By: Philippine Retailing Magazine
*With the pandemic still lingering and stronger typhoons hitting the country one after the other, more and more people are placed in a vulnerable condition. This is the ideal time that we should rethink sustainability on how we consume and produce goods. This article published early this year still rings true and with concerted efforts and sincere intention from individuals, businesses and government, we can make change happen.
“Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.”—E.F. Schumacher
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is the government’s socioeconomic planning body, which provides macroeconomic forecasting and policy analysis and research.
NEDA’s long-term vision and aspirations for the country, the Ambisyon 2040 describes the kind of life that people want to live, and how the country will be by the said year.
While we are reeling towards achieving economic development, NEDA is also concerned with how we are utilizing our natural resources as we build more infrastructures, manufacture products, and ultimately consume.
NEDA’s Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie Edillon shares with the Philippine Retailing magazine the agency’s efforts in gearing the country towards sustainability, to achieve the goal of a sustainable Philippines.
Pressing Issues on Production and Consumption
The trend recently with production, is that it is very resource intensive, opened Usec. Edillon during our interview in her office. As there are more products manufactured and infrastructures built, natural resources are also depleted, and this would not be sustainable.
“Likewise, businesses want to have profits, and at the same time make products more affordable, they go for cheaper packaging products for instance, products that are designed to obsolescence,” said Edillon, thus disregarding the environmental impact of the current processes in manufacturing and production.
The challenge for our industries now is that, as they were able to come up with production processes that are affordable, this time, they need to come up with innovation that doesn’t really have this great environmental trade off.
Another big problem she says is that over the recent years, especially in Metro Manila is the amount of waste being accumulated. The Philippines generate about 106 Olympic-size swimming pools a day. Thus, the consumption behavior of Filipinos plays a big role in managing our current environmental woes.
Pushing for a Sustainable Consumption and Production
To address these issues, NEDA has released its Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) last November after a number of consultations with various stakeholders.
“We have identified that you need to have a complete package to be able to really have this sustainable consumption and production, especially on the consumption side. We are talking about behavioral changes.” Usec. Edillon said about the SCP strategic framework.
She added that the change in Filipinos’ behaviour and consumption habits may also be the key to inducing firms to produce responsibly.
“Our priority policy advocacy is the Green Public Procurement, which is currently an Executive Order, which we hope will become a law so that it will have more teeth. It encourages government agencies to accept only green companies as their suppliers,” she added.
Moreover, this will force companies to become more environmentally-friendly with their products and strategies, and hopefully will become a part of a green value chain. Such move will also help these companies become more competitive in the international market, as many big foreign companies are already practicing this.
While it is not easy to require companies to consider sustainability as part of their production strategies, Edillon reiterates that if they can allocate budget for their innovation for a cheaper production, they should also be able innovate towards sustainability.
As part of the SCP framework is to institutionalize natural capital accounting and determine ecological limits and negative externalities, NEDA is also working with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for the Natural Capital Accounting initiative.
“This way, we are aware of the impact on the environment of this kind of economic growth strategy,” she explained. This will then be followed with the right measures.
Another goal for the SCP framework is the increase on innovation and investment in green technologies and systems and establishment of sustainable resource allocation and equitable sharing schemes.
Looking into a Greener Future
There are so many things that need to be done still according to Usec Edillon, and for NEDA, they have step-by-step strategies to address the issue the and realize the goals under the Ambisyon 2040 of secure future that provides people with enough resources for day-to-day needs and unexpected expenses, peace and security, long and healthy life, and comfortable retirement, which are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“One good thing happening right now in Congress and Senate, is that we have environment advocates. I’m hoping that they will be strong advocates and that their advocacies will be translated into law,” she beamed.
“When that happens, I’m seeing us to be still having that nice beaches, hopefully a rehabilitated Pasig River—which can become a vibrant place of commerce.”
First published in Philippine Retailing Magazine Q1 2020 issue