When I was asked to write a message last year for a Board of Investments publication that aimed to document and encourage inclusive business awareness and engagement among companies in the Philippines, I zeroed in on the significantly substantial role that the private sector can play in making poverty alleviation its business, too. I am sharing my message in the hope that more will better appreciate how the business community can and must do its part.
It is unfortunate how I continue to see and engage with poor communities all over the country in the context of my colorful work experience—whether in Amnesty International working on human rights and human rights education, or in Centennial Card Corporation providing credit card services for [soldiers and policemen], or in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process promoting the peace process, or today working with big business to craft and advocate constructive ideas to build the nation. I have seen these communities as a student in Ateneo doing Tulong Dunong tutoring in Marikina public high schools in the 1980s and I still see more of these communities today, and the number of people—and children—in these communities have certainly swelled as well. There must be alternative ways forward to allow these communities to catch up and build better lives for their children.
For the government, that other way is called good governance and inclusive growth. For the business community, that other way can only be inclusive and sustainable business. This is business beyond just the bottom line and beyond traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is business with strategic and embedded CSR that the AIM Ramon V. del Rosario Center advocates.
This is about helping more and more micro and small enterprises to grow, become part of national and even global supply chains that the Apec Business Advisory Council Philippines headed by Tommy Alcantara advocates. This is about not killing the small hardware or mini grocery that has been there for decades but exploring options and opportunities with them and even for them. This is about buying potatoes from farmer cooperatives to give them much needed support so they can become competitive. This is about not always buying from the cheapest supplier and certainly not burdening them with 120-, 90-, or even 60-day payment terms. They need cash to survive and grow, and they need it now.
This is about corporate foundations working with other NGOs, communities, churches and cooperatives already working with poor communities rather than starting their own programs. Yes, it is often more complicated to nurture relationships with these groups, but it is definitely the more sustainable way forward. And if the local group is weak, then make it strong by helping it professionalize, become more accountable and transparent, and manage its resources better.
This is about public-private partnerships (PPPs) that make nation-building and poverty reduction part of the bottom line. PPPs must help put in place the infrastructure and services that will not become just another way by which the poor are further marginalized. At the end of the day, we must all accept the need of corporates to make a profit in a PPP, but the challenge to the private sector must always be: How much lower can you go so that the cost to our significantly larger, poverty-stricken Filipino population can be genuinely affordable?
It is in the light of this message that the United Nations Development Program, Philippine Business for the Environment, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Makati Business Club have committed full support to working in partnership to drive the country’s contributions toward the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. The same message also drives the coming together of all major Philippine business groups and joint foreign chambers under the banner of the Prosperity Alliance led by Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion.
In this season of love, the message must become clear that the nation deserves more loving, especially from the private sector.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.
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