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On medical missions, solar energy, and eco-friendly products

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SHARON DECAPIA, Senior AVP for Marketing, PR & Sustainability of Watsons

IN LIGHT of changing sustainability priorities within Watsons, the beauty and pharmacy chain of the A.S. Watson Group has added the phrase “Do good” to their slogan, “Look Good, Feel Great.”

In a group interview with Sharon Decapia, Watsons Senior AVP for Marketing, PR & Sustainability on March 7 at S Maison in the SM Mall of Asia complex, their sustainability goals for the rest of the year were shared, resting on pillars of people, product, and planet.

Discussing the “people pillar,” she said that aside from health and wellness initiatives for Watson’s employees, the company also supports Operation Smile, an organization which helps people with corrective surgeries for cleft conditions. In a medical mission last October, they sponsored 60 surgeries. According to a company press release, “Watsons Philippines’ goal is to perform 3,300 corrective surgeries on children with cleft conditions in the country alone by 2030.”

Watsons also has other medical missions in other fields: Ms. Decapia said that they will increase their number of medical missions this year to eight, from last year’s five, with the first one to be held in Tacloban, and the next in Tagbilaran. There, they will distribute free medicines and host free medical consultations, with added services like hair, skin, and bone analysis. “We’re a health and beauty company,” said Ms. Decapia. “It makes sense that we also extend free medical consultations and free medicines to these vulnerable communities that don’t have access.”

As for products and the planet, she noted that 34 of their stores are now powered by solar energy, and there are plans to have 100 of them running on solar power by the end of this year. Eighty percent of their stores (1,114 in the Philippines by her last count) have switched to paper bags (while the remaining plastics used are biodegradable) and they plan to increase the number of items in their sustainable line (qualified by environmentally friendly packaging or ingredients) to 13% from last year’s 11%, with a goal to hit 15% in 2025. They have also managed to collect 100,000 kilos of plastic in recycling bins in-store since 2021. 

Ms. Decapia spoke about the profitability of sustainability: while the goals are great, they’re still a business, and the sustainability model should allow a business to operate, well, sustainably, in order to keep the trend of responsible consumerism going. For them, their goals affect both their marketing and consumption efforts.

“We have a specific group that monitors the actual savings in terms of electricity consumption and the corresponding peso savings,” she said. According to her, the investment in installing the solar panels and the other equipment is recovered in three to four years, and the succeeding years reflect savings.

Their research has showed that their market is primarily composed of Gen Zs and Millennials. “They are actually the generation that seeks for more sustainable options. That’s what we’re giving,” said Ms. Decapia.

On that note, their research also shows that a barrier that keeps consumers from adopting sustainable products and lifestyles is the perception of cost: buying with morals in mind can be expensive. “That’s what we wanted to debunk. At Watsons, you can have a range of options,” she said.

“Long term, of course we recognize the benefit,” she said of sustainable practices. “This is our planet. We need to be able to make sure that we get what we need now, but we also want to make sure that the future generation would be able to get what they need as well.”

Add to their store count, they plan to open 80 more shops by the end of this year. The renovations for their new flagship store in SM Mall of Asia (which might become the biggest in Asia, although Ms. Decapia said that the exact measurements are still pending) are almost complete, and it is set to reopen.

Paraphrasing Luke 12:48, Ms. Decapia said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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