The Business Year

Ricardo Dueñas Novoa

ECUADOR - Economy

Ricardo Dueñas Novoa

CEO, Grupo Ekos

Bio

Ricardo Dueñas Novoa is CEO of Grupo Ekos, President of Great Place To Work® Ecuador, and past president of Pacto Global – Ecuador network (two consecutive terms, 2016 to 2020). He holds a doctorate in jurisprudence from the Catholic University of Ecuador and a postgraduate degree in finance from Tecnológico de Monterrey, among other studies. Throughout his career, he has been characterized for being a businessman passionate about sustainability, an issue that has led him to produce and carry out events of the stature of Habitat III and Sustainable Ecuador. He is a pioneer in the dissemination of sustainability content through the media he manages. He was recognized with the UNITAR Global Partner Award in 2015 and in 2020 he was named Sustainable Development Goals Global Champion, awarded by UNITAR. He was recently recognized by Metro Ecuador and Metro World News as the entrepreneur who has most genuinely promoted sustainability in the country.

Grupo Ekos has been working to transmit ideals of sustainability and community to build more just societies, do business with purpose, and reduce carbon emissions.

Companies are incorporating more and more measures toward an ecological and sustainable transition. As the former president of Global Compact Ecuador, how do you see the commitment of Ecuadorian companies in this regard?

It is not an easy path. It is an issue that requires great conviction, leveraged by deep knowledge. This is what really makes people and entities, as a whole, participate in a business model that generates real market value. It also allows people to have enough tools to understand first and foremost why this is a necessity. We must ask ourselves why sustainability is not a discretionary issue and why, above all, it is good business. The market has a much more intelligent consumer base, more refined when it comes to choosing what to consume and why, which is why it is related to consumers themselves. Markets today are able to verify the traceability of products. Thus, they question who made them, under what conditions were these products produced, and what materials were used? They want to know if companies respect diversity and inclusion, if they have a good reputation, if they are actively contributing to solving the climate crisis, or if they have gender equality. In short, consumers want to know if companies incorporate sustainability within their business model. Nowadays, there is increasing talk about businesses with a purpose, businesses that have a reason for being and that are identified within three aspects: environmental, economic, and social. The traditional business model, such as those of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, will succumb over time because organizations are unaware of the need to look beyond management and profitability indicators. Undoubtedly, the triple bottom line has become fundamental. If a company does not have social, environmental, or economic indicators, it will lose its value and equity and, therefore, have difficulties in accessing capital. It will be a company that will not have any positive values for investors.

You talk passionately about pragmatic sustainability. What does that mean to you?

When we talk about sustainability, we can be tempted to be romantic and not see a middle ground. With pragmatic sustainability, I try to make people understand that you do not have to stop doing things, though you have to change the habits of how you do them. You do not have to stop producing information in companies, for example, but you require a process so that electronic waste is not generated in the cloud. Did you know the cloud could be the sixth continent because of the pollution it generates? All that information is loaded into a large memory that is on 24/7, generating enormous waste of electrical energy. If we talk about mobilization, we can look at options such as electric cars. I am looking for companies to understand that with pragmatism and few resources, changes in habits can be generated, which in turn generates a large impact. There is a great deal of talk about compensation, but what are the results if habits do not change? Many times, with the purchase of bonds there is no proper traceability or they are junk bonds. What we need to do is to change people’s mindsets.

How do you live sustainability at Grupo Ekos?

At Ekos we have a firm goal to move toward carbon neutrality by the end of the year. As an organization, we believe that we must and can move toward concrete and pragmatic actions. At the end of 2021, we decided we would work hard to promote the group’s sustainability habits and that this would be extended to the lives of our employees and their families. This year, we are working on two pillars: reducing our CO2 emissions as much as possible and offsetting what we cannot reduce. Likewise, we will continue to walk the path of sustainability, aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda. To this end, we are working on six axes: transport and mobility, waste management, diversity and inclusion, healthy lifestyle, energy management, and offsetting. We started the year with great news: the LGBT Chamber of Commerce & Tourism of Ecuador officially presented the international LGBT Friendly BE Certification to four companies and certified them as Safe and Inclusive Spaces for Workplace Diversity. One of these organizations is Grupo Ekos. In addition, we carry out the Great Place To Work® company environment measurement on an annual basis. In addition, our physical publishing products are PEFC certified, which aims to ensure that the world’s forests are managed responsibly. We also make use of oxo-degradable plastic. We have declared ourselves a single-use plastic-free organization and zero paper in our administrative actions. We also promote better use of the cloud and have several guidelines for this. These are just some of our initiatives. We are working to be a zero-carbon company that not only reduces its impact on the environment but also acts in favor of it.

What is your vision of Ecuador’s economic prospects and investment attractiveness for the 2022-2023 biennium?

There have been efforts put in place to position Ecuador as destination for investments, but the main change needs to be structural and long term to ensure the legal certainty that investments require. Investments are like tourists—they go to places where they are treated well. In this sense, Ecuador still has pending a labor reform. The fact that it has a labor force that is the most expensive in the region, accompanied by a minimum of the population (30%) with adequate employment, because 70% are in the informal sector or unemployed, generates a serious conflict. Also, there needs to be greater momentum in the elimination of the Tax on the Exit of Currency (ISD), which generates a serious issue. Moreover, Ecuador continues to attract investment in commodities-related projects. However, the real economy, which is the one where people come and buy businesses, invest capital, or develop more brands and new things, is less likely to happen. Like all Ecuadorians, I am always positive, hoping that these things will change, and we will have to wait and see what government decisions are taken in the coming months.

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