EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Tuesday afternoon in Metro Manila was shaky, quite literally. Some thought it was another vertigo-inducing afternoon but as it turned out, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck south of Manila, halting trains and prompting evacuations, especially in towering offices.

We are feeling more of these earthquakes now than ever before, especially in recent years and while we’re not yet sure if Tuesday’s quake was climate related, recent studies suggest links between rising sea-levels and increased frequency of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

It’s therefore a welcome development that world leaders, companies and stakeholders are currently gathered in Dubai, UAE for COP28 or the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will run until Dec. 12.

At the very least, COP28 puts the spotlight on “continued rising concentrations of greenhouse gasses from the decade between 2011 and 2020 that turbo charged dramatic glacier loss and sea-level rise,” as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a recent report.

ACEN’s big reveal

It’s good that delegates from the Philippines joined the momentous event.

Eric Francia, president and CEO of Ayala Corp.’s ACEN, was among the speakers.

ACEN likewise announced that it has collaborated with the Coal to Clean Credit Initiative (CCCI), which has support from The Rockefeller Foundation, to explore a pilot project in the Philippines that would leverage carbon finance to phase out a coal-fired power plant and replace it with renewable energy.

The project covers ACEN’s South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. (SLTEC) coal plant, which would become the world’s first coal-fired power plant to leverage carbon credits to enable its early decommissioning.

“Today’s development marks a critical contribution to accelerating a global energy transition. Without a rapid and proactively managed transition away from coal-fired power, the world will not meet its climate goals; the urgency of solving this problem cannot be understated. ACEN is proud to be working with The Rockefeller Foundation’s Coal to Clean Credit Initiative and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to develop this world-first project,” said Francia.

Congratulations Eric Francia, ACEN and the Ayala Group!

There are indeed many different ways every member of society can contribute to sustainability and we must all do our part.

In business, every industry – from power to beauty to food to fashion – must be part of this movement.


I recently learned from global beauty player Avon that in the beauty industry, sustainability is still gaining traction.

Managing director for APAC & general manager for Avon Philippines Razvan Diratian, in an email interview, said the sector is still among the biggest users of plastic packaging.

It’s a positive step that Avon is doing its share to help address the current climate crisis, not just through its products but through its manufacturing processes.

“Globally, we were able to achieve all our 2020 environmental targets for carbon emissions, waste and recycling and water use,” Diratian says.

Moving forward, Avon has outlined sustainability targets by 2030.

These include achieving net zero carbon emissions; contributing zero waste to landfills; maintaining a 95 percent recycling rate and reducing to five percent less water intensity by 2025.

Furthermore, Diratian says that by 2030, Avon wants 100 percent of its packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable and 50 percent of the plastic it uses to be recycled.

Circular approach

“We are developing a circular approach to the design and development of products. Every product currently going through development will have sustainability engineered in from the outset.

“We want to have more conversations with our customers and our representatives about the importance of sustainability and the journey we are on,” Diratian says.

Sustainable, strategic investments

Still on sustainability, the Philippine government has also introduced Green Lanes for Strategic Investments under Executive Order 18 to enhance Ease of Doing Business by “expediting, streamlining and automating government processes for Strategic Investments.”

Real Steel Corp. is one of the companies which received a certificate of endorsement from the Board of Investments (BOI) for its operation of rolling mills. As such, Real Steel’s P10.307 billion is among 16 projects in the country endorsed under the green lane initiative.

“Real Steel commends the BOI for promoting a green lane initiative as this will boost more interest amongst investors and to further boost domestic production capability and self-sufficiency. We are dedicated to spearheading sustainable practices within the steel industry, and this endorsement is a testament to our continuous efforts to drive sustainable business practices. It not only showcases our commitment to innovation but also highlights our dedication to sustainability and economic progress,” said William Chen, CFO of Real Steel Corp.

Real Steel’s rolling mills operation is set to produce 600,000 metric tons of reinforced steel bars per annum.

The steel manufacturer has also been actively revamping its facilities and equipment, aiming to introduce a cutting-edge 16.8 megawatt-peak (MWp) rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system at its advanced manufacturing facility located in San Simon, Pampanga.

By implementing the largest rooftop solar PV system in the Philippines, the manufacturer is accelerating the production of lower-carbon high-quality steel products for the local market.

Sustainability versus green washing

It’s good that the different stakeholders in our society, especially the private sector, are embracing the sustainability mindset.

Even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also putting out guidelines for sustainability reporting for companies.

But we must remain vigilant so that companies do the real thing instead of announcing initiatives that are tantamount to just green washing.

This is after all a climate emergency and real solutions are needed.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Columnarchives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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