Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is usually defined as something that presents a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.
That said, CSR is also a concept with many definitions and practices—in the Philippines, it usually takes the form of corporate outreach programs to chosen communities, including but not limited to medical missions, tree-planting activities and the like. Inasmuch as corporations are juridical persons, they are also members of communities and part of what drives a nation forward.
PMFTC, a joint venture of Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc. and Fortune Tobacco Corporation, produces tobacco products. While they do, admittedly, produce and sell products that come with very strong and very graphic health warnings, the company also tries to do as much good as it can as a corporate citizen.
PMFTC director for external affairs Varinia Elero-Tinga and her team sat down for an interview with the Philippines Graphic to discuss PMFTC as a corporate citizen and what this company undertakes in its CSR programs, and she says this about the pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs: “We support reasonable regulations and contributed to the legislative process that produced the law.”
PMFTC implements its projects through partner NGOs, to ensure efficient scaling and a quick roll-out of its programs. PMFTC measures the progress of these programs through the United Nations SDGs, to which they have aligned their goals.
Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) records show that, as of the first semester of 2017, the incidence of poverty in the Philippines was pegged at 26.3%. This incidence was computed using income data from the first visit of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted in July 2015.
The same PSA report noted that “subsistence incidence among Filipinos, or the proportion of Filipinos whose incomes fall below the food threshold, was estimated at 12.1% in the first semester of 2015. In the first half of 2012, the subsistence incidence among Filipinos is at 13.4%. Subsistence incidence among Filipinos is often referred to as the proportion of Filipinos in extreme or subsistence poverty.”
PMFTC has been implementing its Program for the Poor since 2013. The 2016 iteration of this program has since taken as part of its implementation, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations developed to guide the world’s path to sustainable development after 2015.
In partnership with the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc. (JVOFI), PMFTC continues the PFP on a nationwide scale, in these particular focus areas: Economic opportunity, women empowerment, access to quality education, and disaster and emergency relief.
Elero-Tinga noted that education is a prime concern in any effort to alleviate or eliminate poverty: “We need to put priority on the needs of children. They need to be given access to good nutrition, to health care services, to a good education. And it all begins with good education, because that is something that the child will always carry with himself or herself through life.”
PMFTC manager for contributions and sustainability Christine R. Dela Cruz said the PFP “is committed to helping deliver solutions to end poverty, promote shared prosperity among other stakeholders and ensure a legacy of sustainability for future generations.”
It is under this PFP that PMFTC reaches out to communities, like the evacuees from the recently-ended war in Marawi, to offer help and support for the people who need it most.
“We chose the evacuation centers that were not government accredited,” Dela Cruz said of the PFP efforts in the areas outlying the besieged city. “Because these were the evacuation centers where there weren’t enough food or supplies.”
The PMFTC CSR team and its partners did not just bring relief goods and medicines. They brought art supplies to the children there, “so they could engage in art therapy to help them deal with the trauma of war and displacement,” Dela Cruz said. She also noted that it wasn’t just the displaced children who were severely affected by the conflict: “Even their mothers joined in the art activity. Even the parents of these children needed art therapy.”
Now that the conflict in Marawi is over, PMFTC and its PFP will be heading back to help where it can. “We will also take into account the fact that we may have to help adults deal with their traumas, not just the children,” Dela Cruz said.
Under the Alay sa Kawal Scholarship, the PFP provides education assistance to 10 scholars pursuing medical degrees. “Most of the subjects offered by the medical schools are annual in nature; i.e. only semestral subjects have grades at the end of the first semester,” Dela Cruz said. “The final General Weighted Average (GWA) will therefore be determined in the second or last semester of each academic year.”
The beneficiaries of this program are the children of active-duty Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel.
In tobacco-growing areas, as in other agricultural areas, children traditionally participate in planting, harvesting and post-harvest activities. That has been the reality in this agricultural country for as long as can be remembered.
However much of a reality, child labor in agriculture is still not the best thing for children, who would benefit from having good education opportunities and chances to grow as individuals.
PMFTC has a CSR program for that: Child and community-based interventions to eliminate child labor in tobacco, now on its fifth phase and addresses the following issues:
- Lack of awareness on child labor issues and concerns on tobacco, to be addressed through advocacy and mobilizing support for the prevention and elimination of child labor through public awareness.
- Lack of awareness and strict implementation of local laws relevant to child labor, to be addressed through strengthening community-based partnerships in selected tobacco-growing areas and by strengthening their capacities in the fight against child labor in tobacco.
- Absence/lack of alternative activities for children during post-harvest of tobacco, through the conduct of summer school to discourage children from engaging in tobacco post-harvest activities that may harm their health.
- Lack of employable skills for youth, to be addressed through the conduct of vocational education or skills training providing them with education and basic skills they need to protect themselves and create opportunities for the future.
Dela Cruz said this program “helps children tap their own strength and grow it.” Her face brightens with a smile as she adds that “we bring in teachers and supply schools near these communities, too.”
Elero-Tinga noted that “if children are doing something else—they’re at school, or they are engaged in activities that help them grow and grow strong, then they will not be engaged in any activities involving tobacco or tobacco farming.”
“Children have the right to a good education,” Dela Cruz said. “They have the right to play and be kids and to grow. They are strong and they are capable of learning many new things, as well as new skills. This is what we offer when we implement our ALP program.”
ENVIRONMENT & DISASTERS
Considering that the Philippines is as disaster-prone as it is beautiful, environment awareness and disaster preparedness and risk management are good areas to engage in CSR for any company located here.
PMFTC has its Empowering Communities on Health, Environment Education and Disaster Management Project, which it implements nationwide through its partner NGOs.
This project implements programs on four focus areas, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs): Health, environment, education and disaster management.
“These focus areas were selected to address key issues that are threats in achieving sustainable development: Rising inequity and inequality where the economically-marginalized and the geographically-isolated are left out in the delivery of essential services, such as education and healthcare; the lack of decent work and livelihood opportunities that are the backbone of poverty alleviation; the increased threat of climate change and the alarming loss of biodiversity and; the vulnerability of communities to disasters whether natural or human-induced.”
“Honestly speaking, taking care of the environment and preparing to face and survive disasters is also a matter of education,” Elero-Tinga said. “It is also a matter of making sure that the vulnerable communities get what they need so they do not have to resort to activities that may harm the environment and put them at even more risk of the consequences of disasters.”
PMFTC is the organizer of the Philippine Art Awards, one of the most prestigious art competitions in the country.
Elero-Tinga noted that, while most people tend to think of art as high-brow, “art is an essential part of each person. It is the expression of their souls. Art is for everyone and our art contest seeks to promote that.”
“We get entries from all over the country,” she said. “Even the poorest of Filipinos will have some form of artistic expression and we want to support that, encourage it. Hindi lang pang mayaman ang sining (art is not the just for the rich).”
“There are many, many amazingly talented artists across the country,” Dave Gomez, Corporate Communications head said. “They are very creative and very innovative and we want them and their art work to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
For so many aspiring artists, winning an art contest is a boon and, potentially, an opportunity to earn from the art that is both their skill and their passion.
If one is to look carefully over the CSR offerings of PMFTC, one will see a pattern: The programs seek to make positive changes where the company can, by contributing to efforts to alleviate and eliminate poverty, provide education, ensure sustainable farming practices among its supplier farms and in communities that it is part of and, yes, strengthen its beneficiaries against life’s literal storms and offer opportunities for sharing in a celebration of the brightness and beauty of art.
As a corporate citizen, PMFTC is doing its level best and that level best is doing plenty of good in the communities this corporate citizen touches. G