Our Legacy of Social Responsibility; (Speech Delivered at the Asian Forum 2006 on Corporate Social Responsibility Held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Quezon City, on September 25-26, 2006.)
Byline: OSCAR M. LOPEZ Chairman, Lopez Group of Companies
I ARRIVED just last Saturday from an unforgettable trip to Monaco, when, on September 21, or last Thursday, the Lopez Family was chosen as one of three recipients of the IMD-Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch Distinguished Family Business Award for "collective family philanthropy". The awards dinner and ceremonies that took place at the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel was preceded by a cocktail party given by Prince Albert II, at his palace located on the highest hill of Monaco. There he received and congratulated the three award winners, namely the three families from Canada, Spain and the Philippines, and greeted the other 400 guests invited for the occasion. What made this occasion memorable to me was because this was the first time the Lopez family and Lopez Group of Companies have been given some recognition beyond the shores of the Philippines for philanthropic work we have done in this country.
There were two guiding principles for the Award. The first is that philanthropy is a responsibility that strengthen family business talent. The second is that the philanthropy must be multigenerational in character, "recognizing the generosity and creativity of family businesses who have been able to hand down this social responsibility to the younger generations." This last point is what I want to talk about today.
What I would like to do this morning is to elaborate briefly on the history of the multigenerational Lopez social responsibility initiatives so that this Asian CSR Forum can have a specific example of how one family developed its CSR philosophy and values over time and how this CSR philosophy has been put to practice by several generation of Lopezes.
The founder of our family, Basilio Lopez, was born in the early 1800's; he lived and prospered in Jaro, then a leading municipality of Iloilo Province that was separate from the adjoining town which was later to become Iloilo City. Little of his biographical information has been found in the spare historical records of the period, but we do know that he was prominent enough to have been appointed "Cabeza de Barangay", or district leader and local tax collector, and subsequently, "Gobernadorcillo" or Mayor of Jaro. The Lopez Family tradition of public service, then, began with the very founder of the clan.
The central second-generation Lopez figure during the latter half of the 19th century was the first Eugenio Lopez, who was also the first in the family to receive a university education at the University of Santo Tomas in the 1850s. He was also one of the the earliest pioneers in largescale sugar growing and milling in the islands of Negros. But he was more than just an entrepreneur. He also became involved in the civic and political life of his hometown in Jaro. Like his father before him, Eugenio also became Cabeza de Barangay and then Mayor of Jaro and he pioneered the implementation of a free elementary public school system for the underprivileged. He also went after the widespread practice of debt peonage in the town, in defiance of the very landlord class to which he belonged. Eugenio was a man driven by strong philosophical beliefs and it was from him that the Lopez family's sense of social responsibility and noblesse oblige may be said to have originated. He believed in the dignity of the common man and the redemptive value of education in improving the lot of his countryman.
Then, in 1878, a severe drought and locust infestation devastated Panay island's rice crop, resulting in widespread famine. Although he was no longer Gobernadorcillo, Eugenio took it upon himself to lead a Lopez family relief operation, together with his brother Claudio, distributing rice and money to the countless famine victims who flocked to their homes for assistance. This must have been one of the earliest CSR initiatives in our recorded history.
This duality in the character of Capitan Eugenio as big time entrepreneur accumulating a lot of land and wealth on the one hand and a leader with a strong sense of social responsibility and the public good on the other - would reappear in future generations of Lopezes. …