‘Sustainable’ thinkers
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2019 - 12:00am

FLORENCE – Of all applications of sustainable development policy, the heirs of world-renowned Italian shoemaker walk the talk, so to speak. The famous “Salvatore Ferragamo” chain of stores demonstrated it through their models who take the ramps wearing the popular but quite expensive brand name of shoes to bags and belt to stylish dresses for men and women.

No, we did not watch a fashion show of Ferragamo while here at Firenze but we did the walking tour of their company’s “Sustainable Thinking” museum.   

Located at the heart of Florence, the walking tour of “Sustainable Thinking” museum, of course, ends up in Ferragamo’s shopping galore. Luckily for me, I don’t have the euros enough to buy even a signature women’s belt.

And before anyone goes around for a tour of this part of the building here, people must first read the glass-encased declaration what is “Sustainability Thinking” fashion-turned-museum is all about: “Sustainability” defines the human capacity to meet “the needs of the present time without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” 

It was an eye-opening discovery for me to learn many new things from Ferragamo’s “Sustainable Thinking” museum which opened in April this year. Coming from one of the world’s most influential style masters is an admission that “the global fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries.”

According to the studies undertaken by this project, 98 million tons of oil were used to produce synthetic fibers in 2015. Around 8,000 synthetic chemicals are utilized to turn raw materials into textiles and these chemicals are released into freshwater sources.

As far as this famous Italian fashion institution is concerned, sustainability “is a global challenge that is not limited to production methods but also implies a greater focus on the environment overall from energy conservation to the volume of waste, from the choice of raw materials to the workers’ health and safety.”

The tour of “Sustainable Thinking” museum capped our attendance to the three-day “Green Energy” and Expo 2019 Conference held in Rome last week. During the conference, we listened to various scientists and experts who shared the latest technologies to bring about further reduction in global warming as a take-off point from the United Nations Climate Change call to action for sustained cutting down of carbon emissions from coal power plants and other fossil fuels.

In yet another reiteration of his administration’s policy, President Rodrigo Duterte impressed upon captains of Philippine industries that the country’s environment “is a priority” of the government while on his watch. President Duterte renewed this policy commitment after he reportedly figured in a motorcycle “spill” on a ride around the Malacañang Golf grounds Thursday night.

Speaking before the 45th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Manila Hotel Fiesta Pavilion last week, President Duterte issued this call: “Business should not only comply with environmental rules and regulations but shall also take part of taking care of the environment. This is your duty as citizens of the country.”

With substantial reforms carried out by the administration in the past three years, President Duterte called upon private businesses to do their share by pursuing more effective and efficient business strategies that commit to protecting the environment and ensuring the welfare of host communities.

The President much earlier directed concerned government agencies, in particular, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to remain vigilant in monitoring the strict compliance by power generation companies to existing environmental laws and regulations in our country. The Chief Executive made the gentle reminder during the ceremonial switch-on of the 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon Province last Oct. 15.

In rites held at the Bonifacio Global City, President Duterte reassured Filipinos that his administration remains committed to the use of clean energy to drive the country’s economic growth even while the government still allows new coal technologies to run power plants without losing sight of the future of power generation in the Philippines.

“And always keep in mind that beyond profits, your primary objective is to provide reliable and affordable electricity to our people,” the President urged.

In the Philippines, another power generation company has fully embraced the sustainable way of doing their business. The Lopez-owned conglomerate First Gen Corp. is one of the few companies that use clean and renewable energy (RE) such as natural gas, geothermal, hydro and wind to run its power plants. Like the other global brands seeking to lower carbon emissions that threaten our planet earth, First Gen continues to find new and innovative ways in veering away from archaic and polluting methods such as coal and other so-called fossil fuels.

Of the total 3,482 megawatts  (MW) installed capacity of 30 power plants run by First Gen, 2,017 MW is produced from natural gas. The other bulk comes from its other RE power plants, namely:  1,179 MW is generated by its geothermal power plants; wind (150 MW); hydro (134 MW); and, solar (12 MW).

Aside from power generation, the “Green Energy” Conference experts pointed to transport and mobility utilities as the future direction on the potentials of RE. One of the most wonderful discovery here also is a young Filipina transport engineer working on “sustainable” train system in Italy. Requesting not to be identified, she told us her work entails analysis of project initiatives for the development of railway networks, upgrade of operational processes, and innovative projects on sustainability.

It is indeed quite reassuring to see young Filipinos like her among the global “sustainable” thinkers who come up with ways to keep the present environment livable for the sake of future generations.

SALVATORE FERRAGAMO
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