Empowering Communities Through #SocialGood Debbie Sy
The private sector plays a significant role when it comes to economic growth in the Philippines by generating more jobs and contributing to our gross domestic product (GDP). Beyond that, it is also considered to be a driving force for inclusive and sustainable development in the country as more and more businesses employ corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to address social and environmental concerns within the communities where they operate.
By helping improve the quality of life of the people in these host communities, business is able to flourish. As such, CSR has become a key pillar of successful business management through the years. SM’s visionary founder, Henry “Tatang” Sy, Sr., put it best in his principle that social development and investment go hand in hand with business growth to achieve a better future.
The SM group has embraced the responsibility to contribute to nation building through its social good arm, the SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI). For nearly four decades, we have focused our resources, time, and reach to ensure that we are able to create opportunities wherever SM is present through social good programs that are geared towards quality education, sustainable agriculture, healthcare, and disaster response.
Anchored on Tatang’s belief that education is the greatest equalizer, SMFI established the SM Scholarship Program in 1993 to provide the youth access to quality tertiary and vocational education. We believe that through our scholarship grants, SM will be able to contribute to eradicating the intergenerational poverty cycle by granting scholarships to economically challenged but deserving students. And to complement this and more importantly, to address the challenges being faced by our public school system, SMFI, together with social good partners such as SM Prime, we have provided school buildings equipped with key facilities and equipment to underserved communities.
Another social good pillar of SMFI is sustainable agriculture that aims to address the dilemma of the aging farmer population in the country as well as the growing gap between supply and demand for local food sources. In 2007, the foundation launched the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) program to bring modern and sustainable farming skills and linkages in both rural and urban communities, empowering farmers to have food on their table and creating market linkage to provide them with economic opportunities.
Accessible healthcare and timely disaster response are also at the heart of the foundation’s advocacy. Through its Health and Wellness program, SMFI helps address the shortage of quality healthcare facilities in the country by constructing and upgrading health centers in host communities supplemented by medical mission activities nationwide. The Operation Tulong Express (OPTE), on the other hand, gives immediate assistance in the form of relief goods and medical services in collaboration with SM Supermalls and SM Markets to communities affected by calamities and disasters that frequently occur in the country.
During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, SMFI was one of the first organizations to assume an active role in assisting in the pandemic response by expanding the reach and impact of the Health and Wellness program and utilizing its partnerships to extend a helping hand to frontliners and Filipinos nationwide, especially those in SM host communities.
Through these social good programs, we continuously aspire to be a development partner for our host communities and serve as model for other organizations in terms of bringing social development specially in areas where they operate.
Implementing CSR involves a dynamic learning process given that social and environmental good are moving targets – and these cannot be fully achieved through one-time activities and decisions. Instead, companies should view and approach CSR as a process of continuous improvement that involves being constantly alert to new issues and considerations, which can be achieved through consistent community consultation and engagement.
And contrary to the notion that CSR is only an approach for large corporations and multi-national businesses, small and medium-scale enterprises can also have the means to benefit their respective communities in their own ways. In fact, they are more likely to effectively facilitate local-level CSR programs as they are more deeply embedded in their communities. Examples of these include sourcing of raw materials from community-based suppliers, matching and encouraging charitable work by employees, and even as simple as going paperless in their daily business operations.
CSR programs, no matter the size or scale, are valuable to the communities they are serving because of their pivotal role in promoting sustainable, just, and balanced development, and contribution in addressing social and environmental challenges.