zero agenda is very close to our heart. We are founded on building 100% sustainable developments, and we believe that net-zero is the only way forward. We know that not one company can bring a net-zero world to reality, and so alliances like this would be instrumental in bringing net-zero projects to scale,” Pobre explained.

Being part of the construction industry that is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions is quite shameful so when their entire conglomerate declared that they will not invest in coal, it was quite an eye-opener for Salonga.

“When the chairman said, ‘No to coal’ it hit us right in the center because we did a lot of coal projects. The pain opened our eyes to a new reality and that allowed us to pivot. That pivot was very rewarding. It showed us a totally new spectrum of opportunities so for us joining the alliance was a very natural thing to do… the right thing to do,” Salonga said.

For De Jesus, who was named by Diligent Corp. as one of the “Modern Governance 100” global leaders of 2021, getting more people to care about net-zero carbon emissions will be the most crucial challenge for the alliance. But she thinks there is a way to get them to care.

“I think for businesses, the reason for them is business continuity, because climate change will damage their facilities, affect their raw materials, affect the productivity of their workers, and expose them to stringent regulations and carbon taxes, and all of these add to the cost of doing business. And of course, we should recognize that business and industry started this… so we need to do our part,” De Jesus explained.

Early in its formation, the Net Zero Carbon Alliance is being praised for its bold and historic move to band together to help the country achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Among the people who appeared in the webinar to laud the alliance’s formation was Sec. Emmanuel De Guzman, vice-chairperson of the Climate Change Commission.

“Our success, our very survival depends on our urgency, our intensity, and how we harmonize and harness our collective energy toward the collective goal. The challenge is not just for our government but also for our private sector leaders to prepare this early on. Business as usual will not do. We all, as a united human race, must aim higher and dream bigger and exercise radical ambition in pursuing climate action,” De Guzman said in a message.

“Many years from now, people across the globe will look back to the generation of today. They will look back whether we acted with decisiveness or doubt, with urgency or unconcern. Through our collective resolve for climate action, to go for zero carbon emissions, I am hopeful they will find these years as the defining time so many came together to save humanity and our common home,” De Guzman stated.

Likewise, House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, representative of the Lone District of Antique and author of several laws that help mitigate climate change such as the Climate Change Act, Clean Air Act, and People’s Survival Fund Act, also hailed the formation of the alliance.

“All climate action is local. We succeed or we fail, depending on how well we do at the level of the local communities which are at the forefront of the climate crisis and disasters. That’s why we need to boost assistance provided to local entrepreneurs and our rural communities at the grassroots as part of poverty alleviation and to promote domestic economic growth. Micro, small, and medium enterprises have the greatest potential to become the main driver of our economic development. Given sufficient attention and support, this sector will no doubt accelerate social and economic empowerment of various sectors in society,” Legarda said.

You can watch the entirety of “The Day We Go Zero” webinar by going to this link:

To know more about joining the Net Zero Carbon Alliance or shifting to renewable energy through EDC, you may send an email to [email protected]

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.