Friday, March 12, 2004

Pay it forward

Business Times p.B8
Friday, March 12, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Pay it forward

What if all entrepreneurs are required to join the Rotary Club and abide by this Four Way Test:
* Is it the truth?
* Is it fair to all concerned?
* Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
* Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Then, entrepreneurs don't even have to consider making corporate social responsibility (CSR)as a Key Result Area (KRA) for their business. They will automatically keep right and do right-if they take the test seriously in everything, as in everything, they do.

The reality is that when it comes to business, many entrepreneurs check in their personal values at the door of their business. They become consumed by the idea of profit as the only measure of success in business.

I watched Early Edition on Hallmark Channel the other day. The story was about a businessman who bought a row of buildings in a busy business area in Chicago City, USA, under dubious terms and circumstances. He intended to convert the whole area into a profitable parking lot building. One apartment building was owned by a lady who acts as foster parent to 15 orphans enjoying their life together as one big family who will now be placed in different foster homes. Another building housed a café/bar owned by a retiree who now faces being homeless and penniless.

Like in all movies, the dirty old businessman had his comeuppance sooner than soon when his two trusted assistants turned against him demanding their long-overdue bonuses and threatened to harm him.

Fortunately, like any feel good movies, the hero, Gary Hobson, came just in time with two security officers. There is nothing unusual in this screenplay. The same story happens in many real business life.

Do you believe in karma? If you are an entrepreneur who intends to stay in business and not just for the fast bucks, you need to believe in karma.

A poignant and wise counsel was penned by Lopez Group patriarch Eugenio H Lopez, Sr., and goes: "A company that is prosperous and rich while labor lives in misery has neither the right to exist nor the right to claim public support."

In a speech in 1958, Eugenio, Sr., emphasized that they believe a greater proportion of the earnings accrued from business should be returned to the people whether this be in the form of foundations, grants, scholarships, hospitals or any other form of social welfare benefits.

And so upon buying Meralco from its American owners, he set up a tertiary hospital and sports facilities for employees and gave them unprecedented benefits. He also founded the Lopez Memorial Museum of Filipiniana materials and the Meralco Theater originally intended for truly Filipino cultural presentations and donated a building for the Asian Institute of Management.

His son, Geny, carried on that Lopez value: "I have always believed that public service is the only reason for our existence. Profit alone is not enough of a reason to exist. But if we serve people, then I think our growth and our success will follow. If we take care of our customers, then they will take care of us. That is the kind of culture a company should have."

Like his father and brother, Chair of Lopez Group of Companies Oscar M. Lopez believes that what makes a great business organization is its CSR and that successful business companies must give back part of their wealth to undertakings that benefit the society.

The Lopez Group has a long list of its CSR initiatives reported in the latest issue of their quarterly publication, Lopez Link. ABS-CBN Foundation, now headed by Gina Lopez, is into several continuing projects like educational TV-Bayani, Hira¬yama¬nawari, Mathtinik, Sine's¬kwela, Epol/Apple and Pahina, Bantay Bata 163, Bantay Kalikasan, ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation and ABS-CNB Volunteers. Rina Lopez Bautista pursues the cable-a-school initiative, Knowledge Chan¬nel, to help improve quality of education for the public school system through quality educational video materials.

The First Philippine Conservation Inc., in partnership with Washington D.C.-based Conservation International, endeavors to preserve threatened animal species and habitats all over the country. One of First Philippine Holding's corporation's favorite CSR project is the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund which engages the country's corporate business sector as a key partner and philanthropic contributor. They have reforested 1,000 hectares of denuded land in Bamban, Tarlac.

Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) spearheaded an aggressive media campaign in 1998-99 and gathered 5-million signatures which ultimately led to the enactment of the clean Air Act by Congress.

Bantay Usok resulted in the testing and apprehension of thousands of vehicles emitting deadly fumes. Bantay Baterya collected 293 tons of batteries from 41 companies, disposed them properly and hit P1 million in donations. The Lopez Group is a strong advocate of the nonsmoking ordinance in Makati City.

Some 15,000 volunteers participated in the La Mesa Dam Rehabilitation effort that set up a New York-style park in the La Mesa Dam watershed to improve the water supply and prevent flooding in Metro Manila.

I need this whole Management page of the Manila Times to list the numerous CSR projects of the Lopez Group but I don't have the luxury. They definitely put their time, money and other resources where their mouth is.

One initiative that entrepreneurs would want to be involved with is the Bayan Microfinance program which has given out a total of P1.2-billion loans to some 17,580 active small business owners.

The point I want to share in this continuing Journey in Entrepreneurship is to urge you to make CSR a KRA in your strategic plans. I assure you of untold dividends and benefits with not a single disadvantage or loss.

You need not embark on CSR initiatives that call for big funding, some CSR initiatives are built into your business like choosing beneficial products and services, paying the right taxes, treating employees well, conserving water and energy, recycling, using biodegradable materials, proper waste management, and many others. It is making sure that in everything you do, your answer to all four Rotary test is a resounding "Yes!" You may also want to help by just continuing to be a decent neighbor in your immediate community. And soon enough you will receive good karma. Promise.

The reason CSR needs to be a KRA is that it should not be viewed as a dole out or a charity or a simple annual project. Lopez group's senior executive Art de Guia says that to be successful, it should be continuing initiative that comes from the voluntary effort of the employees and the community. It becomes a second nature, a way of life, a culture.

ASTD 2004. The American Society for Training & Development will hold its annual international conference this May 23-27 in Washington D.C., USA. Aside from the conference proper, ASTD 2004 will feature informative 18 one- and two-day Preconference Workshops which includes Harvard Business School Publishing workshop, Training Directors Business Boot Camp, designed to help training directors prepare for their biggest business challenges.

For details and assistance on registration and travel package, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332. In registering, you may use Delegation Code 10429860 to avail of special fees.

[Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes, consults on Strategic Thinking & Planning and Innovation initiatives. For feedback, please email her at]

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