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A few days ago, I spotted a water dispenser in a sports equipment shop. It was accompanied by a banner that says "#Refill and Refrain - Say No to Single-use bottles". Wow. Someone (The Primer Group) is actually giving out free water in the Fort! Some people may dismiss it as a marketing gimmick to get customers into the shop. Maybe it is, but I wish more shops would do the same, spreading a message that promotes public benefit and spending their money to support the message.

Then, this morning I attended a networking event organized by Fort Bonifacio Development Foundation Incorporated. Several social enterprises briefed officers from different corporations located in the Fort about the projects that they did that could contribute to a better society.

Businesses need to make money to survive, and to reward investors and employees. Some are so successful that they make much more than is needed to survive and to give investors a decent return. These businesses are often geared to be lazer-focused on making more money, with no regard to anybody or anything other than the financial gain of their owners or shareholders. It is about beating the competition.

How much monetary rewards do corporations need?Do the shareholders and top executives really need that much money? Is success measured merely by how much more money one makes compared to our peers?

More and more successful business owners seem to feel the emptiness that a focus on pursuing a pure monetary goal brings. The satisfaction of owning more luxury goods diminishes with each additional item. The missing element is our value to others.

We have heard of corporate social responsibility. CSR encourages corporations to think about doing something for the benefit of society, after or while making money. Another, more recent, approach for corporations and individuals to contribute to public well-being is Impact Investing. According to Wikipedia, Impact investing refers to investments "made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return". It allows corporations to contract out the actual work of delivering deeds that benefit the larger society, and more importantly, focus on the performance of the investment.

I guess impact investing is an approach that corporations may feel more comfortable in explaining to shareholders when they want to do something good for the society. The familiar term of return on investment can still be used, but that investors will seek return not just in monetary terms.

Photo above: Project Inclusion speaker, Mr. Grant Javier, explains the work of Project Inclusion to CSR officers from companies in BGC

At the first BGC Social Development Network Forum held on November 14, three non-government organizations presented their projects. Apart from Project Inclusion, which promotes the hiring of people with disability, there were Adarna House (promotes literaracy development) and HERO Foundation (donations for orphans of Army personnel).

At a personal level, I definitely am drawn to the #Refrain and Refill Project, since single use bottles are so prevalent that the problems that they create are enormous, yet they can be tackled by individuals. Plastic bottles pollute the sea as well as our food source. With #Refrain and Refill, all we need to do is carry a reusable bottle. In fact, if there are water vending machines, I think many people will not mind paying a little for the water and reduce the number of bottles discarded into the landfill or ocean.

Businesses should start seeing social returns the same way that they see economic returns, at least after they made it above survival level. That's the difference between an ordinary company and a great company, in my view.

cywong

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