THE RAMON ABOITIZ FOUNDATION
THE ROLE OF BUSINESS IN UPLIFTING SOCIETY
The class warfare between the patricians and the plebians goes as far back as Athens in 600 BC when economic tensions were running high. The Athenians had been gaining overseas territories and that resulted in already well-off landowners becoming wealthier. At the same time, the poor ran the risk of being sucked into slavery if they had debts they could not pay. They called on a fellow called Solon who was neither rich nor poor to reform. Debt bondage was removed and a political and legal system was introduced and eventually, the democracy of today was formed. That struggle has continued until today when we see an economic world that has and continues to pull people out of poverty at a very accelerated rate.
The beginnings of the institution called Aboitiz, called the family and firm, has been conscious of this for a very long time. Our institution has been attempting to do its share of upliftment for many, many decades through various sub-institutions. The family on its own, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI) for 50 years, and the Aboitiz Foundation for over 25 years.
Our premier leader in this quest to uplift the condition of the world we live in is the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation. The modern RAFI has been led by our Bobby for a very long time. There is no doubt that neither Bobby nor any leader can evolve an institution of the caliber of RAFI alone. Marian and many others have been part of this smart endeavour.
Now the formal RAFI has been there for 50 years but before that, there was the informal RAFI that was Ramon Aboitiz helping all those he could for many years. I remember that Aboitiz Shipping used to give the linen laundry business of its ships to the Asilo De La Milagrosa. Aboitiz did not start its social endeavours when it became wealthy. It started it when it began making money.
I am not out in this tribute to Bobby to make heroes out of anyone. I am here to lay out to you my thoughts on why I think that the evolution of a business should include a very strong, well-managed, well-funded arm or arms that work to boost and inspire all those that surround it.
As modern democracy increases the role of government in a society, it becomes necessary for business to attempt to fill the vacuum that bad governances leave in its wake. We live in a society worldwide plagued by governments that manage poorly, waste resources, raise liabilities and not governments that lead.
Only business uses the scarce resource of capital in the least inefficient manner. Only business can run a machine that creates wealth. As it does that, gravity is against equality and that gravity needs to be counter checked without draining business of energy and resources. In the world of technology, it is even more difficult for governments to attend to the rapidly changing needs of people. We have a wonderful car sharing service called Uber or its equivalent and, instead of worrying about the rights of the rider, governments listen to the political noise of the taxi driver that has been giving lousy service to millions for decades with excuses like they do not pay taxes and so forth.
What model should business use to continue to improve the value proposition it gives its customers over long periods of time so that it can grow and continue to help people hire and to hire itself? The model of many of the Americans is to sell out and give their money away. There is a lot of good done but much less good than if they never sold and spend their time investing their talents in growing their business. The removal of owner and family management in a business puts it at great long-term risk. Look how many of them rise and fade away.
Our model is to continue to grow our business under solid management passing it on from generation to generation of a combination of professional family and professional management whose main cultural value is meritocracy, service to the customer, and solid corporate social responsibility.
Long-term family management that separates family and firm from management and that coordinates and communicates as a team to enhance service, reinvest and grow while adapting to change makes long-term decisions, which are the olive oil of longevity. From the echoes and vibes I received on my mother’s breast I have been hearing about family, unity, society, long-term decision making, fairness, hard work, better education, and meritocracy. The new words of today of sustainability et. al. are words; the formula has not changed.
In the structure that all of us together have evolved, we see interests completely aligned. The success of the institution and enterprise is founded on service and inclusiveness. As the enterprise succeeds, our CSR units of family foundations, the Aboitiz Foundation, and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation are fueled to invest in the ultimate equalizer, education, and all kinds of programs to make life better for all those whom we come into contact with. The success of Aboitiz is felt by many that benefit from the investment that the family, the firm, and RAFI make in bettering the world around us.
Is it altruistic? Well, you can think so or like to think so but more importantly, it’s good long-term business. It is smart long-term business.
Ramon Aboitiz knew this as he built the Don Bosco to technically train young boys to earn a living.
Doña Maria Aboitiz knew this as she pulled our girls from the street where they ran the risk of less than dignified lives.
Eduardo Aboitiz knew this as he built schools to pull poorer people out of poverty and earn a living into the future.
Bobby knew this as he invested time and effort to pull Metropolitan Cebu out of its dysfunctionality. The general atmosphere in Cebu as an attractive investment location able to adapt to tomorrow’s investment needs deteriorates by the day.
The many men and women of Aboitiz over the years, today, and into the future are what is really behind the success of all of our social enterprises. Without the success of the enterprise that is Aboitiz & Company and the institution that is Aboitiz — the family and firm — our social endeavours would not have the fuel to get very far.
In tribute to Bobby, he has been an example to all of us because he was willing to invest his most precious resource, time, to the society around him.
Nothing is more powerful than example.
This is what we are going to remember Roberto Aboitiz Melendez for: EXAMPLE!!!