Aitken Spence: Integrated sustainability for long-term value

Friday, 17 June 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Best Corporate Citizens Review is a fortnightly series of reviewing some of the best corporate citizens in Sri Lanka by Daily FT in partnership with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

AT Aitken Spence PLC, the focus is not on short-term, philanthropic projects where the results are also short-lived. A more strategic approach to sustainable development that aims at delivering more long-term value to their stakeholders is what it believes in.

Its approach to corporate to sustainability is comprehensive. Aitken Spence believes that for any organisation to be sustainable, it needs to encourage innovation; be attuned to global concerns and trends; regularly review organisation performance and improve quality of products and services; enhance processes for talent management; comply with relevant laws and regulations and ethics of the company and ensure compliance to the same within the supply chain; consider both positive and negative impacts and contemplate stakeholder views and suggestions when making business decisions; ensure information security; provide a safe and healthy workplace for the employees and establish extensive risk management procedures; manage internal and external communications; be transparent in the operations of the company; and promote the protection of human rights; while also conserving the environment they work in and developing the local communities.

To address all these aspects, Aitken Spence has an integrated sustainability policy which is supported by a tier-based action plan that guides its subsidiaries to implement the policy’s most basic requirements and improve on them.

Each clause of the policy is supported by sub clauses and action points where implementation of tier I action points are mandatory to all subsidiaries to ensure basic requirements are met in all aspects.

Tiers II onwards, with increasing complexity with the tier levels, are optional to the subsidiaries to implement based on the nature of their work and the impact of each aspect to their stakeholders.

As such you will find subsidiaries of Aitken Spence taking on projects to enable environmental conservation, create awareness on human rights, establish procedures to encourage innovative thinking, update legal registers to monitor compliance, conduct learning programmes to enhance the skills of the workforce and disclose on the projects carried out.

The beneficiaries in mind include shareholders, employees, customers, business partners, neighbouring communities, suppliers and the State. The results are impressive; improved performance, greater awareness of global issues, integration of global standards/ policies, a more productive working environment, mitigation of environmental damage, creation of employment opportunities and improvement of local industries are some of the key achievements.

The group companies have managed to reduce their energy consumption with pioneers such as Heritance Kandalama and Heritance Tea Factory achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions through the use of bio mass gasifier and Elpitiya Plantations contributing to this by establishing mini hydro power projects. Ace Power Generation managed to save energy purely by improving the efficiency of the equipment and by reducing waste.

100% of the discharged water is treated and reused at the Aitken Spence Hotels and Elpitiya Plantations is planning on introducing a water treatment plant. The new Aitken Spence building on Vauxhall Street also uses grey water collected from rain water harvesting to fill the cisterns.

Segregation of waste has been practiced at Aitken Spence companies for many years since Heritance Kandalama launched its ambitious plan to become plastic free. While this objective is slowly being achieved, it has become 100% garbage free. Waste resources have now become a source of income.

Developing local communities by addressing their most pressing needs has been a priority for all subsidiaries. Embilipitiya power plant has provided access to fresh drinking water for their communities by building water tanks while Ace Power Generation Matara has contributed by developing their infrastructure.

Embilipitiya power plant also maintains a herb garden, which has become a valuable source of environmental learning to neighbourhood school children. While many power plants chase away the bees due to the noise generated, Embilipitiya power plant can boast of maintaining the environment so well that bee hives can be found barely 100 m away from the plant.

Aitken Spence Travels has been creating employment opportunities by educating chauffeur guides and tour guides as well as by facilitating home stays from foreign visitors with local families thereby letting local communities benefit from their business opportunities while letting overseas visitors experience Sri Lankan culture.  

In keeping with global standards, the company tries to maintain communication on progress to United Nations Global Compact, of which Aitken Spence PLC is an active member. Aitken Spence plays a prominent role in the local network and was also one of the first companies in the world to endorse the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Aitken Spence takes sustainability reporting very seriously and has focused on building capacity internally to make the process more sustainable. Last year, the Group Report was upgraded to a self-claimed C level as per the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Framework and the Hotel Holdings Report to a self-claimed B level entirely through internal capacity.

The Aitken Spence priority is to make sure it can sustain a successful business. In living the brand, Aitken Spence strives to be reliable, friendly, warm, maintain integrity and honesty, be genuine, transparent and inspire confidence and always go the extra mile and a half to provide service to the best of its ability.