Featured in Manila Standard: Communicating sustainability: the language of 21st Century business

manilastandard logo

This article was originally published in manilastandard.net.

As an AB Literature student, it was clear to Harris Guevarra that he would be landing a career in the academe. But 15 years after he graduated from De La Salle University, he is heading his own company and leading a team of twenty plus.

The young entrepreneur’s path started in GMA network. “I was part of the team that was like the in-house advertising agency of the network. I created the strategy of the campaigns, then copywriting up to production,” he said.

Some of his commercials reaped accolades, like “Isa-Isa Kong Boto” which won the Singapore Apollo Award in 2008. After four years, he moved to a small advertising firm, got involved in its daily operations and realized that he could replicate the business and venture on his own.

So he did. In 2010, Drink was born initially, as a creative agency. “We were doing the usual below-the-line advertising materials: brochures, pamphlets, flyers,” he said.

Then in 2013, they were requested by a client to produce a sustainability report. “I studied how it’s done and I developed a passion for sustainability.” The following year, Drink decided to focus on helping corporations become sustainable by helping them write their sustainability reports. Now it is the core product of Drink.

Drink has made sustainability reports for top corporations, NGOs and government agencies. Clients include Ayala Corp., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (including subsidiaries Maynilad, Philex Mining and PXP), Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Universal Robina Corp, Aboitiz Group, First Philippine Holdings (including subsidiaries First Gen Corporation and Energy Development Corporation) and Megaworld Corp.

It also did reports for Unionbank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines, UNICEF, Philippine Competition Commission, Wholesale Electricity Stock Market, Team Energy, San Roque Power Corporation, Philippine National Oil Company, Health Policy Development Program and Forest Foundation of the Philippines.

Sustainability reporting is important to know the real issues of the company’s stakeholders, for crisis management to avoid any disruption in operations. It is also for branding and reputation because customers are becoming more conscious of the products that they buy, how they are sourced.

“Millennials in particular, trust companies that are sustainable,” said Guevarra who also holds a certificate in Business Sustainability Management from the University of Cambridge.“

But we believe that real change can happen when businesses go beyond reporting. You have to activate sustainability. The reports are for investors, if you really want to communicate sustainability, you have to be more creative and use different platforms,” he said.

Drink strategizes and produces internal and external business communications. Some samples of what they’ve produced are a sustainability report in graphic novel form for Team Energy.  For Energy Development Corp., they explained the basics of geothermal energy through a romantic story depicted in comics–which was translated into several dialects―and via podcasts (radioseryes).

They also came up with a modest video contest for amateur directors, expounding on the theme, “Sa Geothermal May Forever.”

For Guevarra, what they do is not simply for profit. “I believe we have a role to play, to convince everybody to be sustainable because sustainability is the new trend in business. I call it the language of 21st Century business,” he said.“

It changed the definition of success for a company. If before, you can say that you’re successful if you’re hitting your financial targets, nowadays, that’s just one aspect. In sustainability, you also have to look at the social performance of the company. You have to look at environmental impacts. And all these are tied to your policies and management approach,” he said. “

I want to rally the big Filipino brands. Those in food and fashion, the ones we encounter daily. I want to know what’s in the meal I eat and where the fabric I’m wearing comes from. They’re customer-facing and their impact is so big. They can make changes for themselves but they can also educate their customers,” Guevarra said.