Alberta Group Director Liz Barbaro Sant has stressed that sustainability does not solely focus on the environment, but it is also delves into the need to future-proof businesses.
She was speaking during the Family Business Forum, an event co-hosted by Ganado Advocates and Zampa Debattista recently. The forum brought together various professionals and governance specialists to discuss different perspectives on how important strong governance is when it comes to establishing value for family businesses. One of the panels, moderated by Zampa Debattista Partner Mark Wirth, featured Ms Barbaro Sant, Ganado Advocates Partner Annalise Papa, MCESD Chairman David Xuereb, and APS Bank Senior Manager Matthew Swain as panellists. The panel discussions focused on environment, social and governance (ESG) and corporate governance, and how these elements impact businesses.
At one point during the discussion, Mr Wirth asked Ms Barbaro Sant, who has spent more than 30 years at Alberta Group, one of Malta’s largest family businesses, about what encouraged the company to join the ESG Alliance.
Last year, 13 businesses joined forces in a bid to improve ESG in Malta. It is a private sector initiative that aims to tackle the country’s ESG issues by enabling its members to share insights, expertise, and best practices.
Ms Barbaro Sant said that when she first heard of ESG, she knew it was an “evolution” of Alberta Group’s values. When Perit Xuereb, who heads the ESG Alliance, approached her to join, she believed that businesses “must advocate for change”, and the alliance gave them a platform to “help each other and achieve the long-term benefits”.
“Governance is very important because you’re safeguarding the employment of the team and the business. We have a duty and a moral responsibility to safeguard the environment for future generations and safeguard a business that’s been set up,” she remarked.
She said that for some businesses, the word sustainability is used “a bit too loosely” by referring to just the environment, when “it should also refer to social and governance”.
“The word sustainability implies that you need to ensure that you have governance and continuity, as we need to future proof businesses,” Ms Barbaro Sant continued.
This is especially important for family businesses, where the family members and the business are so tied to one another. Business leaders must consider the implications that certain decisions have on the team and their own families. She stressed that a family business owner has a moral responsibility towards both their families and the business’ team to keep the business alive and profitable.
“Policymakers are critical, but at the end of the day, businesses are the ones that need to operate and implement measures,” Ms Barbaro Sant stated.
Mr Wirth then shifted to Mr Swain, who through his banking perspective, said that the “majority” of APS’s green book is made up of home loans, but there is also a “pretty sizeable” commercial book which is designated as green. This indicates that businesses are becoming more willing to go for practices which are more environmentally-conscious, such as photovoltaic panels and green projects.
“Not all of them are large companies. The loan amounts we have, some starting from just €20,000 to €50,000, show that we’re engaging with small businesses,” he said.
Mr Swain, who joined the bank last year, remarked that APS Bank currently has to “take stock” of who it has lent to, and thus it has to speak to larger businesses first.
“Family businesses need to get ahead of the competition. We’re seeing a lot of financial instruments which incentivise supply chains,” he added.
Alberta Group Director Liz Barbaro Sant / LinkedIn