What does it really mean to be practicing the triple bottom lines or 3BL? That question guided the conduct of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc.’s (FSSI) series of forums on Promoting the Growth and Sustainability of Social Enterprises through the 3BL Approach, held this year in key major cities nationwide.
“While people talk about it, very few organizations are really serious in measuring these bottom lines. And that’s the sad part because you can talk about it, but if you’re not serious about measuring them, you are just mouthing them, giving it lip service,” says Dr. Eduardo Morato, the Philippines’ social enterprise guru and Bayan Academy Chairman and President. Dr. Morato was the guest speaker in the forum held last August 30, 2019 in Quezon City, which gathered FSSI’s SE partners in Luzon.
In his talk, Dr. Morato stressed the need to measure the triple bottom lines – which include the social and environmental components of an organization and not just its financial performance. “You cannot manage what you don’t measure. You have to be serious about it if you’re really gonna make a difference,” he says.
Dr. Morato also addressed the seeming trend of businesses claiming to be social enterprises but whose profits do not redound to the poor. “Ngayon it’s sosyal to be a social enterprise. I will price my product and put some sob story there so that you will pay me more for my product… But for me, I would measure whether the social benefit accrues more to the business plan or the low income earners. That to me is a very, very important description.”
Meantime FSSI’s partner Mr. Paris Uy of Livegreen International highlighted the importance of perseverance in addressing problems and challenges in SE-building. Starting in 2009 as a humble organic vegetable grower and distributor, Livegreen is now supplying to 45 chains of supermarkets and companies. It also initiated trainings of farmers in organic farming, in partnership with Benguet State University.
For the Visayas leg of the forum, Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative’s General Manager Ellen Limocon shared how their cooperative was able to grow a seed capital of Php 3,500 in the 70’s to over Php 1 billion in assets today, transforming a remote mountain village in south-western Cebu and the lives of their members.
“God valued the sacrifices of the coop,” said Ellen who recalled that Lamac MPC’s early members contributed whatever talent and resources they had for the benefit of the community. “From chipping-in capital, to opening up roads, setting up electrical power and creating business, to providing water… the members did it with enthusiasm. Now, Barangay Lamac is a self-sustained community through the spirit of the cooperative movement,” she said.
Lamac MPC is a multi-awarded coop and Gawad Parangal Hall of Famer of the Cooperative Development Authority.
In Mindanao, FSSI’s social enterprise and network partners gathered in Davao City on November 20, 2019, in the wake of a series of earthquakes that devastated parts of the region.
MINCODE representative and FSSI’s Board member and Projects Committee Chairperson Agnes Bolanos noted that the discussion on the triple bottom lines is timely, with the world facing a climate emergency. She encouraged SEs in Mindanao to come up with projects that would not only ensure profit is made but would also increase capacities of the vulnerable sectors. “Doing business as usual is alarming. We should do something to address the climate emergency, at swak dito ang 3BL approach ng FSSI,” she noted.
Sustainability in business practices is what Lao Integrated Farms, Inc. (LIFI) highlighted. LIFI is a family social enterprise advocating organic farming and the triple bottom line approach. Through partnerships with government agencies and local and international organizations, LIFI prides itself in doing business morally, transforming small farmers to entrepreneurs. With several certifications on organic farming and fair trade, LIFI’s Lovely Lao Lato says “going organic” has paid off for their organization, as they have gained a steady market for their products abroad.
Aside from learning from the speakers, FSSI’s SE partners also shared their challenges and achievements in implementing the 3BL approach within their organizations.
Malabog Integrated Enterprises Development Cooperative (MIEDECO)’s Vice Chairperson of the Board Rosalina Dulabay says addressing difficulties is about adapting and innovating. MIEDECO was organized by church leaders in 1986 as part of a comprehensive livelihood program supported by Kapwa Foundation. In 1995, the program ended and the farmer members were faced with the challenge of running the coop on their own. Dulabay says they were able to manage and even improve their operations by establishing linkages with government agencies and non-profit organizations. She stressed the importance of having good leaders and capacitating their members.
Mr. Fred Fredeluces, CEO of Green Tropics Coffee Enterprise, also highlighted governance as essential in the growth of an organization and its members. He says leaders should have genuine concern in implementing the changes they want to happen. “We started the 3BL approach 20 years ago in Mt. Matutum, and we have seen the results,” he says. “The farmers used to earn Php 900 per month per household. Nung in-apply naming ang 3BL, it increased to Php 3,500 per month. Dati illegal hotspot ang area; now hindi na dahil nagtanim sila ng kape and other products. Kumikita ang community, at the same time we are producing high quality coffee. Dati hirap na hirap sila. Ngayon, from shanties to semi-permanent houses. Dati highest educational attainment was Grade 5; ngayon meron nang college graduate. Ibig sabihin, na-address ang people by taking care of the planet. Kaya sana marami pa ang mag-adopt.”
FSSI Executive Director Sixto Donato C. Macasaet thanked partners for their active participation in the forum and enthusiasm to improve their organizations’ triple bottom lines. “Sana ay maging simula ito ng mas malago at tuloy-tuloy pa nating pag-uusap. Mahalaga ang ating patuloy na pag-uusap at pagtutulungan para mapagbuti natin ang ating triple bottom lines,” he said.
At the end of each forum, representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shared with SE partners the services they can avail from the agency and its upcoming plans. DTI-NCR Regional Director Ms. Marcelina Alcantara encouraged SEs to make use of the DTI’s Shared Service Facilities and participate in the One Town, One Product (OTOP) program. In Cebu, DTI-7 Assistant Regional Director Ms. Maria Elena Arbon advised the “elder” participants to make use of technologies in marketing their products and to bridge the gap with the younger generation. In Davao, DTI RAPID Growth Project Manager Mr. Pedro Terry Tuason gave an overview of the program and encouraged partners to participate. RAPID Growth is a 4.7-billion peso initiative that aims to transform agri-based MSMEs for global markets. FSSI is among its Project Steering Committee members. You can read more about the program here.
You can view more photos of the 3BL forums by following these links:
3BL Forum in the Visayas
3BL Forum in Mindanao