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Cover Story

EIA Zeroes in on Living Our Brand Promise

AE Team | October 10, 2018 

While this year’s ‘Coffee with EIA’ followed a slightly different format by having only one session for the day instead of several, it provided an opportunity for both Aboitiz Equity Ventures President & CEO Erramon I. Aboitiz and team members to spend more time for a Q&A that delved substantially on how our brand promise, advancing business and communities, applies in various circumstances.

EIA opened the town hall meeting with an overview of the Aboitiz Group from the perspective of how each SBU articulates its pursuit of the Aboitiz ABCs, emphasizing how fulfilling the needs of society through these same ABCs achieves the goals of the corporation.

To be in a position where we are “advancing business and communities” means that each Aboitiz SBU takes ownership by having their unique way of living out our brand promise. This allows us to be creative yet authentic in exploring how we promote our ABCs through the various products and services of the Aboitiz Group, things we are actually involved in our daily work, nothing more and nothing less.

The Taguig event was also live streamed on AGORA 2.0, which supported the singular session by allowing  NAC-based team members to view from their workstations in real time.

 

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Highlights from the Q&A:

Q: How do we live ABC here in the corporate center?

We don’t perhaps see the results in the frontline, dealing with revenue generation. But in reality, think of the support we give, that’s our ABC — supporting them so that they can do their thing. Not directly involved but through legal advice, services, treasury sourcing money, sourcing cheap capital, IT-enabling them and IT infrastructure to communication. Step back and think: what do we really do to support them and connect with them. If we do a better job, then the BU can do more.

What we do in our business actually supports Aboitiz Foundation. We are among the largest givers because our growth allows us to do it. So if we grow, everybody grows. The better we do the things, this is our contribution to the Foundation. If you do your job, your ABC is you support the Foundation.

 

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Q: Were there instances as president when you were faced with challenges, or your integrity has been challenged?

The true test of integrity is when you are able to uphold what you believe not only in good times but also in bad times; not only when we align with your goals but when it conflicts with your goals. It is very important for all of us to make the decisions ourselves. We have to reflect on this and with our conscience reflect on what we should do.

(Example 1) I had a tough decision to retrench. If we don’t take this painful step, the long-term effects will be bad. We made sure to explain it properly to people.

(Example 2) Is it a conflict using coal for energy? We look into the least adverse effect and be true to ourselves in trying to see on what we can do to reduce the impact on our communities and environment. An example is the coal dome with TSI, which cost $22 million. It might be hard not to recover the cost. Let’s show the people what a coal plant may look like, it’s not 100% no impact to the environment, but show how we could reduce it. By being courageously authentic to our purpose, we ended up being faithful to our long-term goal. There could be even policies, that could be in conflict in what we believe. You should raise it up.

 

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Q: Which should be the priority: People, Planet or Profit?

We should not be looking at profitability at the cost of the environment or people. If profitability negatively affects the environment or people, we should not be doing it. The tricky part is identifying what affects the environment or people. We always try to comply with government regulations. In everything, there should be standards, compensation, etc. We should take necessary steps to make sure that it is properly taken cared of. You try to mitigate some of your actions.

Q: Aside from participating in CSR activities, how do we level up?

We can make a bigger impact with the communities through the work we do. It’s what we do every day. Our CSR activities are very important, but where do we really impact people more? New power plants, new houses where people can live, building infra to reduce traffic. Yes, CSR is very important, but what we do is so much more. Tsuneishi in Balamban helped the sleepy town level up. As communities are built there, 4,000+ jobs were created.

 

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Highlights from EIA’s opening remarks:

This year, I thought we would bypass all of that (which chances are you are already aware of) and go straight to a topic very close to my heart, and I hope close to yours, too, and that is our Purpose – to drive change for a better world – and our Brand Promise, how we achieve our purpose – our ABCs, or Advancing Business and Communities.

I have noticed from comments I have seen in Workplace, as well as other communication channels, that this topic is top of mind and one that is leading to a greater understanding why and how we do things here in Aboitiz.

We talked about this inspired Purpose that tells us ‘WHY’ we do what we do, why something exists, and what greater good it serves. Ideally, it should be the driving force of each and every team member’s contribution to the organization. As such, you are the most integral component in fulfilling our Purpose, through the work we all do, no matter where you sit in the organization, no matter what position you hold.

 

 

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We seem to better understand our“WHY” and now need to move forward to the next level of this conversation by asking and understanding “HOW we can drive change for a better world?”; “HOW we can make it happen?”; how we contribute to this unifying aspiration.

The answer to this is our brand promise — “advancing business and communities” or our ABCs. It is through our ABC’s that we contribute to the advancement of our communities and society at large, it is how we drive change for a better world.

 

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In power, ABC means providing reliable and ample power supply at reasonable and competitive prices with the least possible adverse effects on our environment and host communities.

Our banking and financial services group is focused on smart banking and digital solutions that will elevate lives and fulfill dreams through financial inclusion in the communities we serve.

Through our food group, we cultivate relationships with our partners to ensure the sustainability of the food chain.

For infrastructure, ABC is providing innovative infrastructure-related solutions that help drive economic progress and uplift the lives of our fellow Filipinos.

In our land business, we help people live better lives by building deliberately designed residential, commercial, and industrial communities.

And we have always operated with the goal of co-creating safe, empowered, and sustainable communities through our CSR programs.

 

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Profitability and achieving the goals of the corporation are very important. I will argue for something to be sustainable it has to be profitable; otherwise, what is going to fund it in the long term? But as we think about this deeper we also realize that what makes businesses truly sustainable and everlasting is when they fulfill the needs of society, not profitability per se? Can you think of an activity that survives in the long term, profitably, but that does not serve society and satisfy its needs.

The logical conclusion seems to be that the source of value is actually the purpose and that it can indeed drive profit as we fulfill a need. As a matter of fact, purpose, profits, and social impact can and should co-exist.

 

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Gary Burnison, CEO of a management consulting firm named Korn Ferry said:“Purpose vs. profitability aren’t really mutually exclusive. If anything, this pair is actually a ‘dual’. Even as leaders are urged to become more outward focused and purpose-driven, profitability cannot suffer. Profitability can never stop being a priority. It isn’t ‘EITHER/OR’, it’s always ‘AND’.”

Gary Burnison goes on to explain that the key to this balance is people. For us to make any meaningful impact, we need to nurture “work environments that are inclusive and fair, that allow people to be who they are and bring all of themselves to work”.

This is what we refer to as engagement. Where TMs believe in the company’s purpose and goals, where these goals coexist, where individual goals relate to and support the unifying goal of the company, and are not independent or unrelated to these goals. Under this environment and because of this alignment of goals, TMs are willing to go the extra mile for the company and its goals. They become passionate about what they do because it means so much to them.