The world has completely changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the worst global crises since the Second World War. Millions of people have been affected, with a death toll of nearly two and a half million worldwide, and millions more losing their livelihoods as a result of the economic catastrophe that followed.
Yet according to many leaders, from the United Nations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Federation of Red Cross, and Red Crescent societies, things could get much, much worse.
The looming crisis, of course, is climate change.
Philanthropist Bill Gates put it most succinctly: “By 2060, climate change could be just as deadly as COVID-19, and by 2100 it could be five times as deadly.”
If the current crisis is any indication, it is that the world is in dire need of a change, a paradigm shift that puts the good of society and community at the heart of business and policy making.
A champion of change
For over 40 years, Energy Development Corp. (EDC) has been quietly generating power from geothermal sources, ultimately becoming the Philippines’ leading renewable energy producer and the world’s largest vertically integrated geothermal producer.
But with the time left to mitigate the coming disaster running out, the company has chosen to no longer remain silent.
“We have a responsibility to our planet and to humanity, and we have chosen to take a stand. That stance imposes a duty on us to use our voice to send a distress call to as many people and organizations as possible because we are running out of time,” said Richard Tantoco, EDC president and COO, in a talk on the call to be regenerative that he delivered at the Global Catholic Climate Movement and Focolare Movement’s conference held late last year.
EDC has realigned its business, resources, and capabilities to fulfill a new chosen purpose: to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future. Embarking on this path, the company seeks to elevate the environment, its employees, communities, customers, other co-creators, and shareholders to create a wider, more positive impact on the planet.
“While our investors are important, regenerative thinking demands that we look at our business from a wider lens than just profitability,” Mr. Tantoco said.
“The transformation cannot be done by entities working alone. We are mindful that we exist within highly diverse and nested systems, and that we must all play unique, reciprocal, and synchronized roles in a world that needs to be healed. Our collective success will be measured by how quickly we can decouple economic and social prosperity from the destruction of our planet’s life support systems,” he added.
Forging regenerative partnerships
Genuine care and compassion is at the heart of EDC’s newfound purpose, as it seeks to create lasting partnerships that would benefit society at large. With its employees, EDC strives to foster a healthy and positive working environment, an effort that was made abundantly more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While EDC required most of its employees to work from home, the skeletal force that operates its power plants have been provided with all they need to live and work comfortably: good sleeping quarters, appetizing food, and stable internet so they can always get in touch with their loved ones while working on site. Additionally, EDC delivered masks, comfortable office furniture and equipment, and went grocery shopping for their families while they were on duty.
“We even offered to vaccinate all employees and their families against flu and pneumonia to increase everyone’s chances of survival. Majority said yes to this offer. We provided access to counseling services for those who feel the need to take care of their mental health,” Mr. Tantoco added among other initiatives.
While its employee engagement score in 2019 already reached an all-time high for EDC at 91%, which was 3% higher than Willis Towers Watson’s global score, this genuine pampamilyang malasakit resulted in a new high with increased scores in all categories related to key engagement drivers in a quick employee pulse survey that Willis Towers Watson did last year.
“I suspect that the manner in which we care for our employees — which is nothing short of treating everyone as family — is driving these amazing engagement levels,” Mr. Tantoco said.
The same treatment is extended to EDC’s partner communities where the company helped put up their own molecular testing laboratories apart from giving food and medical supplies to medical frontliners and container vans that could be used as quarantine facilities and sleeping quarters for the medical staff on duty to enable them to strengthen their COVID-19 resilience.
Beyond the pandemic, EDC has invested heavily in education programs like its SIKAT Program, where promising students are mentored from high school until they get into the UP college system, all expenses taken care of.
In protecting the environment, of core importance to EDC, the company is continuing its longstanding program of bringing back to abundance 96 of the country’s most endangered native tree species through its BINHI greening legacy program.
“So far, close to 10,000 hectares of degraded and open forests in watersheds have been replanted with endangered indigenous tree species and fruit-bearing trees. Having geothermal reservations as vast as 1% (270,000 hectares) of our country’s total land area made us realize the need to partner with farmers and community associations and inculcate in them the value of environmental stewardship. We enabled them to help us take care of our forests. We incentivized them and helped them transform into our green warriors,” Mr. Tantoco said.
In 2019, EDC was selected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through its secretariat, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), to be its first and only local Global Tree Assessment partner in the Philippines as a result of its conservation efforts under BINHI. This year, BGCI has expanded its partnership with EDC to be able to assess the status of more Philippine native tree species. EDC has also hit many regenerative targets thanks to its strong partnership with the UP-Diliman Institute of Biology and the UP-Los Baños College of Forestry and Natural Resources.
Today, EDC’s areas of operation are home to myriads of wildlife species — 291 birds, 43 bats, 25 other mammals, and 46 reptiles and amphibians, with almost half of them endemic to the Philippines.
For its customers, which are electric cooperatives, distribution, utilities, and contestables or businesses with an average electricity consumption of at least 500 kilowatts (kW), EDC has been conducting climate change workshops, and helping them find ways to reduce their own energy consumption, carbon footprint, and losses.
As for EDC’s investors, Mr. Tantoco said: “Thankfully, our shareholders share our mission of decarbonization through clean energy. And we look forward to the long journey ahead in a truly regenerative partnership with them.”
“One of our key insights is this: we know that the issues confronting us are so huge that we need everyone’s help. We will only successfully fulfill our mission if we collaborate with others.”
“This is definitely not a competitive beauty contest. It is not about which company wins the most awards,” he added.
“As our Chairman Piki Lopez keeps stressing, if we find ourselves ahead but alone at the finish line of this massive and humbling undertaking, we will then have failed in our mission,” he said.
For this reason, EDC and the rest of the Lopez group has illuminated the path to regeneration and has made a call for everyone to join them in this journey. Indeed, this daunting task of creating a livable planet for future generations lies not only in their hands but in all of ours. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran