Greening the supply chain in Cebu
A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie E. Javelosa (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2014 - 12:00am

“Here, miss,” I told the cashier at a coffee shop counter. “Here are some extra clean napkins you can re-use,” returning to her part of a wad of clean napkins exaggeratedly given to me for an order of a cup of coffee. What did she do with them? She promptly threw them in the garbage. The tree-lover, earth advocate in me made me strike a conversation with her saying, “Not only did you waste all those napkins, you weren’t even listening to your customer.” The manager appeared from nowhere and we discussed for a while how they should make employees aware of simple green solutions as everybody has a part to play no matter how small.

This incident was not an isolated case, as I had just arrived from Cebu, having spoken in a forum on the topic of greening the supply chain. I shared our experiences at ECHOstore and how we have worked with community groups, what to expect from them and with the key messages being: we need to hold the hands of our farmers, small producers, and not let them go. We need to hold tight and strong, to stretch in understanding that they have limitations, to change our own mindsets of requirements rooted only on profit all the time, and also balance this with the social impact that we can do. And above all, not to waste our resources.

The imperative of “greening our lifestyle” is a consciousness and awareness issue. It is about knowing and accepting that each and every one of us has a role in the way we are molding the kind of world we live in. It’s not just our choice of buying an eco-product (but that’s good, too), or that attempt to recycle that paper (which we should all be doing), but to learn more and know how that product is produced, what effects do our lifestyles have on our carbon footprints, and even the social impact our choices have. Green and sustainable living has touched every part of our lives from the micro to the macro of businesses becoming green, production processes, and most important also, the greening of the supply chain.

The Cebu forum I was invited to was focused on the tourism sector. The regional offices of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) alongside Pro GED (Green Economic Development) program of the German funders GIZ, were running regional workshops on tourism and community development. The government has identified tourism as flagship project with the potential to open more jobs and employment opportunities, thereby addressing poverty for a more inclusive economic growth.

The forum was a first for Cebu (and I personally hope it can be replicated in other provinces as well). Aside from the usual talks, the key component was the match-making sessions where, very much like speed-dating, the event facilitated the linkages of tourism enterprises like hotels, restaurants, spas, resorts, with local community suppliers. They even included green service providers for technologies, products and even architectural designs, introducing LED light suppliers, green architects and designers, offering energy efficient products and renewable energy resources, solid waste management, water and wastewater management and upcycling. The whole exercise was to develop the competitiveness of the tourism enterprises by also helping them adapt to the issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

The objective was to bring together in one event all the stakeholders of the Cebu tourism industry and the directions of compliance for green accreditation standards. The event showed how the local economy could be harnessed for greater social impact. Big businesses were reaching out to small producers. It was so nice to see purchasing representatives of established hotels and restaurants talk to small farmers to let them know their specifications for products, price and delivery requirements.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) came in to identify the small producers and farmers. They came, carrying their produce: community soap makers clutched their bath products and women cooperative leaders with their dried fish and many other delicacies. These small producers, when left by themselves, would be clueless on who to even approach in these large establishments. Now, they were face to face.

I called over our Cebu licensees who will soon be opening ECHOstore in Cebu City just outside Maria Luisa Park in Banilad. Johann and Meyan Young, new to the green scene, were quick jumping in and meeting the suppliers as they would also be sourcing local green organic and natural products for the Cebu store. Our education process begins with baby steps. Through our talks, we share. Through our licensees, we explain the need to share with them and they explain to their staff the role that each one plays in this green lifestyle, which includes the supply chain. It is with the hope that other establishments can likewise bring these messages of greening and being more conscious — all the way to their waiters and cashiers so there is less waste. It makes good business sense. And very good environmental sense for our planet.

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