Five leading companies took part in the event to highlight the importance of corporate sustainability

Five major Ecuadorean companies took part in this year’s “Sustainability at the Core of Business” panel organised by Reybanpac. During the event, which took place on 22 February, Veolia Ecuador, Unilever Ecuador, DP World Ecuador, Grupo Difare and Reybanpac reaffirmed their commitment to society, the environment and economic development.

CEOs and senior executives of the companies highlighted the fundamental role that sustainability plays in their corresponding industries. They exchanged ideas about their visions and the sustainability strategies required to achieve a higher impact.

Sustainability encompasses three dimensions: social, environmental and economic. Vicente Wong, CEO of Reybanpac, emphasised that creating value to society, environmental responsibility and the integration of the value chain in sustainability plans directly benefit an organisation’s economic performance:

“We were not present in the European market. Through important international and national certifications, we have added value to our fruit and created a differentiation that has allowed us to enter the European market and sustain ourselves over time. Today, Europe is our company’s most important market,” he explained.

On social sustainbility, Julio Ocaña, vice president of corporate affairs of the Difare group, highlighted the results of the Medicines Bank, a social project that was born in alliance with the Diakonia Food Bank: “In the 7 years of this project we have delivered more than US$4m of medicinesand reached 105,000 people in seven provinces of Ecuador. We understand that health is a fundamental axis for a sustainable future to achieve a wholesome life at all ages,” he said.

Marcos Dueñas, country manager of Unilever Ecuador, shared one of the most emblematic social projects of his organisation: an alliance between the ice cream brand Pingüino and the Municipality of Guayaquil:

“We train our ice cream carts vendors to talk about tourism in the most symbolic points of Guayaquil. The idea is to create value in the whole chain: the Municipality grants permits to sell within these tourist sites,” he said.

“In this way, customers enjoy the product, but also learn more about Guayaquil. It is a service for the city, the consumer and it is socially responsible with the vendors.”

Miguel Gómez, director of human resources and sustainability of DP World Ecuador, emphasised the importance of investing in training for the development of the company and the communities: “DP World Ecuador, together with ESPOL (Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral), managed to develop the first public university in Posorja, through two technical careers that are aligned with our line of business: mechatronics and port logistics, which mostly benefit people from the community.”

Jerome Cardineau, general director of Veolia Ecuador, commented on one of the environmental projects being carried out by Veolia Ecuador, which in turn seeks to generate a positive economic impact.

“There is a large wastewater treatment plant in Guayaquil in a area called Las Esclusas. The most traditional solution is to capture the sludge and use it as a landfill,” he said.

“That seems totally unsustainable to us. We are working in a biogas production for self-generation of energy in that plant. We are also analyzing with ESPOL the use of the captured sludge to be used for crops. This has an economic impact and at the same time has an influence on CO2 capture.”

Vicente Wong explained how Reybanpac puts the circular economy into practice: “We have collected approximately 500 tonnes of plastics in the last two years. We searched for companies in the plastic industry and encourage them to invest in machinery to convert waste into new products. The corner pieces of our export pallets are made from recycled material. This is an example of a way to integrate a business into the dynamics of sustainability”.

Wong said his organisation is also committed to reducing carbon emissions: “We have quantified the carbon sequestration until 2095 of our corporation’s forestry program with a result of 3’233,463 tonnes of CO2. In the banana business we are also working on integrated soil management. For example, with the use of microorganisms to improve the texture and organic structure of the soil, which is one of the biggest greenhouse gas capturers,” he said.

In September 2023, the five companies participating in this panel signed a commitment agreement with the objective of promoting models of sustainable economic development and social responsibility to positively influence the environment of each company’s stakeholders. Since then, in addition to their respective projects, the group has organised three discussion panels to contribute to the promotion of sustainable practices in the business world and plans more activities for 2024.

To conclude, the speakers made a joint call to all Ecuadorian companies to achieve synergies and move along the path of sustainability, whether they are small, medium or large companies and regardless of their line of business. The private sector plays a fundamental role in fighting the problems that most afflict the country, such as social inequality, insecurity, unemployment, climate change, among others.