MANILA, May 31, 2004  (STAR) By Cynthia Evidente  -  At a time when environmental consciousness has emerged as a global value, when individual and organizational efforts have focused on the need to preserve Earth and its natural resources, "good corporate citizenship" has taken on a new dimension.

As stated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) during the Earth Day 2004 celebration last April 22, "The unity of individuals and institutions, working hand-in-hand toward the monumental task of environmental sustainability, is paramount to benefit the people and the planet."

The UNDP has equated the environment’s capacity to support the country’s sustained growth with poverty alleviation, a fact that a developing country like the Philippines can factor in within its overall developmental framework.

For Globe Telecom, in tandem with subsidiary firm Innove Communications Inc., corporate social responsibility has gone beyond the immediate business on hand. Rather, this has translated into a corporate framework that fosters the long-term sustainability of the environment, particularly in communities where it conducts business.

"The company is committed to provide the utmost protection of the health and safety of our employees as well as the communities within our environment. It is the management’s primary objective and the employees’ individual and collective responsibility to meet this commitment," says Globe president and CEO Gerardo Ablaza Jr.

Today, Manila is the fourth most polluted city in the world with levels of pollutants in Metro Manila due primarily to vehicular emission and power plant/industry pollutants four times the maximum level set by the World Heath Organization. High lead content in the blood of children remains a reality even as growing cases of death are blamed on air pollution.

Concern for this current state of affairs has prompted Globe to make a conscious effort to positively contribute to the people’s general well-being. Thus, Globe has adapted a Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) policy which, among others, stresses the need to minimize the environmental impact of its operations through programs conserving the country’s natural resources and preventing pollution through waste reduction.

Caring For The Environment

On Sept. 24, 2003, Globe Telecom entered into a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with ABS-CBN Foundation for the proper disposal of Globe’s used lead-acid or "junk batteries" which are classified as toxic hazardous waste by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) due to its lead and acid content.

This, in effect, makes Globe the first and only Philippine telecommunications company to fully comply with government regulations governing the proper disposal of used lead batteries generated in the course of day-to-day industrial operations.

If mishandled or not properly disposed of, the sulfuric acid from the used battery is corrosive, causes irritation and itchiness to the skin, and can contaminate the soil or groundwater. On the other hand, lead can cause skin irritation, is toxic when ingested, and can also contaminate the soil or groundwater.

Given the fact that over the years, Globe has generated thousands of such lead-acid batteries, the company was faced with the challenge of implementing a program to ensure compliance with Republic Act 6969, requiring the final disposal of junk batteries to a DENR-accredited recycler – in this case, the Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI).

Thus, working within its core CSR strategy to partner with private entities and government units espousing a similar cause, Globe entered into the MoA synergizing its own Battery Disposal Program (BDP) with ABS-CBN’s Bantay Baterya program under the latter’s umbrella Bantay Kalikasan drive.

ABS-CBN has an existing MoA with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the PRI for the promotion and implementation of the Bantay Baterya program to rid the environment of pollution-causing junk lead-acid batteries.

For its part, Globe, aware of the harmful environmental effects of indiscriminate and irresponsible disposal of junk lead-acid batteries, is fully committed to the proper disposal of all such items from its operations.

What It Is All About

Basically, the Junk Battery Disposal Program aims to provide a cleaner environment to future generations by ensuring an environmentally sound management of junk lead-acid batteries. Under the program, used lead batteries generated from Globe and Innove’s various equipment and facilities are transported (using ABS-CBN’s DENR-issued permit to transport such hazardous materials) to identified Globe holding sites.

These holding sites are in Luzon (Tarlac MSC or Mobile Switching Center, Aurora MSC, Bacoor and Batangas telephone host exchanges, Pasig cable yard), the Visayas (Cebu Central Warehouse and Mandalagan, Bacolod switch); and Mindanao (Iligan telephone host exchange).

The batteries are then picked up from the holding sites by PRI for proper treatment and recycling in its own plant. Globe donates to ABS-CBN the proceeds from the sale of these junk batteries to the recycler.

Prior to last year’s MoA, Globe Telecom initially donated from 2002 to 2003 over 4,000 used batteries which, besides translating into a modest P150,000 in cash donations to Bantay Kalikasan programs, signals the company’s real concern to unite with DENR and global efforts to preserve the environment.

Since then, Globe has turned over 6,550 used industrial batteries culled from the company’s various corporate, wireless, wireline and telecoms backbone facilities, as well as from its fleet of service vehicles – equivalent to close to half-a-million pesos in donations to ABS-CBN’s own environmental efforts.

According to Bantay Kalikasan, its partnership with Globe is the biggest so far both in terms of scope and volume. Globe, on the other hand, has emerged as the first telecoms company to initiate such an endeavor.

Program’s tripartite benefits

And simple as it may look, the partnership actually addresses, aside from its main goal, multiple sets of goals by the various stakeholders. For Globe, this has allowed it to effectively comply with the Hazardous Waste Management Law (RA 6969).

Bantay Kalikasan, on the other hand, has gotten a new source of funds for its other environmental projects such as the Save the La Mesa Watershed, Bantay Usok and Bantay Kalikasan Hotline.

Significantly, with this arrangement, the PRI, as the recycling/treatment facility, has gotten a new supply of lead, the main material recovered from batteries. Lead used in the manufacture of lead-acid batteries is not naturally mined in the country so that with recycling of junk batteries, importation is minimized and dollars are kept in the reserve.

DENR’s Call For Compliance

Recently, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun called on the industry sector to improve environmental compliance through self-regulation and to adopt cleaner production technologies.

On a positive note, however, she says, "There is a clear indication that companies are getting more environmentally conscious. These companies are realizing the connection between environmental protection and being able to do good business in the country."

Definitely, such is the thrust Globe and Innove realize as they continue to live and imbibe the values of safety and self- and environment-preservation in unison with the entire global community.

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The author is the corporate communications head of Globe Telecom’s PR Division.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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