People at the heart of a business transformation
How many of us can say the pandemic has changed us? If we compare the way we lived and the things we valued from a couple years ago, before the pandemic struck, to how we live and think today, we might even think that we’ve become entirely different people.
Massive national and global events over recent years have forced us to reevaluate not just our lifestyles, but also our values and mindsets. Priorities shifted, and things once set aside or looked past, like self-care and mental health, for example, have gained prominence. The recent elections, the wars abroad, and the still on-going health crisis all have an effect—call it collective or shared trauma, if you will.
But as with any difficult situation, the road to healing comes after an acceptance and letting go. In the case of business, it is letting go of losses, and more importantly, letting go of processes and policies that are no longer aligned with the company’s vision. Ones that will no longer lead towards the company’s chartered course.
Aboitiz, which has grown immensely over the past century as a local, family-owned business into a large-scale national conglomerate, provides a clear example of how best to navigate the drastic changes in the world and society the business finds itself in.
An important keyword in Aboitiz’ operations today is transformation. Realizing that it is only through this that they can retain a relevant position in the various industries they belong to, Aboitiz has made it a point to transform the business at a core policy level, and allow that change to trickle in and ripple throughout its various arms.
As we also find ourselves facing the climate crisis head-on, large businesses are also recognizing the role they can play in contributing towards the solution. Aboitiz Group President and CEO Sabin M. Aboitiz has talked about the desire to transform the organization towards sustainability. “Any entity with any desire to sustain itself for eternity can only ever do so by continually course-correcting towards the right direction, adapting to the constantly changing and challenging demands of our environments, and keeping a clear-as-possible, long-term view of what the world will look like decades from now, so that we have a fighting chance of not just being in that world, but leading in it.”
“This is why one of the foundational cornerstones of our sustainability is what we call the Great Transformation into the first Philippine techglomerate, which is our latest major attempt at course-correction that covers every single facet of the organization,” he says.
The conglomerate’s Great Transformation is part of its ongoing integration of a more inclusive policy throughout the business. With a unified policy and value system, Aboitiz is taking concrete steps to ensure that they are moving towards their goals consistently within the industries they belong to, particularly: power, banking and financial services, food, land, infrastructure, data innovation and construction.
Sustainability for all
What most need to understand about sustainability now is that it involves more than just the environment. While the majority of effects of sustainability may be manifested through planet-friendly initiatives, true and inclusive sustainability involves more than just the Earth. To make lasting and effective change, sustainability must be ingrained in the communities that live on the planet, as well. Knowing this, Aboitiz has created a strategy that equally pushes forward the interests of people, planet, and profit.
With the understanding that nothing moves or changes without people, the company has invested heavily in taking care of its stakeholders. At the onset of the pandemic in December 2019, though no cases had yet to be recorded in the country, the company already began assessing risks that could affect the almost 40,000 members of the conglomerate globally. A month before the first lockdown, a technical working group had already been formed to monitor developments on the crisis, and were tasked to keep all stakeholders informed.
But caring for people also goes beyond quick and decisive crisis management. At Aboitiz, emphasis is also given to employee growth and engagement. The Aboitiz Foundation also spearheads programs that serve the communities they’re in, providing educational opportunities that can also lead to future employment.
Inclusivity and equitable rights are also important in ensuring social sustainability. As such, team members are given support through health programs that employees, as well as their dependents (which can include LGBTQ+ and common-law partners) can avail of. Further social sensitivity is also promoted within the company through forums that discuss relevant topics on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, persons with disabilities, as well as laws on diversity and inclusion.
And in keeping up with the times, the company, through its foundation, has also worked to help in bridging the digital divide in the country. This was especially relevant in the past two years, as the pandemic forced schools, healthcare, as well as business and financial institutions to migrate to the contactless online space.
Project Agile, which the Aboitiz group worked on with the Department of Education, for instance, was developed to help teachers learn how to more effectively deliver lessons online. Meanwhile, micro-, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) were also given support through Aboitiz’ Biyaheng Digiskarte. The project provided opportunities for learning for small business owners—the minds behind almost 99 percent of the country’s economy—through webinars, training sessions, and best practices on business resiliency, effective people management, operations, and cashflow.
With resilience as a key value for Aboitiz, they also make sure to be ready to assist communities in need of help post-disaster. Most recently, the company extended P21.7 million worth of aid in the form of motorized fiberglass boats for affected fishermen, livelihood kits, and repair of five schools in the aftermath of the typhoon in Cebu.
These were just some of the projects achieved by making use not just of the conglomerate’s connections and network, but of its existing expertise in various fields.
But of course, a culture of transformation isn’t formed only by broad strokes or large-scale actions. Even seemingly small practices, when done consistently, make a difference. This is also once again seen within the conglomerate’s team members—the ones who implement and enact resource efficiency on the day-to-day through their Wealth Out of Waste framework.
Understanding that people are both the beneficiaries and prime movers in making wide-scale changes is a radical first step in transforming a business into one that can ride with and be ahead of the times. When one isn’t just solely concerned about the figures, but by each name and face that makes it happen, only then, like Aboitiz, can one really start making waves.
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