Now, more than ever, there is a need to embrace sustainability to address the challenges that Mother Earth faces. The future generation will run out of fossil fuels. Thousands if not millions of animal species will become extinct. We will run out of lumber. We will fill the bodies of water with waste. We will damage the atmosphere beyond repair. All these and more are possible if we don’t change and practice sustainable living.
Commissioner Crispian Lao, speaking before the BM Coffee Club online forum titled “Best Practices in Sustainability”, on August 26, 2021, said sustainability is looking towards the future, looking towards our grandchildren and the grandchildren of our grandchildren.
“Why? Because their sources are not finite. We need to replenish what we take and then we have to make sure that there is enough for future generations to come,” he said.
Lao is the private sector representative from the Recycling Industry Sector, National Solid Waste Management Commission. He is also the founding president of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Material Sustainability (PARMS).
According to Lao, the world is currently experiencing excessive consumption because of population growth. This and a lot of other factors have led to climate change. He added that climate change in the Philippine perspective would have to focus on energy, agriculture, transportation, and waste industry, among other factors.
“In a country like the Philippines, it is important to look into climate change because it has affected us. Every time the monsoon season comes, we have flooding. You know, excessive rain, even drought, all these become challenges not only for the industry but for all other sectors. The agriculture sector is affected because of all of these,” he said.
He happily reported that the Philippines is not a major contributor to climate change globally and that the government has set the ambitious target at 75 percent.
“And being cognizant of how important it is, we are now looking forward to meeting those goals but ensuring that there is financial assistance from the global community for us to set those goals. The government cannot do it alone that’s why collaboration is really important. That’s where the private sector comes in the form of support and development of infrastructure.
For this to happen, Lao said it is important that the country provides that enabling environment for investments to continue to fill those gaps in infrastructure whether it’s energy to ensure that power is available and the cost is brought down and reasonable and power transitions to renewable resources. Agriculture is also important so that there is food security and an efficient public transportation system to lessen traffic.
“Waste management is key and that’s very close to my heart because that’s where I’m coming from. Again we have to look into sustainable consumption and production so that there are not just enough resources for the future but we manage the aspect of waste. And while waste is a small contributor for local climate change greenhouse gas emission, this is something that we can do easily as a country but we need the support of everybody,” Lao explained.
The 3Ps and the 3Es
When we look at sustainability, Lao said we should look at the 3Ps (People, Planet, and Profit) and the 3Es (Environment, Economy, and Social Equity). He said it is important to blend all of these together “because when you look at economy you don’t look at short-term profits. You still have to care about the environment and it has to be fair to everyone. When you look at the environment, you don’t just look at conservation without looking into the economics and the livelihood and how it affects the people at the lower end of the social class.”
“All of these should have social equity. We cannot continue to have only a few people with the bulk of the resources. Meaning you can’t have people who continue to get rich and the poor becomes poorer. So again, this is what we often call as inclusive growth. We oftentimes have different definitions but at the end of the day, I think the goals are common and the directions have been set already for all of us.” Lao stressed.
He also noted that large corporations and conglomerates, like Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Nestle Philippines, are taking the lead in sustainability.
Update on PARMS
Lao also gave an update on the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability’s (PARMS) program called “Zero Waste to Nature: Ambition 2030,” a declaration of commitment by global and local manufacturers, together with plastic producers, recyclers, and other members of the waste value chain, to initiate and support efforts to reduce and collect waste, in line with 2025 sustainable packaging commitments of some global brands while adhering to science and local economics.
“Ambition 2030 is realistic. We really can accelerate the program in five to seven years. We have the roadmap ready. Solid waste management is now being addressed in the country. No plastic should go in an open environment by 2030,” Lao said.
Lao shared he is also part of the PCCI (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry) which recognizes individuals and groups for their excellent experiences and best practices in sustainability. “And we do it on regular basis. Why? I always say that when you talk of sustainability these are items that are always shared and not kept. You know there are no secrets to sustainability. Why? Because we learn from each other and we are happy when somebody takes it one level further and make it better. We all learn from each other, so we will continue to learn from each other,” Lao said.