Commitment to the environment

Hans Sy’s keynote message during the launch of Philippine business community’s covenant for shared prosperity

Management Association of the Philippines (MAP)

Hans Sy (Photo by Bening Batuigas)

Good morning, everyone.

First, allow me to thank the Management Association of the Philippines for inviting me to today’s event.

The invitation is very encouraging especially as I have been asked to speak about “Commitment to the Environment” during this unique moment.

Our company, SM Prime Holdings, owns and operates 74 shopping malls in the Philippines, and seven in China, combining for a total gross floor area of over 9.8 million square meters. Our other businesses include residential, commercial and office buildings, as well as hotels and convention centers.  We develop innovative and sustainable lifestyle cities offering convenience and safety to our customers and the general public.

I believe the best way to talk about my topic is to recount history and share my experiences.

Since the early 1990’s, SM has been promoting environment-friendly initiatives in our business operations.

We implemented waste reduction through segregation and proper disposal among our tenants and on the whole, in the communities where we are located.

Our pioneering solid waste management programs include the flagship “Trash-to-Cash Recycling Market” and the “SM Eco Bag Project,” which established the “green mindset” among our customers and tenants. This has expanded to partnering with material recycling facilities, and, along with emphasis also on preventing waste as much as possible, has already evolved to the restorative and regenerative course which we all know as the “Circular Economy.”

Technological advancements have been a lever to move us into even “greener” pastures. The economic benefits of our energy efficiency and water conservation projects have given back a thousand-fold, and I can attest to their sustainability as good business sense.

On energy efficiency, our business establishments and properties run on “Building Management Systems,” or BMS, which maximizes every kilowatt of energy. We are the first to replace all our chillers to environment-friendly models. About over 10 years ago, we started conversion to LED lighting systems. Another first is our installation of solar panels in the roof decks of our malls.

For water management, we focus on the sustainable use of water. Water from our sewage treatment plants is treated and recycled into safe water for use in our aircon cooling system, flushing of toilets, and landscape watering.

On air efficiency, we pioneered the installation of light indicators in our parking areas, for the added convenience of our customers, and more significantly to also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In tandem with the LGU’s effort to provide PMD, or personal-mobile-devices, friendly lanes on the roads, we recently had all of the malls put up bicycle racks front and center. This way, not only are we offering added convenience to the commuting public, we are also able to promote and encourage the use of bicycles for their environment and health benefits.

Indeed we trust we are clearly aligned with the government’s policies on environment-friendly practices to advocate a greener Philippines.

Being in business, we must carry the responsibility of safeguarding the surrounding environment. The earth we build on, the air we breathe, the energy and water we use. The very resources that keep us alive compel us to do better for the community and retain the confidence of our stakeholders.

Throughout the years, we have proven that our commitment to the environment runs very deep and extends to large investments on science and technology based methods.  This ensures our company is able to sustain its development with the least harm to the resources meant for our future generations to enjoy.

Every mall we have built takes into consideration the condition of the land. Infrastructure and technological innovation come into play when we encounter concerns such as flood-prone locations, the presence of fault-lines, and vulnerability to storm surges and soil erosion. We have avoided destruction of our assets and the surrounding environment from natural hazards with risk-assessment and science-based information and research that go into the mall design and construction.

We allot 10 percent of our capital expenditure as needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, as well as resource conservation, in our new developments. Some of these investments go into rainwater catchment basins, raising elevations, and building on stilts.

SM PRIME also draws impetus to resilience and to stay on the green road for sustainable development by being an active leader and member of ARISE, the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies, which is an initiative led by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Supported by our commitment to Disaster Risk Reduction, we abide by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and work hard to ingrain this in our business operations.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis but as early as now, we can seize the opportunity and recognize that caring for the environment, along with climate change adaptation, play a crucial role in emerging strong from this pandemic and helping the economy adapt to the New Normal.

Environment recovery means economic recovery. Being green, using green technology, green products, creating green jobs, are all for sustainable development and economic growth, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Many companies are transforming onto the green path, one that demands judicial use of digital technology and embracing the benefits of circularity.

In the past 8 months during this pandemic, digital technology and digital transformation assisted our business to cope with the social distancing measures, ensure business continuity, and deliver services. Daily tasks, meetings, trainings and webinars, including our external communications and advocacies, are conveniently conducted via online platforms that eliminate the need for travel and additional expenses.

Digital shopping platforms utilizing digital wallets for contactless payments, are the demands of today.  Enhanced online shopping or e-commerce through social media, and even digital personal shopping assistants, are available in our malls. QR Codes are in place for contact tracing to lessen the use of paper and pen.

“Business-as-usual” will never be the same. Adapting to the new normal is about innovation and transformation.

Post COVID-19, the human landscape will continue to be reliant on digitization, and these eco-friendly tools, products, and services will be the norm.  The public, including the students, are being ushered into the digital age, and it is expected that companies are to evolve with the technology, and fast.

Moving forward, let us be stewards of the ecosystem as we accept that one cannot live without the other.

Let us create a mindset for quality-of-life that requires a healthy environment, one that is sustainable and good for business.  

Let us adhere to inclusive economic growth by providing stable employment opportunities and green jobs that alleviate poverty and inequality.

Let us create a robust economy driven by entrepreneurship and continuous diversification via advancements in technological innovation.

Let us build and foster our commitment to heed the Government’s call to support environment and climate change action, regardless of our income and stature.

All of us have roles to play and strengths to share. May we learn from each other and help each one rise above these unprecedented times.  We must bring about shared prosperity and drive sustainable economic growth and inclusive development that is viable for the future. This is to revitalize our economy for all of us, the Filipino people.

Most of all, let us acknowledge our moral obligation to the next generation by improving resiliency and protecting the environment. 

Thank you.