The contributions of Oscar M. Lopez

“Through these all Lopez leaves behind a legacy of love, kindness, and service that will continue to inspire others, and not just his family but Filipinos like me for generations to come”

Oscar M. Lopez (OML), patriarch of the Lopez business empire, an advocate of social justice, and an environmental advocate passed away peacefully on April 22, 2023. He was 93 years old.

I honor the man and his contributions.

As a climate and environmental justice advocate and as an educator, OML was a strong ally and supporter.

We had many common advocacies—for example a passion for forests, mountains, biological diversity, which in turn engenders a moral imperative for their protection and the commitment to address climate change decisively, by supporting work that enhance resilience of our communities and steering the Lopez group away from coal to renewable energy.

I am glad a person of OML’s wealth and stature was on our side.

Sustainability was not just a matter of corporate social responsibility for Mr. Lopez and his successors.

I have had the pleasure of reviewing the sustainability record and performance of their companies, as they report it through sustainability reports, and I can say that sustainability is a real thing for them and there is no greenwashing in their reporting.

When conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa, by the Ateneo de Manila University in 2010, Mr. Lopez acknowledged:

“Today, at the young old age of 80, I have ceded the day-to-day running of the Lopez businesses to my brother, Manolo, and to the next generation of Lopezes.

“I stay on as Chairman Emeritus of our major companies, and, in that capacity, I serve principally as custodian of the Lopez values, values that we largely inherited from my father, values by which we demand that our businesses be managed and conducted.

“We, the Lopez Family, dedicate our businesses to the service of the Filipino people. We do so, with seven core Lopez values in mind: a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit; business excellence, unity; nationalism; social justice, integrity, and concern for employee welfare and wellness.”

In the speech of Federico “Piki” Lopez, delivered on his father’s 85th birthday. the younger Lopez, chairman, and CEO of First Philippine Holdings, talked about growing up around his father, having a great appreciation for music and books, and being close to nature.

Piki also talked about the one great lesson about money and wealth he learned from his father: “that wealth can empower you to do great things, but it also carried great responsibilities, and he never believed that our happiness should ever have to revolve around its ephemeral trappings.”

And this is why after the family lost everything during Martial Law, they never lost their “sense of purpose and meaning.”

Piki concluded by quoting Benjamin Disraeli, stating his father leaves behind a legacy of a great name and a great example.

A major and lasting contribution of the Lopez patriarch is the establishment of the Oscar M. Lopez Center in 2012.

This organization with tagline Science for Climate Resilient Communities was envisioned as an institution that would support the generation of the science and technology needed for building resilient communities.

In a 2012 speech in the University of Philippines which also awarded him an honorary degree, Lopez explains the rationale for creating the OML Center: “The current level of research on the environment is absolutely minuscule relative to what is occurring. Comparing the published papers of the country’s top universities in the past year to those of the University of Singapore, there is need to level up the research capabilities in the country.”

Today, the OML Center strives to realize this goal by making sure relevant climate science cuts across sectors, rather than sitting unused on a bookshelf.

According to its mission: “We aim to work closely with the decision-makers of business and policy, the groups with the greatest capacity for sustained climate action.

“We give them the information and the tools they need to make climate-smart risk management decisions. The Center is built on the belief that no Filipino should face climate challenges unprepared.

“In arming them with up-to-date science and technology, we believe climate crises can be averted.”

In that same speech, as reported by Rappler, Mr. Lopez reflected on his life: “In this race of life, in the final analysis, there will really be no winners and losers, but only those who reach the finish line and those who do not finish.

“Run on your own capabilities, your own cadence. Pace yourself, push yourself beyond the comfort zone. . . . I will let you in a secret: As I ran my own race of life, what I saw along the way and who I came to know along the way constantly changed what I defined to be my finish line.”

Like most, Oscar M. Lopez experienced the ebb and flow of life; its high tide and low tide, he was pivotal in rebuilding the Lopez business empire after a long exile abroad.

Through the decades, the Filipino people witnessed the Lopez empire’s rise and fall.

But through these all he leaves behind a legacy of love, kindness, and service that will continue to inspire others, and not just his family but Filipinos like me for generations to come.

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