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Business Sector Must Serve Society, Urges JAZA

"Cooperation is more needed than competition," said Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.
ILLUSTRATOR Bianca Papa
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In a talk with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala imparted some words of wisdom to business owners, big and small, listening in on his talk on corporate social responsibility.

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JAZA, the chairman and chief executive office of Ayala Corporation, and his brother Fernando, the president and chief operating officer, have been at the forefront of Ayala’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The corporation has donated hundreds of millions in direct relief aid, set aside almost P1 billion in salary continuance and financial support for displaced workers, and even paid almost P10 billion in taxes ahead of time to aid the government in funding its COVID-19 response war chest.

In the online discussions moderated by The Financial Times, JAZA shared, “I am quite aligned to the idea of private institutions aligning themselves to the national good, the national development agenda, and to a progressive view of how we should run our societies.”

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When it comes to relationships with other big businesses during this time of pandemic, the Ayala chairman stressed that in times of crises, “cooperation is more needed than competition.”

As for the healthcare sector, JAZA noted the industry “has not been given the attention it deserves, and it deserves far more support.” After the pandemic, healthcare will never be looked at the same way again, and he hopes that will lead to more development and focus on an industry that’s gone largely underrated.

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But it was his insights on the role of businesses during times of struggle that will resonate with everyone on the corporate ladder.

“When you have a broader point of view of where we are part of civil society, you realize that the business sector has a role in addressing some of the pain points that we have in our development needs… your institution has a bigger responsibility than just to the shareholders. It has a responsibility to the society it’s working in,” said JAZA.

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“It’s not about social responsibility—it’s about changing a business model that became more inclusive…all of us, I think, have a responsibility on our own, not just the government’s, to address the pain points in society and see if we can use business methods, not just social interactions but embed some of those solutions into the way we do business. Businesses have to take on this broader responsibility of contributing to society in a more positive way.”

Clearly, Ayala has been “walking the talk” these last few months, but we can only hope that this mentality will trickle down to every local enterprise. When it comes to corporate social responsibility, the efforts are meant to support society, not just the corporation.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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