Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. is one of the companies that takes the initiatives to bring quality education to the countryside. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. is one of the companies that takes the initiatives to bring quality education to the countryside. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

EDUCATION is regarded as a powerful and key factor in the development and regarded as a strong instrument to address poverty and improve health, gender equality, peace and stability in the Philippines.

To this end, businesses have initiated what is called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This is turn is in accordance to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which was initiated by the United Nations (UN).

Global Goals

SDGs, also known as Global Goals, are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future," according to the UN. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the UN General Assembly (UN-GA) and are expected to be achieved by 2030. They are included in a UN Resolution called the 2030 Agenda or what is colloquially known as Agenda 2030. The SDGs were developed as the future global development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which ended in 2015.

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The UN has listed 17 of these SDGs, all of which are geared to addressing the common socioeconomic problems in the world: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequality; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice, and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

Each goal typically has a maximum of 12 targets to meet, and each target has between one and four indicators used to measure progress toward reaching the targets. The targets are either "outcome" targets or when the ideal conditions are attained. The latter targets were introduced late in the process of negotiating the SDGs to address the concern of some member-states about how the SDGs were to be achieved. Goal 17 is wholly about how the SDGs will be achieved.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Rather than depend entirely on the government, the private sector, particularly businesses, have taken the initiative to carry out these SDGs in the form of CSR. This is defined as a voluntary commitment to contribute to sustainable economic development, in ways "that are good for business, sustainable development agenda, and society at large."

While Aboitiz Foundation is involved in various CSR activities, the foundation invests heavily on education-related projects. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
While Aboitiz Foundation is involved in various CSR activities, the foundation invests heavily on education-related projects. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CSR in the Philippines has always been voluntary. Donations, which may qualify as CSR, are tax-deductible provided they meet certain requirements.

To ensure and to document compliance with CSR, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has already launched in 2019 the regular submission of sustainability reports for publicly listed companies, informed by consultations with stakeholders even though it is not a requirement for companies to practice CSR. Sustainability reporting, according to the SEC, assumes that businesses conduct their operations in an ethical manner; that they manage key impacts; and that their products and services create value to society. These are also embodied in the SEC's Codes of Corporate Governance.

These local guidelines reflect globally accepted frameworks for reporting non-financial information, such as the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Standards, which is aligned with the UN Global Compact — a voluntary agreement entered into by businesses to uphold sustainability principles.

CSR in action

One SDG being pursued by Philippine businesses is education (the third SDG). Quality education is one of the needs of the Philippines, most especially in the countryside, which is wanting as communities are poor. Providing good education will be the key in addressing this problem.

Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. (GFNI) is one of the companies to take the initiatives to bring quality education to the countryside.

GFNI has awarded scholarships and other forms of aid to deserving students, including those who are members of indigenous groups. Job opportunities are also offered for these beneficiaries to support their families. Education projects also entail the improving school facilities, provision of educational materials to schools, teachers' training programs and paying teachers' honoraria.

Aboitiz Foundation has had a tradition of giving back over a century ago when the Aboitiz family started their business and realized the need to look after the welfare of those who worked for them. In 1965, Don Ramon Aboitiz started a foundation — Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., a family-based foundation rooted in Don Ramon's conviction that "the dignity of man is best respected by helping him realize his hopes and by sharing with him the burden of his fears."

In 1988, the Aboitiz Foundation was established by the Aboitiz Group as its corporate foundation to meet the social and economic development needs of marginalized members of society by helping these people help themselves.

While it is involved in various CSR activities, the foundation invests heavily on education-related projects. Between 2014 and2019, it has invested in the education of 302 college scholars and produced 262 graduates through its Purposive College Scholarship program, of which 80 percent were given jobs. The technical-vocational scholarship has produced 652 scholars and 578 graduates.

Not only has it helped people have an education, they ensured they have quality resources. This is reflected in the Classroom Rewiring campaign. The Visayan Electric Co., a part of Aboitiz Power, it has rewired and provided cost-efficient lighting to schools in Cebu province.

Benefits of CSR

While CSR entails companies to give, they also get something in return in the form of benefits. Among the benefits companies receive are the following:

It builds public trust. Through CSR, companies get the chance to show they care for the community when giving back. This in turn translates into public trust, which is amplified in media. Most consumers are likely to spend money for a company or business that engages in CSR activities that is aimed at improving society.

It enhances positive relationships. As it builds public trust, it creates a sense of community. It creates an image to the public that companies are not in it for the money or solely making profits from the community but that it is a partner of the community. People would like to work for them and the company would hire and retain them since they would ensure a positive workplace environment that would make them more productive.

Sustainability. CSR ensures companies be more conscious on the need to protect the environment through sustainable practices such as using renewable energy, conserving energy and using materials that give low to no carbon emissions.

It increases profits. While companies tend to give more than take in CSR, one might think they might not profit. On the contrary, they still can make profits. As companies work to improve their CSR, there are many additional benefits that come with that. Since CSR builds public trust for these companies, many will be inclined to patronize a company's products and services if they practice CSR. As a result, they will get more profits than when they do not practice CSR.

It promotes professional and personal growth. When companies have a culture of CSR, they can easily promote volunteerism to their employees. Employees are more likely to become selfless if their company encourages that behavior. It will also make them more productive and creative. They will not only become a better employee, but a responsible member of society.