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This article was originally published in The Manila Times.

Young CEO talks about creative agency’s focus on sustainability reports

Everybody can spread a message around. It’s how unique the delivery that will make it stand out.

Drink Sustainability Communications, which claims to be the only one of its kind, takes pride in being a creative agency focusing on sustainability. In other words, it is spreading the message in a way that should be easily absorbed by the target audience.

“We do practically everything a creative agency does, only our focus is sustainability. So beyond the sustainability report, we’re making microsites, social media posts, AVPs, radioserye, brochures, info kits, you name it,” shared its President and CEO Harris Guevarra.

With that, Drink delivers for its clients some sustainability reports that encourage them to take stock of their operations for the purpose of ensuring its positive effect to where it is due. It gathers data, extract stories from that data, and communicate all these to further a company’s progress.

Even more, it brings in experts from the outside to weigh in on the data and make necessary recommendations to hasten such goal.

Taking off from the textbook definition of sustainability, Drink is tapping in on today’s generation’s way of doing or embracing things to advance its cause.

Guevarra explained: “This is the new trend, the language of 21st century business. 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.”

Founded in 2010, Drink took off doing the usual below-the-line advertising materials like brochures, pamphlets, and flyers. Three years later, Ayala Land, Inc. asked for help with their 2013 report and that led to Guevarra and his lean-but-mean team craft a study emphasizing on sustainability. From thereon they have been focusing on sustainability communications.

A sustainability report is said to be a collection of data disclosures and stories. One reports on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance; discusses financials but in terms of company stability and how much of revenue is redistributed.

The most commonly used set of standard is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Framework.

The standards or performance indicators in the report depend on what the client and its stakeholders intend to discuss.

“Sustainability allows you to be very transparent,” Guevarra claimed: “In preparing the sustainability report, you have to be compliant with the standards and they’re very specific. And because you need to be compliant, your internal working group will have to meet all the requirements for disclosure. That’s where the self-check happens, that’s where they really see the situation of the company.”

He further noted: “Maybe you want to talk about diversity: what is the ratio of men to women in the company? Do you have a policy for LGBT? Do you employ PWDs? You can talk about safety, environment, policy on risk management… It’s a complete picture.”

The whole process usually takes six months, including orientation, discussion with CEO and the top management, and a Sustainability 101 workshop where all department heads from all plants, subsidiaries, and business units are gathered in one room to discuss sustainability, its meaning and why it’s necessary.

To take a glance on its accomplishments, Drink provided sustainability reports for top corporations, NGOs, and government agencies. The list includes, among others, Ayala, 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 Corp. and Energy Development Corp.) and Megaworld Corp.

Guevarra stressed, “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 can make changes for themselves but they can also educate their customers.”

He added: “I believe we have a role to play, to convince everybody to be sustainable. The stories in the sustainability reports show that it can be done and has been done. They also show that you can always improve. Our main goal really is not for you to just produce a good report but for you to practice sustainability on a daily basis.”