The public’s consciousness of the looming planetary risks of climate change is shifting the behavior of Filipino consumers to buy products and services that are environmentally friendly.
This is an interesting revelation that Pulse Asia President Ronald Holmes reported in a November 2022 survey commissioned by the Stratbase ADR Institute during the hybrid forum on “The Philippine Circular Economy Agenda: Integrating Sustainable and Strategic Waste Management Systems” organized by the institute in partnership with the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST).
Data from the survey showed that 83 percent responded positively on the question, “As a consumer, do you prefer to patronize products and/or services of brands or enterprises that you believe have environmentally friendly operations and products?”
This is a strong message for the manufacturing and service sectors.
Consumers are now making the connection between the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather and how pollution and wasteful behavior will upset the now precarious balance of the environment and affect each human not just economically, but existentially.
The government is responding with new policies such as the recently enacted Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR law which requires large enterprises to adopt and implement policies for the proper management of plastic packaging wastes that would result in minimal dumping in landfills, and most important, minimize if not stop leakage into the environment.
In his keynote address, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary CP David expressed optimism when he reported that more than 500 private companies have registered since the EPR program was launched, reflecting an enthusiastic response from the private sector.
Recognizing that implementation will be key in the success of the EPR program, USec David vowed to make procedures “as straightforward as possible” with initial focus on registering all plastic producers.
DENR-Environmental Management Bureau Director Gilbert Gonzales espoused a shift to a circular economy and sees “the need for a more transformative approach and recognizing the multiple benefits that transitioning to secularity can offer including economic growth, more equally shared benefits and more sustainable relationship with nature.”
Director Gonzales said the goal is “Zero waste in Philippine waters by 2040,” supporting the DENR’s vision for a “Philippines free of marine litter through shared responsibility, accountability, and participatory governance.”
“Shifting to a circular economy would be to the best interest of the Philippines and aligns very well with the global and national agenda on climate resilience and sustainable growth” as affirmed by Ms. Nazrin Castro, the branch manager of The Climate Reality Project Philippines founded by 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awardee for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change” and former US President Al Gore.
“Nations and stakeholders across all levels need to strengthen measures and innovate ways to address the mounting waste and pollution from plastics,” Ms. Castro said.
Vice President, Management Association of the Philippines Alexander Cabrera pointed out there is a moral, humanitarian, and intergenerational obligation to be conscious about the environment for the following generations.
He proposed a combination of “compulsion and incentive” to address the dominantly post-consumer waste problem in the Philippines.
“There must be incentive integrated with collecting plastic and repackaging. There should also be the compulsion in taxing which will force people to reinvent their packaging because they don’t want to pay tax,” Mr. Cabrera said.
Mr. Carlo Chen-Delantar, circular economy pioneer of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Philippines, emphasized the need to localize the implementation of EPR programs and the importance of traceability and understanding the workings of the supply chain and “industrial symbiosis”.
Stratbase ADRi President, Prof. Dindo Manhit, believes integrating circular economy frameworks and mechanisms at scale needs a whole of society approach that would require the support and participation of all stakeholders in order to succeed.
“Industry players equally make a valuable contribution through their investments and programs that are aligned with circular business models,” Prof. Manhit said.
PBEST Secretary General Felix Jose Vitangcol joined the panel of environmental advocates’ call to shift away from the traditional linear economy model and to treat material waste as resource that is essential in product manufacturing and other economic and industrial processes.
He recognized the role of civil society in achieving circularity by raising awareness and engaging stakeholders to ensure that circular economy initiatives are inclusive, participatory, and responsive to the needs of the communities.
Many of the top business groups in the Philippines are already integrating Environmental, Social, Governance practices in their corporate values, operations, and community interventions.
The government must respond with operationally-viable policies that will allow reasonable transition timelines for compliance – mindful of maintaining the accessibility, safety, and affordability of products and services for consumers.
For us consumers, we just need to simply stop littering and dispose of all our waste responsibly.
We must all be stewards of the environment.