Local businesses must adopt sustainability as a business strategy—and perhaps aim for a “green choice” seal of approval—if they hope to succeed, both in the domestic and export markets, noted industry pundits and green business proponents at the Eko Fest Entrepreneurship Conference held last Tuesday, at Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu.
The Eko fest, part of Cebu Business Month 2013, is a new platform for engaging the Cebu community, and all stakeholders involved in environmental advocacies, including so-called “eco-entrepreneurs” and “eco-warriors.” It is co-organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCP).
Local companies are now shifting their business models to align with the global direction of monitoring the “true cost” of a product, which takes into consideration not just operational or production cost, but also the environmental and societal impact of doing business.
“Business as usual is no longer an option. Sustainability performance is directly related to brand value. Consumers now ask: What is it made of? How is it made?” says Bonar A. Laureto, executive director for the Philippine Business for the Environment (PBE), a non-profit organization assisting the Philippine business community address its environmental issues and concerns via training, sustainability reporting, and other means.
PBE is involved in the Green Purchasing Alliance Movement in partnering with the National Ecolabelling Programme-Green Choice Philippines, administered by the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc., which offers a Green Choice Seal of Approval to various products, from detergents to laptops, thus catering to the emergent conscientious consumer.
“There is a process of assessment, if you get the green choice seal, it gives you a marketing edge,” says Laureto.
Eco-labeling has been practiced in the European Union since 1992, with voluntary participation from personal products to service brands. To date there are 1,500 European companies benefiting from the color-coded sticker, says Dr. Julian Vassallo, political counselor of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines.
“Amongst consumers, there is a high sensitivity in Europe, a high preference to products that are respectful of the environment, that come from sustainable sources,” notes Vassallo.
He added that Filipino export companies, which already have good designers, could tweak traditional products to increase their appeal. "It’s about getting the style right. It’s a thin line sometimes between a kitsch souvenir and something that somebody would like to have in his living room. It’s about doing a bit of research and what you think consumers are after."
The same can be said of the services industry. “You now hopefully have a new influx of European tourists; they definitely prefer a resort that is managed in a sustainable way... It comes down to two resorts otherwise being equal—a European would choose the one which has an eco-friendly attitude to its business,” says Vassallo.