“We have to address the new demands, which are a consequence of not having understood that it was necessary to make adequate progress in the first place”

Former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos described the situation currently facing Chile and the world as “the biggest crisis of them all”.  He wasn’t just talking about the coronavirus, but also the problems that came before like climate change and unaddressed social demands. Convinced that companies must be part of a paradigm shift toward sustainably addressing the crisis, the former president attended the release of the CMPC 2020 Comprehensive Report. It was presented by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CMPC Companies, Luis Felipe Gazitúa and General Manager Francisco Ruiz-Tagle.  

The president explained at the meeting that during the industrial revolution many believed in “the idyllic notion that the planet was at our disposal.”  However, he added that during the transition from the industrial to the digital revolution, human beings started realizing that the planet was finite and that things had to change and be treated sustainably. 

“We were dealing with that challenge when a pandemic appeared on the world stage, which has situated human beings differently. Nobody ever imagined that we would have one, two, or three billion human beings locked inside their homes because we were unable to have a preventive vaccine in a short time to eliminate this virus that spread throughout the world with such rapidity,” said Lagos. 

The former president said that the current moment is crucial. In such a context, how do things stand in Chile? “It is essential that we reactivate the economy while understanding that although economic growth is important, the way in which employment is addressed is even more important,” he told authorities and CMPC collaborators who remotely participated in the release.   

Specifically, Lagos said, “The way to approach employment is to look for the mechanisms by which we are going to make investments, which also connect to one of the 17 Millennium Goals of the United Nations.  This agreement brings together all the countries of the world and guides them on how the planet should be in 2030 and how this may be achieved as of that year in a sustainable way that also respects the environment.  

“The challenge was clear prior to the pandemic. We had to keep growing. However, out of the 10 million people who had been employed, now half of these Chilean workers are either unemployed or have radically reduced incomes,” he added.  


The active role of companies in facing this crisis

Convinced of the essential role played by companies in offering jobs with organizations that adhere to the Millenium Goals, Lagos pointed out the progress made by CMPC laid out in the 2020 Comprehensive Report. Specifically, the text has transparent, measurable and useful information in terms of environmental, social and financial sustainability developed over the last year.

One of the achievements highlighted in the CMPC 2020 report is the progress of 64.2% toward the goal of adding 100,000 hectares of land under conservation and/or protection by 2030 to the already 320,000 hectares the company has set aside for these purposes. Progress has also been made on the goal of being a zero waste company by 2025 to the tune of 28.6% and a 21.2% reduction of the total 50% target reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

Ricardo Lagos’ participation in the release of the CMPC Comprehensive Report was not happenstance. CMPC Companies President Luis Felipe Gazitúa stated that the former president along with the company anticipated the challenges that would be coming in future decades. “He warned us about it 21 years ago when as the President of the Republic he participated in the 80th anniversary of our company. At that time he said to us, “We have to figure out how the forestry industry can become environmentally friendly,” recalled Gazitúa. 

CMPC General Manager Francisco Ruiz-Tagle said, “At this company, we understand sustainability to be a comprehensive process. That is why we talk about having a sustainability culture that becomes a part of our internal culture when it comes to training around best practices or externally in terms or rural fire prevention and community support.”

Regarding the Report, former president Lagos noted that the text serves as evidence that companies can create and use new ways to manage and conduct operations.  “This is the best way to understand how we should proceed. When a company does what it is doing, then it means that we are on the right path. This company has taken the best of multilateralism at a global level and has said ´I can also contribute’,” said Ricardo Lagos. 

Along these lines, Luis Felipe Gazitúa said, “We understand and recognize that this is about challenges that require a new conception of companies. That is why at CMPC we are ready to be a protagonist in these processes.  Based on everything that we have built, we are certain that we should be the architects of a new forestry industry, and that is what we’re working toward.”

Furthermore, Francisco Ruiz-Tagle affirmed, “We have the goal of increasing the recuperation of biodiversity within and outside of CMPC’s assets, avoiding the degradation of ecosystems and encouraging the functions that they provide to society as well as boosting the essential role that natural and cultural preserves provide, be it part of CMPC’s holdings or otherwise.” 

The challenges exposed by the pandemic

In addition to the sustainability challenges where CMPC has made progress, former president Lagos explained that in Chile there have also been some difficulties unconnected to the pandemic and global warming that have been brought into the light of day by this crisis. 

He pointed out that efforts have been made in this direction such as the approval of the SME bonuses and emergency family income. He added, however, that they’ve arrived “a little late”. “If we had done this same thing earlier, we’d be in a different situation right now,” he stressed. He said that today’s priority is “to recover the trust that the citizenry has lost.” 

The former president stated that there were “situations that had been getting pushed aside for a long time and that exploded on October 18th in 2019” since before the pandemic. As a result, Lagos said, “We have to address the new demands, which are a consequence of not having understood that it was necessary to make adequate progress in the first place.”  

As part of the recovery of trust, the former president optimistically views the constitutional assembly process happening in Chile and supports the role of the constituents. “No one can say that these 155 assembly members do not represent the spirit of the country. These 155 Chileans are expressing the demands and how the country should be built.” 

Thus, he concluded that in the short term Chile has two challenges; how to reactivate the economy specifically in terms of jobs and how the constitutional assembly will function.