Bernardo M. Villegas
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published: Mar 31, 2017



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Role Model for Social Entrepreneurship

           Last February 16, 2012, I was supposed to have given the Opening Remarks in a Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Asia and the Pacific.  Unfortunately, my mother--Isabel Malvar Villegas--died the day before and so I could not deliver the remarks.  My assignment was to reflect on the exemplary professional and personal life of the late Raul Hernandez, social entrepreneur par excellence, in my opening remarks.  I decided to put in writing what I had  intended to say so that I can still pay tribute to this role model that I would like to present to all the young professionals who are contemplating a career in social entrepreneurship.

          Raul Hernandez, who passed away last March 4, 2011, was a Chemical Engineering graduate from the University of Sto. Tomas.  He spent all his professional life with the San Miguel Corporation, rising from the position of a cadet engineer to the highest position of the President of the San Miguel Packaging Corporation.  The first quality in which he excelled, which prepared him for his eventual career as a social entrepreneur, was his utmost professionalism in everything that he did.  His bosses at San Miguel Corporation recognized his very good work habits, especially his attention to details, and his outstanding supervisory skills.  His rise to top management was almost meteoric, especially after he took some advanced management courses at Harvard Business School.  The seeds of social entrepreneurship were already being planted in his management style when he knew how to focus on both consumer and employee welfare as the first requirements of corporate social responsibility.   His focus on consumer and employee welfare was notable, considering that he belonged to a generation of business managers who were steeped in the language of Management by Objectives (MB0) based on an over-emphasis on rate of returns (ROIs) and revenue objectives.   His management philosophy always gave the utmost priority to labor over capital.  That is why, when he reached the top of management ladder at the SMC-Yamamura Packaging Plant, he developed a long-term post-retirement plan for the employees who were due for "right-sizing" (euphemism for downsizing).  He made it clear to the Board of Directors of his company that it was not sufficient to guarantee the employees who were being downsized the most generous separation packages.  Several years before retirement, the employees should be given all the training and education needed to prepare them for their future careers and post-retirement lives.

          Raul Hernandez was already a social entrepreneur before he left corporate life.  The most important characteristic of a social entrepreneur is the conviction that any business—whether for profit or not for profit--must have as the primary mission the total human development of the key stakeholders of any business, such as consumers, rank-and-file workers, management staff, the immediate community, and the public at large, in addition to the stockholders and other funds providers.  It was always obvious to him that CSR was not fundamentally about "extra-curricular activities", such as fighting global warming, caring for the environment or protecting cultural minorities.  No matter how important these social objectives may be, the first social responsibility of a corporation is to its immediate employees and its consumers.

          I got close to Raul when I started working with him in a program to train his SMC employees on starting small businesses that they could put up after their retirement from SMC.  He left no stone unturned in looking for all possible sectors of the economy in which the employees could find opportunities to start their enterprises.  There were also seminars on health, physical fitness and spiritual development for the employees and their families to emphasize the importance of the integral human development of the individual.  There was always the basic principle that labor is not just a factor of production but a human being that must be helped to attain his or her fullest personal development.

          That is why the moment he himself retired as a corporate executive, he immediately plunged into a wide array of technical training programs, microcredit enterprises, social housing projects, and rural development initiatives in cooperation with for-profit and not-for-profit institutions.  His first major activity benefited from his expertise in the field of packaging which he culled during his last years at SMC.  In fact, he was such a global figure in the packaging industry that he was the head of a world purchasing association, meriting for him an honorary doctorate from a Russian university.  All his knowledge and experiences in this industry literally helped start a revolution in the small and medium-scale sector of the food processing industry.  Working closely with the Department of Science and Technology, he was all over the Philippines putting packaging centers to modernize the packaging of such native delicacies as polvoron, turron, pastillas de leche, chicharon, piyaya, dried mangoes, dried fish and a host of processed food products that could now be marketed in the most sophisticated supermarkets here and abroad, finally becoming competitive with similar products coming from Thailand and other Asian countries.    The most famous of these food products came from the province of Bulacan, that became famous for the Tatak Bulaqueno brand.

          Raul also became very active in technical training programs with the Dualtech Foundation and the Center for Industrial and Enterprise (CITE)--two of the leading technical schools put up by the private sector in the country.  He also had time for the Family Farm School and the Foundation for People Development, whose focus was on the training of the children of farmers.  He also made time for the poorest of the poor, the subsistence fishermen in such depressed islands as Samar. He was the consummate human resource motivator.  When the male fishermen stopped working after earning what they considered sufficient for basic survival, preferring instead to spend their extra time on drinking and gambling, he started to distribute catalogues of the most attractive household appliances and other consumer goods to the wives of the fishermen.  The wives took care of remotivating their husbands to set their sights on higher incomes in order to obtain for their wives the goods they read about in the catalogues.

          When God called Raul to His presence, our model social entrepreneur was very busy helping the top management of PHILEX mines to formulate a long-term plan for the PHILEX community to train their households in all types of skills and enterprises that will replace the employment opportunities in the mine once the mineral ores are exhausted in less than a decade.  Thanks to his inspiration, PHILEX was one of the socially responsible mining firms that had a strong commitment to the long-term welfare of its employees and their families.  Long after the last gold and copper ores are mined out, the community surrounding PHILEX will have a thriving economy based on tourism, retirement villages, high-value crops, food processing and other SMEs that can be put up by the retirees and their relatives who have been duly prepared for retirement by the team trained by Raul Hernandez.  One very clear measure of the effectiveness of a social entrepreneur is the long-term impact of what he does on the generations to come.  Raul will surely pass this test of effectiveness.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.