Talking corporate sustainability with this year’s ACCESS winners.
This year’s ACCESS corporate sustainability competition winners — third year students Kyra Co, Raina Gabitan, Patricia Chung, Sofia Daez, and Samantha Tangco from Ateneo de Manila University — are hella jumpy. They take IG selfies the same way they walk me through their 20-year roadmap for Shell’s future gas stations: which is to say, with verve, power, and with a lot of casual Drake references.
Seriously: these girls put the “power” in girl power. This year’s ACCESS partnered with Shell to challenge students to create smarter, and more sustainable gas stations. They dug up a 57-page (!) operations plan for a sustainable smart city in Manila Bay, which they then proceeded to deck the hell out of with a series of stations that host a lifetime’s worth of green-living tech.
We’re talking gas station roofs fitted with rainwater harvesting technology, apps that monitored customer fuel consumption, and grocery stores fitted with electrochromic glass. Oh, and a top-down supply chain model that replaced Shell’s petroleum-heavy fuel supply with hydropower and biofuels, because why not? These guys aren’t engineers by the way. They’re management and entrepreneurship majors. Take that, Gen-X neoliberalism!
We caught up with the team to talk capitalism’s future, Black Panther, and never giving up.
Young STAR: Can you guys walk us through some of the challenges you faced, arriving at your idea?
Raina: To keep this super short, it was really research. The case was so technical — we didn’t know shit, basically. And apart from that, I think a large challenge is also making time for this kind of thing.
Kyra: Yeah, and the science! Like the chemistry behind the hydrocell fuels and biofuels, and how it works inside the car and fuels it, why it’s sustainable, and looking at the architectural side, like the structure of the whole station.
So how did you guys address these issues amongst yourselves?
Raina: Research! And, really, just going beyond our ideas, and looking towards what’s best for the case-off. We all had our best ideas, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s best for the [case] model.
Sam: I think it really helped that we all got along.
Raina: Personal experience: if you’re with people you don’t know, it’s really hard to be super blunt.
Pat: It’s super critical to keep challenging your ideas and keeping your ideas. That’s how you make strong ideas. It’s super important to look at things from an objective standpoint and find a devil’s advocate.
As business majors, we’re often taught that the main objective of any business is to maximize profit and shareholder value. In your view, how does corporate sustainability fit into that picture?
Kyra: Instinct tells us that you start a business because you want profit, because you want to earn money. Corporate sustainability changes that perspective by making us look at the bigger picture, by taking everything into consideration, and by making sure all stakeholders are well taken care of, in all aspects.
Pat: A lot of business firms forget that we need to keep innovating to survive. And if your goal is just profit, you’re not going to go anywhere. You won’t last two years. When someone comes up with something better, faster, cheaper, you’re out.
Okay, from a corporate sustainability standpoint, how viable is vibranium as a natural resource?
Kyra: I don’t think it’s viable.
Sofia: It’s not renewable. The world population just keeps increasing. Commercial industries keep increasing. So if we use vibranium, it just gets wiped out. And if it gets in the hands of the wrong people, things could get really dangerous.
Raina: Maybe it should be kept a secret. Or withheld. Like, maybe a more sustainable company that can control this thing for the right reasons. Or the government. I mean, it has so much potential!
Pat: Well, like any other resource, you just have to think about how you’re gonna use it, how you’re gonna consume it, and its impact on the environment. And I guess, you decide from there.
Raina: Wakanda forever!
Any advice you can give to students who aspire to join future case competitions? A lot of students are super into it, but many of them don’t know what to do.
Pat: Oh! Confidence. You have to really own your ideas. Don’t be afraid.
Sofia: Structure your thoughts.
Raina: Research like fuck! Like, quote me on that. Data runs the world, man. If you’re banking on the wrong data, then sure lose ka na.
Kyra: Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean it will work. I think it’s also good to present to someone else with fresh eyes before the actual presentation mismo. Strengthen your idea by looking for all its weaknesses. And know the company. You may answer the question, but if it’s not aligned with the company’s vision…wala.