About a year ago today, we launched a program that formally introduced our values to all our employees in the Lopez Group. This is not one of those symbolic nice-to-do things. Nor did the idea emanate from some management guru’s prescription that has become a fad in the corporate world. The truth is, the Lopez businesses have always operated on the basis of values deeply held by the Lopez family and it was just about time for us to formally make these known to all the people we work with. My father, Don Eugenio, my elder brother Geny, younger brother Manolo, sister Precy and I have always said that the Lopez businesses has and must always serve a higher goal than just making a return on material investments. The returns we seek are more in the higher realm of God and Country.
We have seven basic values and a four paragraph Lopez Credo. We have given all our employees a plastic card they can keep in their wallets where all these are written. We do not expect everyone to memorize everything in that card but we do expect everyone to remember everything is summarized in this simple sentence: The Lopez Group exists to serve God and to serve the Filipino people. Everything starts and ends with this clear enunciation of our reason for being.
Why are we going to all the effort inculcating these values with a full program that involves the CEOs of the Lopez companies as well as the HR and the Corporate Communications staff? We are doing all these, including this event today, to make sure we all have a common understanding… a common interpretation of these values.
After all, values are what defines a people, be it a nation, a family or a corporation. Values unite a people towards a common purpose… gives us a reason for being and for doing what we do. Values define the way we do things… defines our relationship with each other and with the external world.
I realize there are cynics among us who are probably bored by what they call motherhood statements. To them, seeing is believing and the only way to convince them that our values mean something far above motherhood statements is to see how our values work in real life. There are many examples of the Lopez family choosing to uphold higher principles in the conduct of their businesses. The most dramatic of these instances is how my late father stood up to the Marcos dictatorship at great personal and financial sacrifices you are all familiar with. It would have been more convenient and profitable to have cooperated with the dictator in the way his business cronies collaborated with his schemes. But that wouldn’t have been true to the principles for which the Lopez family stood for.
I also want to point out one very recent example… during the previous government administration’s reign. We had again slowly begun to criticize the way in which governance was being conducted in this country. There were many attempts to try and quiet the very vocal voice of media. How could we, when we were, and still are, the biggest broadcasting and media company in the country. In so doing, we had put all our regulated businesses in a precarious and somewhat uncomfortable position—to put it lightly. I don’t want to enumerate the obviously many flashpoints we’ve had over the years with the previous government. Suffice to say that, by taking our stand, we ended up financially vulnerable and burdened with debt. And had to give back our water concession business, Maynilad, sell our toll–road concession MNTC, and ultimately a major portion of the Manila Electric Company. As I have stated before at the OECD conference not too long ago, “The playing field is often not even, where political patronage determines the winners and the losers, where graft and corruption constantly lurks below the veneer of acceptable governance. To resist, to stay faithful to our values and vision, can be very costly. At least twice in my life in the Lopez Group, we have lost dearly by standing up to an abusive regime. And even as we have stood our ground, others looked away and kept quiet, afraid that they too, might suffer. That is the challenge all of us face here today.”
I will not go through the details of the values and the credo this afternoon. I will just use this opportunity to call upon all Lopez company heads to work towards embedding/institutionalizing the Lopez values in their respective companies. I am happy to note that effort had already been made to align the company values of many Lopez companies with the Lopez values. Your company values may be worded differently but I am sure there are no conflict with the most basic instructions of the Lopez values and credo.
Simply put, these are values that must guide the way we do business; these values must be integrated into management practices and HR systems including our performance management system, rewards and recognition programs. I realize this will not happen overnight… this is an evolutionary process. What is important for us now is that we have begun.
• Company heads, working with their HR heads, are expected to develop their own values embedding plan, but more importantly set the example. Unless the company heads and senior managers live the values, everything we say end up hollow… just so many words meaning nothing.
Internalizing these values and our credo will take time but in the end, I am confident that it will define a Lopez executive, a Lopez manager, a Lopez employee and a Lopez company. These common values will unite us whether we are working in the broadcast and telecoms group or the power and infrastructure group. It will be our source of pride in belonging to the Lopez organization.
To paraphrase Geny, we do not go to work each morning merely to make a financial profit… We go to work each day because it is our way to make our lives in this world meaningful by working in the service of God and the Filipino people. I can think of no higher or more noble calling that that.