BPI’s Lunch and Learn series introduces BPI employees to the ins and outs of sustainable living.

By Yvette Tan

Last year, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) announced its initiative to help fight climate change. Part of this has involved the bank spearheading a series of talks on how BPI employees can help the environment in their own way.

Called the Lunch and Learn series, the talks are geared towards sustainable issues. “We are trying to reach out to employees of the bank to let them understand what sustainability is,” says BPI Sustainability Officer Cathy Hofileña. We thought of putting it into topics that are not too academic, very easily understandable, and also applicable to (the regular citizen), because we are trying to do a greater push towards sustainability for the bank, and we understand that the employees are actually our first clients.”

“We injected interesting topics which they can relate (to like)) travel, purchasing, and in the future probably, urban gardening,” adds fellow Sustainability Officer Janelle Monsanto.

Tips on Sustainable Shopping

Two sessions had already been conducted at the time of the interview. The first one was a talk on micro-consumption at home given by Jen Horn of Muni Market, a weekend market focused on sustainable living. “She gave the employees a background on the effects of consumerism to the planet (and) waste production,” Hofileña says. “She explained what’s happening (in the environment), what can be done (about it), and also tips on living sustainability.”

Lunch and Learn on Mindful Consumption with Jen Horn.

The biggest takeaway is that “it’s a growing process and that we should aim for progress and not for perfection.” “It’s also very important to surround yourself with people we could learn from in terms of sustainability. I think, it’s a good starter because it makes sustainability less daunting. So that was a good start for us,” Hofileña adds.

Traveling with a Cause

The second talk was given by social entrepreneur Raf Dionisio, who talked about the three initiatives that he’s part of, namely MAD Travel, The Plastic Solution, and Need for Seed. MAD Travel is a travel and adventure company that partners with small communities to offer travelers uniquely local experiences. The Plastic Solution is a movement of repurposing plastic bottles by stuffing the bottles with non-biodegradable wastes to be used as fillers in construction. Need for Seed is, as Dioniso puts it, a “table to farm movement that will work with farmers to help them become stewards of the land.” His message: that the very act of traveling–of relaxing and having fun–when done mindfully, can also help small communities. “He said that travelling with a cause can make a difference,” Hofileña says.

Lunch and Learn on Sustainable Travel with Raf Dionisio.

More, Please!

And of course, since this is lunch, there is food. Sustainably sourced, of course. “Our lunch and learn series involves organic meals from Melendres Farm, a partner of Organic Options (a winner of the BPI Sinag Awards, which offers a cash prize to deserving social enterprise startups),” Monsanto says. And, we also feature different social enterprises, like Accents and Petals for our decor, and then for our giveaways we also involved Bayani Brew (iced tea). We are trying to walk the talk.”

The talks have been a success. “Based on the evaluation we got, they’re asking for more sessions,” Monsanto says. “It’s also a welcome breather for our employees who mostly focus on their financials or their targets.”

The speaker’s layman approach also helped. “I think we got their interest,” she adds. ”We usually accept around 80 employees. For the registration, we get more than a hundred, and that inspires us to do more.”

The audience at the Lunch and Learn talk.

Sustainability’s Role in Banking

Living sustainably is important, even to banking. “As a bank, we play a major role in sustainability. We finance different projects that influence the society or the environment. More than that, sustainability is important even not as a bank, (but also) as an individual, (especially) if you get to practice every day,” Monsanto says. “It’s what we call ‘create and shared value,’ where we are meeting our financial targets (and) getting profits, but at the same time, our products and services cater to those unbanked (individuals without bank accounts, usually the needy), and of course has a positive influence on the environment (We have a mobile app which reduces our carbon footprints, [for example]). In a way, we are also targeting the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit, just to make sure that we are profitable but also very sustainable.”

The talks aren’t open to the public, but anyone who wants to check out the bank’s sustainability reports can do so anytime. “If the public is interested, we publish our sustainability reports on the website, which can be easily accessed,” Hofileña says. “They can see how the bank performs on its sustainable development goals.”