For the greater good

Thursday, 4 November 2010 06:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Best Corporate Citizen Awards presented by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) underscores the importance of sustainable development

By Uditha Jayasinghe

The Best Corporate Citizen Awards presented last night by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) focused on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of companies that had performed exceptionally to include sustainability into their businesses. The awards were presented at a glittering ceremony at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo with a host of notable invitees.     

Look inward

Munasinghe Institute for Development Chairman and Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Manchester, UK Prof. Mohan Munasinghe delivering the keynote address emphasized that the private sector have been handed a larger amount of responsibility since there is a notable lack of political will directed towards sustainable development world over but that they nonetheless have the power to make a difference.

 The bubble of growth is consuming more than the earth can regenerate and he pointed out that climate change is just one manifestation of the problem. How these changes are dealt with is through adaptation as well as reducing consumption. The human race has taken for granted the ability to construct a wall around a rising sea or marginally reducing emissions but Prof. Munasinghe insisted that these measures will not sort out the larger problems that affect the poorest communities.

“At the moment we know what needs to be done. We need to reduce emissions and despite a positive start have been sliding backwards ever since ending with the debacle of the Copenhagen Climate Summit last year.” Without new discoveries if deforestation, energy consumption and other factors are controlled then it can also reduce poverty and protect vulnerable people, thus meeting all goals. New discoveries while assisting in the battle are not essential to address sustainability needs.   

Urging the world to learn from its mistakes he insisted that the bailout plans should have been used for more sustainable investment- in most western countries the percentage was less than 10% that was used for sustainability savvy businesses. “The private sector is right in the middle of the problem,” he explained adding that these issues cannot be dealt with piecemeal. Climate change, poverty, and millennium development goals are all inter-connected and finding a solution for one minimizes the effects of the others.   

Going to the level below and concentrating on consumption patterns and production would be a good place for the private sector to start in his opinion. The process of empowerment is what should be focused on which means that the finer details of how difficult it is does not need to be debated over. Prof. Munasinghe remarked that intricate processors are not needed for savings but a good dose of common sense makes all the difference. The second principle is that policies need to not only look at economics but also concentrate on people and environment. Using powerful tools that are being evolved by technology to focus on the triple bottom line would assist companies to earn profits in an ethical manner.

Civil society and social capital are important, he opined adding that the war has undermined the latter. He advised the private sector to work with the government to develop social capital so that sustainability is achieved. The third point is transcending boundaries and putting out innovative ideas, “we have to give up unsustainable ideas with all sectors of professionals coming together so that unsustainable values are dismissed and the entire focus becomes the world. Business and civil society have to be supported to assist with development.”

The global movement for sustainability is inevitable and will move forward he said pointing out that the recent global financial crisis has proved this point beyond debate. Focusing on practical tools used by communities in a myriad of sectors sustainability has been applied and resulted in change.

“Rich countries can reduce emissions without losing their standard of life. However it is the poorer countries that have a stronger role to play. It is countries like China and India that will find solutions for sustainability. Especially focus on agriculture will bring these goals closer as these are the sectors that are most important to the people severely affected by climate change and sustainability issues.”

Maintaining that the “rich can save the world” he recalled that at a workshop composed of companies that make over a trillion dollars in profits that the top 20% can reduce their consumption then the lower 40% will benefit. The governments don’t have to do much because it is the private sector that builds the link between production and consumption. Somewhere along the manufacture chain there is a point where the most effective intervention can be done and that is what the companies must focus on.

Pricing products so that the resources rarity is carried out to the consumer is important according to Prof. Munasinghe and he also advocated better labeling so that marketing ensures that the buyer is aware of what they are doing. Taking the example of smoking he pointed out that over the last two decades it has changed from a macho habit to one that is frowned upon and the same can be done for climate change if the will is there. Right values for youth and raising the standards of accountability and human qualities makes the role for the private sector all the stronger.

“These problems can be solved if we start now and we can play a very pivotal role,” he stated.         

This is our moment  

External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L Peiris as the Chief Guest remarked on the striking feature for the business community is the unprecedented level of confidence prevalent in the atmosphere and called for forging ahead with inclusive growth.  

He pointed out that some of the largest companies in the world including General Electric that has decided to invest its pension shares in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) are fast tracking growth in Sri Lanka though massive investments. “This is our moment,” he stressed adding that the government is ready to work with the private sector and facilitate development.  

“There can be no doubt that Sri Lanka in firmly on the radar of the war,” he insisted adding that the end of the war along with the political stability of the country gives an unprecedented opportunity to the private sector. Also the other macroeconomic environment is extremely stable creating the chance for corporate to think differently. This sharp focus on development and investment can make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of people around the country.

“We have taken care to ensure that inclusive development is part of the agenda. Growth has trickled down to the grass root level and this is a timely initiative. One of the main factors that give confidence on our development is the focus on the infrastructure because that is what bridges the distance between the rich and poor.”

Recounting the number of dignitaries that will be arriving in Sri Lanka before the end of the year he stressed that all these are directed at development of basic rights, from development of human resource to the start of railway projects in Jaffna. These were all viewed as very remarkable by the Minister with more delegations flocking in from all parts of the world including Germany and India.

He urged the companies to make the most of windows of opportunity and not let them slip. CSR and sustainability was highlighted was being part of Sri Lanka’s culture and therefore more easily adapted by the local business community.

“We can adapt the desire to do well and be concerned of the environment that was even focused on by our previous king. The government is well aware that without concern for the environment there can be no sustainable development.”  

Qualitative improvement

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Chairman Dr. Anura Ekanayake observed that companies should combine sustainability with CSR and publicize their achievements to cause a spillover effect for overall social development.   

He noted that over the years the number of applicants has grown and the quality of the projects have reached high standards. There has been more emphasis placed on the selection of the projects with the involvement of the community, empowering the community to be equal partners in projects, all of which ensures sustainability of these CSR initiatives. This means that in most instances CSR initiatives have now become part and parcel of company business models.

“In today’s world, it is not enough to simply give back to society; your contribution, your philanthropy, your forward thinking measures need to be known; not as an act of beating one’s own drum as it were but to be an inspiration to others so that they would feel compelled to step in, setting off a chain reaction of goodwill. All this will lead to a better world, better people and better profits,” he said.  

He pointed out that in Sri Lanka regional disparity has contributed to the conflict and instability of recent decades.

 “If we are to move beyond the shackles of our past, it is necessary for us to address these issues of inequality. Economic development and investment into the regions has the potential to reverse the trends of the past. National business must partner regional business leadership to achieve the goal of sustainable and equitable economic development to ensure stability, peace and unity for Sri Lanka.

 In order to support peace, business development and investment into the regions must be responsible, aware of the opportunities and challenges to stability, and support economic development along with social cohesion.”   

Through responsible and context-sensitive business, Sri Lanka can build on the foundations of a hard-won peace was the message that he wished to convey. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce supports such endeavors through a Business Development Platform for the regions.

This brings together projects and initiatives with organizations which we consider “fellow travelers”. This support platform will perform the function of a clearing house for linking regional needs to projects and other support structures.

These projects to facilitate and mentor young regional entrepreneurs through the Youth Business Sri Lanka Programme have made a considerable impact in the regions during a short period.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is in the process of spearheading the Corporate Volunteerism Network (CVN) that envisages companies volunteering staff time to non‐profit organizations, communities and regional business ventures; Companies providing internship placements to regional youth for on‐the‐job training and Experts, retired professionals and diaspora providing expertise and mentoring to Small and Medium Enterprises and regional chambers for capacity development.

He outlined that the Chamber projects arm, CCC Solutions, implements two projects under the Switch Asia Programme.

The Greening of Sri Lankan Hotels is one such initiative. With the expectation of reaching 350 hotels, especially in the SME sector, the objective is to enhance environmental performance through the improvement of energy, water and waste management systems; in effect, making the systems efficient, reducing the cost of operations and greening the supply chain.

Dr. Ekanayake also recounted the Switch Asia Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Food and Beverage sector is the other. Now in its second year, more than one hundred SMEs were provided training on Sustainable Consumption and Production and the programme is active in the Jaffna Peninsula.

Prof. Watawala urged more companies to participate in the awards ceremony and thanked the panel of judges for ably picking the winners along with a host of other people who assisted in making the ceremony a reality.   

Pix by Upul Abeysekera


Winner – Hayleys Plc

Hayleys looks to go beyond mere compliance. This is seen in the Case Study of Kelani Valley Plantations - in conserving bio diversity, through a range of agricultural practices and proactive collaboration with the IUCN.

Kelani Valley’s Home For Every Plantation Worker is a crowning achievement in terms of elevating communities – as is the Relief Efforts Programme for Internally Displaced Sri Lankans.

The Hayleys-USAID Outgrowers Programme introduced cultivation, technology transfer, and a guaranteed price buy back scheme to 160 farmers- a milestone in supplier relations, closing the gap of insecurity.

The unique ability of Hayleys to safeguard its suppliers – its partners – is visible in the continued progress of Firstlight –providing farmers a fair price for produce, community capacity building and support and training have been examples of a persistent effort to better the life of our suppliers, youth and the community.

Continuous improvement to employee development and relations as a whole is sought by all companies, with strategic initiatives such as talent and succession management programmes, the performance management system; novel interactions such as Hayleys Toastmasters; systems facilitating management decision making such as the Human Resources Information System; certifications such as OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services), and the launch of the trilingual Hayleys Corporate Anthem.

1st Runner Up- Hatton National Bank PLC

Hatton National Bank’s community investment focus is on “sustainable livelihoods” and aims to provide people with the means and opportunity to sustain their lives and build their futures.

The success of the Bank’s award winning micro finance programme Gami Pubuduwa bears testimony to HNB’s commitment to financial inclusion and savings.  

Donating libraries and computer centres, HNB’s assistance has become an integral part of the school education system in Sri Lanka. HNB also launched the Certificate Course in Elementary Banking and Finance, a unique programme to develop employable skills of young adults.

The programme has been implemented in Jaffna. The HNB Lowa Dinana Singitho competition aims to assist in the development of holistic future leaders; competitions are held in 6 disciplines – art, singing, drama, speech, essay and short story writing.

The Bank has set up its own trust fund known as the HNB Sustainability Foundation to invest in development activities such as the HNB water and sanitation programme, providing financial assistance to cancer patients and setting up of a counseling centre at the cancer hospital.  A strong advocator for environment conservation, all HNB staff has taken a “Green Pledge” to support this cause.   HNB has also embarked on a tree planting initiative to replant equivalent number of trees in terms of the Bank’s carbon emissions.  

2nd Runner Up – MAS Intimates (Pvt) Ltd

In 2009/10, MAS set its sights on the National Cancer Institute, where a Rs.45, 000,000 investment to upgrade the equipment saw MAS become the largest donor to the national health infrastructure.

2009 saw MAS launch another landmark initiative, Light of Change, to bring light to the lives of thousands of talented rural youth.  

Light of Change is a scholarship programme that teaches rural youth English, IT and career skills, creating opportunities for them towards better prospects in life.

In addition to providing meaningful employment to approximately 45,000 people, the company’s strong support for sports is one of the ways this commitment stood out.

MAS has been the breeding ground of boxing champions in Sri Lanka; MAS also boasts of a great cricketing heritage, currently employing nine members of the national cricket team.  

The MAS lean manufacturing system have empowered its workforce, moving away from the traditional role of a ‘machine operator’ to a dignified ‘team member’ with enhanced responsibility and decision making ability.  

The company’s acclaimed Women Go Beyond programme is focused on empowerment of the female workforce, adding multiple dimensions to the lives of employees. The programme focuses on career advancement, work-life balance, and skill development of the female workforce.

Category Winners

Environment – MAS Intimates (Pvt) Ltd

MAS Intimates Thurulie is the world’s first purpose-built eco-manufacturing plant for apparel. Thurulie was intended to demonstrate feasibility and technology, and inspire other manufacturers to follow suit. It is powered by 10% solar energy and 90% hydropower, and uses 50% less water than similar plants. Thurulie was awarded the LEED Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the World’s first LEED Platinum new built factory. It was feted with the coveted Globe Award for Sustainability Innovation for 2010, early this year.

Community Relations -Aitken Spence plc

Through its many subsidiaries, Aitken Spence was involved in many community initiatives; a few among these are — health facilities provided in the plantations( pre natal, antenatal clinics, free vaccinations, medical check ups, distribution of ‘Thriposha’),  ‘Temple Stays’ in select travel programmes to collect funds for the orphaned children in the Balapitiya area, renovation of road, provision of street lights, construction of a library, water tanks etc. donations of educational books to libraries and scholarships to name just a very few.

Employee Relations- Hatton National Bank Plc

The human resource policy, employment and employee turnover, terms and conditions of employment, labour relations, benefits, female employees, employee empowerment, disabled employees, training and development, employee share options were some of the aspects in which HNB shone through.

 Customer/Supplier Relations - Hayleys Plc

Through vigorous systems put in place throughout the product and service units of the Group, Hayleys has met the requirements of international giants. One example of customer relations is produce from a farmer in Ampara being taken to the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants.

Through the Hayleys-USAID Outgrowers Programme, cultivation was introduced, technology transferred and a guaranteed price buy back scheme assured to 160 farmers; a milestone in supplier relations, which has been recognised with a Global Award.  

The unique ability of Hayleys to safeguard its suppliers – its partners – is visible in the continued progress of firstlight — DPL’s (Dipped Products Limited) programme. The sustained impact of the programme provides farmers a fair price for produce, community capacity building, and support and training.

Governance and Economic Contribution – Colombo Dockyard Plc

Along with compliance and practice of Corporate Governance and Audit Committee rules, CDPLC saw a dividend increase of 14.2% bringing the price to Rs. 8 per share, appreciation of market rate from Rs. 50 to Rs. 244.75 and market capitalisation reached Rs.16.7 bn.

Their export revenue growth was at 21% in 2009, with the import of material and labour growth at 4%. Turnover growth reached Rs.13.2 bn with net profit growth at Rs.2.1bn. Earning retained increased by Rs.1.64 bn and CDPLC capital investment for development was Rs.603 mn, which was internally funded.

Category B –Under 10 bn turnover

Winner –AVIVA NDB Insurance Plc

AVIVA NDB Corporate Responsibility initiatives span across several activities—Safety Awareness: sponsorship of the National Safety Awards, the coveted benchmark of a safe, accident-free workplace; communications promoting utmost care when lighting crackers, safety campaigns held during Poson in Anuradhapura, to name a few.    

The Company awards the Higher Education Scholarship on merit, participates in the “Street to School” worldwide programme of global Aviva, and has entered into a MOU with the University of Wayamba and launched a university accredited course that leads to the Certificate in Personal Financial Management. AVIVA NDB also conducts regular regional workshops and seminars such as “Guru Pubuduwa” for preschool teachers facilitate early childhood development, ‘Samana’ to equip teachers to excel in the difficult task of teaching children with mental and physical disabilities as well motivational programmes for small and medium scale entrepreneurs.  

1st Runner Up–Link Natural Products Ltd

Link Natural Products (LNP) initiatives extend to entrepreneurship development (employing trishaw owning youth as salesmen/distributors in remote areas etc.) to infrastructure development (building for Vipula Children’s development centre and water supply project at Malinda); from employee volunteerism, education/scholarships to philanthropic initiatives, to name but a few, while embracing environmentally preferred process technologies.  

LNP has improved educational facilities of 7 selected schools, facilitated short term, exam oriented crash courses for those sitting the G.C.E O/L exam and G.C.E A/L; LNP also facilitates human resource development efforts among teachers in these selected schools that include primary and secondary vidyalayas and the Siyane National College.

LNP pays very special attention in improving English language skills and IT literacy and has thus upgraded the national school’s IT laboratory with both software and hardware to provide them with an opportunity to interact and network with other schools.

2nd Runner Up - People’s Leasing Co. Ltd

 Guided by the Triple Bottom Line approach, sustainability initiatives of People’s Leasing include massive infrastructure development projects (market complex in Malimboda, Matara), entrepreneurship development, uplifting education and ensuring access and provisions for healthcare.

The Company volunteers at a polythene waste collection initiative at the foot of Adams Peak annually in partnership with environmental interest groups.

The E-Friends loan scheme provides loans at a concessionary rate for the SMEs for process improvement and factory modifications so that their businesses conform to environmentally friendly standards.   

People’s Leasing employees volunteer in CSR projects such as presenting electronic equipment to promote distance learning.  

Health initiatives completed by the Company ranges from renovation of labour rooms, ECG rooms to hosting medical and blood donation campaigns.  The Company ensures sustainable progress by hosting customer fora and social networking events for the staff of People’s Bank, customers, suppliers and investors.  

PLC invests heavily in employee training and development on continuous basis while providing job security and making work place safe to its employees.

During the times of financial turbulence the acquisition of Seylan Merchant Leasing by People’s Leasing saved jobs of employees.

Special Projects Winners

In alphabetical order

CIC Agri Businesses (Pvt) Ltd (Uplifting the living standards of rural farmers)

The CIC Agribusiness Project — Rural Humanity Services Foundation was established in 2008 as a Not for Profit organisation; it is more commonly known as CIC Humanity/ CIC Manussakama.  

The project aims to strengthen the knowledge and skills of rural farmers with the aim of uplifting the social and economic status of rural communities. It also seeks to popularise farming as an acceptable and dignified profession to attract youth and develop infrastructure to facilitate production targeted for the local and export markets.  The project has several activities: the Shoora Goviya Competition; the educational scholarship for rural children; seminars and workshops to disseminate knowledge of folk life – Danuma Danaya; Shoora Govi Peramuna and the website for new farmers – Nava Goviya.   

DFCC Bank (Education and Training)

DFCC’s project educates and trains teachers and primary school pupils from 30 selected public schools in the theoretical and practical application of the Japanese principle of 5 –S, with an addition of another S for creating awareness on safety.

The implementation of the Six – S programme is a year long process, with each step introduced put into practice every 2 months. The project also provides guidance on 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle).  Parents form the secondary group that is trained by a 5-S expert.  

DFCC further matches the funds raised by students through enterprising projects tied to the Six – S implementation.  

Microsoft Sri Lanka (Pvt) Ltd (Education and Training)

Using ICT as a powerful tool in bridging the economic between urban and rural societies, Microsoft Sri Lanka’s project – Unlimited Potential-is ongoing, islandwide, transforming education, fostering local innovation and enabling jobs and opportunities.

The project focuses on Primary and Secondary Education, Tertiary Education and under served communities (Gamata IT- reaching segments of society who have limited scope to acquire digital literacy, youth from low income groups etc).

The Imagine Cup and Path Finder school programme are two such initiatives within this project.

Certificate Winners

Hameedias Stores (Pvt) Ltd - Project to assist the differently-abled

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd - Gallery Refurbishment Project – Colombo National Museum (Other)

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd  -  Education and Training

Ceylon Biscuits Limited - Education and Training

Heritance Kandalama - Environment

Hidellana Tea Factory (Pvt) Limited - Infrastructure

OREL SILK (Pvt) Ltd - Project to assist the differently-abled

Exemplary performance in these five areas of evaluation guaranteed these Corporates a slot in the Ten Best Corporate Citizens category.

Environment:  environmental policy of the business, environmental certifications obtained compliance with environmental standards and environmental conservation initiatives (implementation of eco-friendly projects and projects to reduce adverse implications on the environment). Pollution, emissions, lawsuits and fines, regulatory problems and other environmental hazards received negative marks.

Community Relations and CSR: philanthropy, foundation or trust that the company has set up, yearly allocation of funds for social service projects, community service projects, educational outreach, scholarships, employee volunteerism, child and elder care programmes, etc.

Employee Relations: human resource policy, employment and employee turnover, terms and conditions of employment, labour relations, industrial disputes and work place accidents, wages relative to industry, benefits paid, profit sharing, team management, employee empowerment, employee share option or ownership schemes, employment of women, employment of disabled persons, human rights and child labour, training expenditure, workforce reductions/increase, employee injury statistics, etc. Human rights violations, non-payment of statutory payments, labour disputes, etc. received negative marks.

Customer/ Supplier Relations: quality management programmes, quality awards won, customer satisfaction measures, supplier relations including paying fair trading prices, assisting small farm co-operatives and rural farmers, direct purchasing from farmers, avoiding the middlemen, etc. Lawsuits against company products and providing harmful products received negative marks.

Economic Contribution and Governance: declaration of a dividend, bonus issues, rights issues, growth and turnover, retained earnings, payment of taxes, value addition, and compliance with corporate governance practices, etc.

The Ten Best Corporate Citizens, in alphabetical order:

Aitken Spence Plc

Aviva NDB Insurance Plc

Cargills (Ceylon) Plc

Ceylon Biscuits Limited

Colombo Dockyard Plc

Hatton National Bank Plc

Hayleys Plc


MAS Intimates (Pvt) Ltd

Sri Lanka Telecom Plc