In the invitation I received, I have been requested to share with you our experience and learnings in the Lopez Group with the community and my perspective in other areas that private companies can explore in reaching out to communities.
I will begin by emphasizing what for me must be the first learning I should impart this afternoon. This is the importance of values, beliefs and tradition. These are the pillars by which business builds the trust of long relationship with communities. For us in the Lopez Group, our values are what we strive to live up to all the time.
At the same time, these values are formed through time by the interaction of the Lopez family with the various communities we operate in over the past 200 years of our family history. From its very inception, the Lopez family was an entrepreneurial family whose roots go back not to Spain nor to China but right here in the Philippines to a small town called Jaro in the province of Iloilo in Panay. Through the centuries, our entrepreneurial activities have taken us from native textile manufacturing and trading to sugar plantation and milling, then to land, sea and air transportation and newspaper publishing in Iloilo during the 1930s onward and after World War II, to multi-media, telecoms, then electric power industry, manufacturing, tollroads, etc.
When you follow the course of the Lopez family businesses during the past 2 centuries, you realize there were many peaks and valleys in that family business, and twice during this period, the family lost practically everything. The first time was during World War II, when all the airplanes, buses, ferry boats and printing presses which constituted the hard assets of the Lopez transport and newspaper business were completely destroyed during the 3 ½ years of war. The second time was during martial law, when most of our businesses such as ABS-CBN, Manila Chronicle, Meralco and its holding company Meralco Securities Corporation (now called First Philippine Holdings Corporation) were either shut down or taken over by the government or the cronies of the Marcoses and Romualdezes, mainly due to the strong stand which my father and his newspaper, the Manila Chronicle, took against the graft and corruption of the Marcos regime.
And yet, after each major debacle, the family business manages to come back bigger and stronger than before. I would now like to take this occasion to reaffirm our commitment to the core values that have sustained us through all our hardships and difficult times in the past.
First and foremost is our commitment to family and corporate unity, coupled with a strong work ethic and a strong spirit of enterprise. In essence, this means that the family must, relative to its businesses move as one and with one voice.
We also maintain certain rituals aimed at continually communicating and building consensus within the family. Corporate unity is nurtured in much the same fashion as we nurture family unity.
Our second most important core value is our commitment to our employees. My father said it well in a speech to Meralco employees:“Human values are above and far superior to material values … our success should be measured not by the wealth we can accumulate, but by the amount of happiness we can spread to our employees.” By living up to this principle, he never had any strikes in any of his companies. And our companies continue to live and abide by this principle.
Our third core value is public service and its corollary, corporate social responsibility. These twin values go back deep into Lopez history. The founder of the Lopez family, Basilio Lopez was long in public service, as cabeza de barangay and mayor of Jaro for over 20 years. His son, the first Eugenio Lopez , after carving out a very successful career as a pioneer and big time sugar planter and miller during the 1860’s up to mid 1890’s, came back to Jaro to follow in the footsteps of his father as cabeza de barangay and Mayor of Jaro. As Mayor, he pioneered the implementation of a free elementary public school system for the poorer classes. He also went after the widespread practice of debt peonage in this town, in defiance of the very landlord class to which he belonged. Then in 1878, a severe drought and locust infestation devastated Panay Island’s rice crop, resulting in widespread famine. Eugenio took it upon himself and his wife to lead a Lopez family relief operation, together with his brother Claudio, distributing rice and money to the countless famine victims who flocked to their homes for assistance. This must have been one of the earliest CSR initiatives in our family history, and it was from Kapitan Eugenio that the Lopez family’s sense of social responsibility must have originated. Incidentally, he was also the first member of the Lopez family who had a university education. He spent 6 years studying philosophy and law at the University of Santo Tomas.
But it was during the time of my father, who was Eugenio the 2nd, that the principles and philosophy of corporate social responsibility were clearly articulated by him for the Lopez group of companies.
In 1954, when receiving his award as Businessman of the Year from the Business Writers Association of the Philippines, before a big group of businessmen and President Magsaysay, he said: “We sincerely believe that a greater proportion of the earnings accrued from business should be returned to the people, whether they are in the form of foundations, grants, scholarships, hospitals or any other form of social welfare benefits. We consider this a sound policy and a good investment which, in the long run, will pay off because it will mean more business and goodwill for the company and would minimize, it not prevent social unrest and disorder…”
Thus early on, in such a concise manner, my father spelled out the business philosophy of corporate social responsibility, at least for the Lopez group, long before the phrase was coined and its principal tenets widely understood, and he meant every word he said. One of the biggest donations he gave was to build the Asian Institute of Management, but he also gave substantial donations to his 2 alma maters --- U.P. College of Law and Ateneo. He also left a priceless legacy of Filipiniana books, paintings, manuscripts, maps and artifacts, in the Lopez Memorial Museum for scholars and the public to enjoy.
In the post martial law period, when my brothers Geny, Manolo and I took over the task of reconstructing and rebuilding the Lopez group of companies, my father’s way of personal philanthropy gave way to the development of CSR functions by the Lopez business corporations either through the creation of Foundations or directly by the Companies themselves. A total of 9 Foundations were established from 1968 onward, namely the Eugenio Lopez Foundation, which funded the AIM donation and the priceless collection of Filipiniana books, manuscripts, maps, painting and artifacts; ABS-CBN Foundation, ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, Meralco Millennium Foundation and Meralco Management and Leadership Development Center Foundation, First Philippine Conservation, Inc., Knowledge Channel Foundation, Phil-Asia Assistance Foundation, and Gabaldon Foundation.
In 2004, a 10th Foundation was established called Lopez Group Foundation, Inc., but its function was merely to coordinate the work of the 9 other foundations as well as all the other CSR activities of the Lopez companies without Foundations. In general, our CSR activities fall into the following categories: 1) education and culture; 2) child care, health and family planning; 3) environment; 4) poverty alleviation and micro-business and finance; 5) community programs; 6) disaster and relief work.
We have 2 outstanding Lopez women of the 6th generation who are fully dedicated to CSR work. They are Gina Lopez, the daughter of my late brother Geny, who is in-charge of the whole ABS-CBN Foundation Group which has 5 or 6 different activities including micro-finance, disaster relief work, care of abused children, education TV, reforestation at the La Mesa Watershed area; the other outstanding CSR worker in our 6th generation is my daughter Rina Lopez Bautista, who created Knowledge Channel as a full curriculum support for public elementary and high schools and so far, she has connected 1,700 public schools with a total audience of 2.7 million students and 6 million home viewers, including 124 public schools in Muslim Mindanao.
I will not have time to describe the many CSR activities our Foundations and companies support because of our very tight schedule today. I would refer you to our periodic publication called ‘Bridges’. We have brought some copies for those interested in reading about our CSR work in greater detail. Please see either Dario Pagcaliwagan or Dulce Baybay.