Unquantifiable Returns

Corporate Social Responsibility or even sometimes referred as corporate citizenship is defined by Investopodia as a firm’s “initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing.”

My own definition of CSR, however, is slightly different. I see CSR as a means to provide more opportunities for families. This means working harder to encourage and support opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, and preservation of our natural resources. More so, when more than 25 percent of Filipinos live below the poverty line. In fact, the Philippines has the second highest poverty incidence in the Southeast Asia Region, next to Myanmar, according to the Asian Development Bank.

And it is the thought of helping others through my own endeavors is what, as cliché as it may sound, keeps me pushing harder for success in my business ventures. It was the same when I was with NAPOCOR and facing all the hardship of giving light (literally) to Filipinos. It was the thought that there are plenty who would benefit from the power projects we were putting together.

It is no different now that I am involved in renewable energy development. Our team in EPI reaches out to communities to understand how we can work together. As we build power plants, we are aware that we can make a difference in other people’s lives: we create value by providing them with employment and education.

EPI employs close to 400 individuals with our power plant projects. And on top of generating employment, we are also able to send both children and adults who wish to complete their education after quitting due to poverty.

One example is a 47-year-old Mangyan who recently graduated high school through our sponsored Alternative Learning System Program in Najuan. She, along with other 25 students graduated secondary education through our ALS.   At present, we have some 120 students in the programs who range 17 to 48 years of age.

It is important for us entrepreneurs and other members of the society to find ways to help our fellowmen go to school given that as of 2013, four out of every 10 Filipinos or four million youths are out of school. The Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey noted that roughly 19.2 percent of the survey participants said that their families could not afford to send the school expenses as the primary reason for quitting their education.

It has always pained me to see our fellow Filipino go abroad to find employment and have their children grow up without their parents’ care and for children to drop out of school to help their poor families. What’s even worse is when these workers end up taking care of other’s children while their own are being nurtured by others.  Our team takes pride that we can help keep families together through our own entrepreneurial initiatives.

Sure, bottom line figures are important for any businessman. But there are other created value through business undertakings that are equally important. Jobs generation that allows our head of families to provide a good future for their children without flying elsewhere and the opportunity to send individuals back to school after being denied of education in their early years top the list.

 

MY CSR: EDUCATION AND THE FAMILY

I remember growing up as a boy in Mindanao seeing my father getting on his green bike to go to Ateneo de Zamboanga where he was a Math and English teacher. He must have been a popular teacher because I remember the throngs of students who would come to our house for tutoring. Some of these students are still around today and still commend my father’s influence on their professional and personal lives. He might have been popular, but this popularity was derived from being tough and unrelenting on his students.

My father’s passion for education, I believe, was driven by the fact that as one of the youngest in a family of 11, he was the only one who graduated with a college degree. A high school valedictorian, my father graduated from the Ateneo de Zamboanga as one of its brightest students. It was no wonder that he wanted to “give back” to his alma mater by becoming one of its teachers.  He was later asked to teach at the Ateneo de Cagayan (now Xavier University) where he met my mother, Gloria, also a teacher.

My father was especially tough on us, his children. He would spend nights breathing down on my neck, making sure I got the exercises by Hart (Algebra) correctly and within a defined time limit. That’s the reason I was already tackling college calculus long before my high school classmates could do algebra. Both my sisters went to the Philippine Science High School, and we all went to UP. Jesus P. Delgado was my father, an educator.

My father died many years ago, penniless.

Our house, a nipa one, was however the center of educational excellence. Today, I have a sister who finished law, nursing and a PhD degree in a field I can no longer remember.  I have another sister who must have finished three masteral degrees in applied mathematics and who is mother to two Harvard physics graduates. My mother, who is 83 years old, took up law when she was 64 years old and became  a lawyer shortly before she was 70. She has four other degrees. And while I am not in the habit of trumpeting my own achievements, let me just say today that unlike my father, I am not an educator, and I am not penniless.

My father may have died penniless, but he did not die poor. He gave us what all of us must have in life: a good and proper education. In that he was a very wealthy man, a very wealthy man indeed. And this drives my passion to use my corporate vehicles, my businesses as means to support education in this country.

Education is so basic that if our society cannot give that to our children, to our youth, and then that would be criminal. No one can survive these times without education. A democracy, in fact, requires that its citizenry achieve a certain level of education that will make them intellectually independent to make informed choices when choosing political leaders.  Any country that fails to educate its citizens effectively relegates them to slavery and poverty.  That’s why we find it deplorable to hear of countries that continue to deny education to its citizens on the basis of gender or race.

The challenge of education however, goes beyond our ability to teach or to provide classrooms.  It demands that we have healthy children.  No, in fact, it requires that these children are kept healthy even before they are born. Their mothers must have the proper nourishment to ensure the proper nutrients are provided to the fetus.  Studies have shown that more than half of Filipino children are already bound to fail to get a proper education due to malnourishment.  Their learning capabilities are severely diminished as a result of their poor health.

Malnutrition among Filipino children is still prevalent. Graphics courtesy of Fil

Malnutrition among Filipino children is still prevalent. Graphics courtesy of Rappler.com

 

We need to have a healthy society for education to succeed. Mens sana in corpore sano: a sound mind in a sound body. Our children have lost the fight for better education, even before they started school!

And here lies an even greater challenge: prosperity for all.  Prosperity defined not in the number of cars we own, but defined in our ability to properly feed, bathe, educate, and  raise our  children in a society that respects the dignity of man and the rights of the nuclear family to be together.

Sadly, we fail in many ways.  It pains me when I picture a mother bathing a baby tenderly, with much love who is not hers.  She is an OFW bathing the child of another mother while her own is being bathed by friends, neighbors, and relatives. This is a very painful picture.  I can only imagine how our society will look down the road when the effects of broken families will begin to creep into our labor sector, our government and corporate sectors. How will a citizen who hasn’t felt the nurturing warmth of a mother’s arms or the steady hand of father guiding his children survive?

This assault on the family is what we in the corporate sector should be concerned about. We all have different charities ranging from feeding the street children to providing roofs for the homeless. I believe however, that the simpler strategy is for all of us to focus in protecting our traditional, nuclear family.  The family should have the ability to feed, clothe, and provide basic education to their children. The children must not be deprived the warm bosom of their mother and the steady, guiding hand of their father.  Husbands and wives must be given the chance to freely express their love without the burden of having to define motherhood in terms of pesos and centavos.  Such definition is demeaning for our citizens, for our society.  The state fails when it has to intervene into how a family should express love and practice their faith in order to keep economic and social order. The state exists for me and not the other way around.  Common good defines that the state’s need should be subordinate to that of its citizens.

Corporate citizenship for me, therefore, should be about providing opportunities for the family as a whole.  For me, it is about encouraging and supporting opportunities for entrepreneurship, education, protection and enhancement of God’s gift of nature to us.  We have seen how corporate greed has destroyed homes, families, all over the world.  A secular world devoid of family values has made financial disasters happen.  We must reverse all these.

We must work hard to make our economy so vibrant that we do not have to ask our fathers and mothers to leave for abroad to work.  We must work hard to make this nation of entrepreneurs who create value for the society through creativity and innovation. We must work hard to create an economy that uses God’s gift to the enhancement of humanity’s survival with dignity.