What Does It Take To Transform Your Business To Be More Eco-Friendly?

Making the necessary changes to ensure your operations are sustainable for the environment is not all that simple, but it certainly is essential

Tatler Asia
Photo: Getty Images
Cover  Photo: Getty Images

These days, being a smart leader and cultivating a successful enterprise has a lot to do with being sustainable, not only in terms of business practices or culture but also in impact on the environment. 

We talk to four Gen.T honourees from the Philippines to find out how they have made their businesses more environmentally friendly over the years and their sustainability goals for the near future.

See also: "Conservation Shouldn’t Be Romanticised": Environmentalist Dave Albao On The Practical Need For Sustainability

Anne Arcenas Gonzalez

Tatler Asia
Above  Anne Arcenas Gonzalez is the president of Terry S.A, a fashion and lifestyle retail distribution company, which brings in brands including Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas

President, Terry S.A

What practices does your business adopt to be more eco-friendly?
As a retail business, more efficient packaging is a priority. Purchases on havaianas.ph are stripped of excess material like hangers, polybags and boxes, and shipped in plant-based compostable packaging. Roughly 90 percent of items sold in our CommonThread stores utilise cassava bags. Our aim is to use this type of compostable packaging in a majority of our stores, both online and offline. Though it costs us 30 percent more to do so, we believe it’s a necessary step to reduce waste.

Our commitment to using more sustainable packaging prompted us to recently invest in Sachi Group, a local startup by three dynamic entrepreneurs specialising in the development and production of innovative flexible packaging made from renewable materials. 

How has adopting these changes impacted you or the way your company operates?
Admittedly, changing our secondary packaging is such a tiny step, but it’s a springboard to examine our business practices, engage members of all departments to be part of the conversation and hold everyone accountable. We are now tasked to come up with clear and achievable sustainability goals that we must work towards as a company and ensure that we actually make an impact.

What has been the response from your consumers and employees?
The reactions have been mixed. Internally, most are supportive and believe in the cause, but need clear direction on what to do and how to do it. Most consumers like the idea in theory but in practice, not so much. Many are still stuck on the idea that certain types of packaging add value to their purchase, and that changing the material and reducing the frills cheapens their purchase.

So it is my job to set clear goals for our team and make meaningful changes that we can effectively communicate to the end consumer. First, it is a mindset change and hopefully, the behaviour follows.

What are your sustainability goals and plans for the near future? 
Our immediate goals are to switch 75 percent of our online packaging to cassava mailer pouches by year-end. We also hope to lessen single-use plastic for in-store purchases by 30 percent this year. In other countries, leading retailers are finding that simply reducing the size of hang tags and price stickers can make a difference, so we will start to do this in Aura Athletica and CommonThread.

For some years now, the Havaianas factory has been optimising its raw materials. Excess from one production run is incorporated into another batch of styles. Still, the brand recognises it has to do more. In 2022, the Philippines will be one of a few countries to pilot a range of sandals, slides, mules and bags using upcycled materials and Econyl, a regenerated nylon made from waste from the ocean and landfills.

See also: This Sustainability Leader Is Turning Trash into Treasure

Gabriel Perez

Founder and president, Privato Hotel Group by Green Asia Real Estate

What practices does your business adopt to be more eco-friendly?
We are aware that the hospitality industry is one of the biggest waste producers. Apart from the basic segregation and upcycling, we have taken steps to shift our single-use amenity packaging from plastic to paper. During the two-year quarantine season, we also veered away from single-use utensils and flatware by issuing reusable dining kits for each guest. We have also partnered with The Plastic Flamingo, an organisation that collects our water bottles and converts them into eco-lumber for schools and shelters. 

How has adopting these changes impacted you or the way your company operates?
The impact is more on the mindset of our team. We foster a culture of community awareness and knowing that our actions can create a ripple effect, especially environmentally. It pushes our team to be creative in finding ways to conserve resources without compromising service quality.

What are your sustainability goals and plans for the near future? 
Our company goal is to eliminate all plastic bottled water and shift to refillable glass bottles that are more common in European hotels. We are also partnering with an accredited sanitary landfill that not only collects waste, but also follows global standards in leachate treatment, methane collection (a byproduct of biowaste) and recycling protocols.

See also: Download Gen.T's Intelligence Report On Sustainability In Asia

 

Jose Franco Soberano

Executive vice president and COO, Cebu Landmasters

What practices does your business adopt to be more eco-friendly?
Our real estate company has embraced sustainable design and construction for many years. Sustainable design not only enhances the experience and health of its users and inhabitants but also significantly helps to mitigate the environmental impact, ensuring that the development truly adds value to the community.

We have several buildings with green building certifications including LEED and BERDE, with our Latitude Corporate Center recently receiving the highest rating of five stars. Our recently launched Masters Tower Cebu is also aiming for a LEED GOLD certification.

How have implementing these changes impacted you or the way your company operates?
We operate based on the triple-bottom-line approach: people, planet and profit. We should design our projects to enhance and inspire the community, and these projects should also strive to impact the environment positively. In effect, financial rewards are more achievable when there is a greater consciousness of addressing the needs of both people and the planet.

What are your sustainability goals and plans for the near future? 
As a real estate developer, our goal has always been to make the location better than when we first found it. Sustainability means future-proofing our cities and communities, and inspiring more to do the same. With every project we do, our goal is to improve the infrastructure of our own project and the neighbouring communities.

Cebu Landmasters has recently expanded into township development. These townships allow us to implement the most sustainability practices. One example is when we created an underground detention tank system with a capacity of over 10,000,000 litres that ensures that our township is flood-free. Better yet, this means the neighbouring public drainage system is not burdened. Other initiatives include using solar panels in affordable housing projects. These extra investments into green building and sustainability should not only be “nice-to-haves” but “must-haves”.

See also: How These Two Entrepreneurs Are Using Technology To Cut Building Emissions
 

Financial rewards are more achievable when there is a greater consciousness of addressing the needs of both people and planet
Jose Franco Soberano

Victor Lim

Tatler Asia
Above  Victor Lim is the co-founder and co-CEO of Kraver's Canteen, which operates a cloud kitchen network

Co-founder and co-CEO, Kraver's Canteen

What practices does your business adopt to be more eco-friendly?
Being in F&B, and particularly for cloud kitchens operating for take-out & delivery only, our path towards sustainability is much rockier than the typical e-commerce or retail operation. Every product we sell has its own specific packaging, wrapped inside more packaging, which needs to be food-grade and designed to support contents both hot and cold, liquid and solid. Unfortunately, the easiest answer to these questions is almost always plastic. 

These challenges make it extra difficult for F&B brands to go sustainable. Viable paper packaging options tend to be anywhere from three to five times more expensive than their plastic counterparts, and alternative materials like cornstarch or sugarcane can be anywhere from five to 10 times more.

In a highly competitive industry where every Peso counts, both for the customers and the brands, these cost differences can make it extremely difficult for brands to prioritise sustainability over profit. On the positive side, there are increasingly more eco-friendly options entering into the market, which is helping to bring down costs. But there is still a lot of work to be done before sustainable practices are fully commonplace. 

See also: Carbonbase Founder Max Song Is Providing Us With The Tools To Reduce Our Environmental Impact. Here’s How

What has been the response from your consumers and employees?
Most often, the only complaints we've received about the packaging (besides rider-related incidents) were when we used plastics that can otherwise be avoided. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that our customers care so much about these things. This is a positive sign towards the changing times. Consumers should continue to voice out, so brands have more incentive to go green.

What are your sustainability goals and plans for the near future? 
They say that of the three R's of sustainability (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), "Reduce" has the most impact, so that's where we've spent the bulk of our efforts to date. In December 2021, we went through more than 150,000 pieces of packaging throughout our operation, of which around 63.9 percent was made from eco-friendly materials. 

While "Reuse" is less on the cards for us due to food safety reasons, the next stage in our sustainability journey is to increase how much we recycle. But this is not without its challenges. In the past, we've tried collecting plastics on-site to return for recycling through different programmes, but we realised that we cannot keep these plastics on-site without increasing the risk of pests and rodents (which is also why we arrange for twice-daily garbage cycles in our kitchens).

Fortunately, we are seeing the rise of greener organisations like the Plastic Credit Exchange offering solutions to businesses to achieve plastic neutrality, and look forward to working with more eco-friendly partners to guide us in the years to come.


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