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Triple bottom line focus yields rich dividends for Watawala Plantations

Sunshine Holdings subsidiary wins 15 awards for economic, social & environmental progress this year




Transformative economic, social and environmental impact of its actions won much national and regional acclaim in 2014 for Watawala Plantations PLC, a subsidiary of Sunshine Holdings PLC.
‘Triple bottom line’ focused strategies, served to yield rich dividends even at grass-root levels and resulted in the company being recognised with 13 national and two prestigious regional awards. The total tally of 15 awards received by Watawala included five gold awards.
Watawala Plantations received 13 awards within the last four months of the year alone, based on vastly different criteria, ranging from process improvements to leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility, energy efficiency and people management.

The company’s interventions reflected its unique vision ‘We will take a path no one has walked before and many will want to follow’. Combined, these interventions made a significant impact. For example, substantial reduction in energy consumption by the company resulted in saving an estimated 12,700 trees, which otherwise would have been felled for fuel. In addition, job satisfaction and motivation of ‘associates’ were further improved, sustainable livelihoods were created and significant improvements were achieved by Watawala Plantations in productivity, quality and internal processes, among a host of other developments.
“Far more than the number of awards, which serve primarily as benchmarks of progress, we are extremely pleased that our targeted efforts to make a substantial positive impact on our business operations, environment and our associates continue to yield rich dividends,” Watawala Plantations Director/CEO Dr. Dan Seevaratnam said. “We will continue to ‘raise the bar’, to achieve our goal of becoming a best in class entity in every aspect.”

Pointing out that Watawala Plantations won a number of awards by overcoming competition from leading organisations from other industries, Dr. Seevaratnam noted that Watawala has gone beyond a leader in the plantation sector, to a leader in the corporate sector, with international recognition.
One of the regional Gold awards won by Watawala was awarded by the South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) for the Best Presented Annual Report (agriculture sector). The award recognized Watawala’s strength in financial transparency, governance and accountability. The company’s annual report was the sole Sri Lankan winner in the agriculture category at the awards ceremony and the company won this award for the third successive time this year. Watawala’s annual report was honoured locally too, with a Gold Award for the seventh consecutive year, by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.

Watawala won its other regional Gold award at the Asian CSR Leadership Awards 2014, in recognition of the company’s pioneering initiative to empower the differently-abled, by providing them employment and the ability to sustain themselves, through the Vocational Training Centre at Kenilworth Estate.

The 13 national awards won by the company this year included a Gold Award for People Development from the Sri Lanka Institute of Training and Development (SLITD) as well as a Gold award for Social Dialogue and Workplace Cooperation (for the Waltrim Estate) from the Ministry of Labour. The HR-related awards serve to acknowledge the company’s strong commitment to its associates, particularly through training and development, which extends to the associates in the estates. In addition to improving skills, training programs focused on enabling associates to move through the ranks – as in the case of the company’s pioneering initiative to enable Estate Welfare Officers to become HR officers. Further, the company has introduced a customised training program for Assistant Managers on the plantations. The company also conducts an extensive Employee Engagement Survey, the results of which are used to address gaps and further improve HR practices. Some of other key awards won by the company locally included the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award 2014 (Agriculture Sector) from the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the second runner-up award at the same ceremony – in the less than Rs. 15 billion turnover category.

A series of initiatives by Watawala Plantations to protect the environment and to assist the community at large significantly assisted the company in securing these two awards. The company launched a coordinated program covering its estates, factories and even its head office to reduce energy consumption, among other environment-related initiatives. Accordingly, by-products such as waste in the production of palm oil and refuse tea were used for energy generation, thus eliminating the need to cut down 12,700 trees. Other methods such as solar drying of firewood were also used to further conserve energy. The promotion of the use of LP Gas in the plantation households has brought about an additional saving of 4,300 trees per annum, which otherwise would have been harvested for cooking purposes. As part of its numerous efforts to support the community, Watawala Plantations also assisted residents of its estates to commence inland fish farming in uncultivated marshy lands, thus facilitating flood control while enabling residents to earn an income by selling fish. Nearly 550 households benefit from this programme alone at present. The company has launched many Programmes to empower residents of its estates, especially women, through the likes of Community Development Forums and in addition support many health-related initiatives including removal of cataracts as part of its ‘Sight for All’ program. Watawala also won several other national awards relating to productivity, quality, process improvement, business excellence and energy efficiency. These included ‘three star’ and ‘two star’ awards for the Henfold Carolina Estates of the company respectively. These estates were recognized as Best Performing Enterprises in the Central Province by the Department of Industrial Development and Enterprise Promotion, under the guidance of the Ministry of Industries of the Central Province.

Watawala Plantations, one of Sri Lanka’s largest plantation companies, has been the country’s largest producer of palm oil and tea for several consecutive years. A significantly diversified plantation company, Watawala has interests in palm oil, tea, rubber and cinnamon. Watawala Plantations PLC is a subsidiary of Estate Management Services Ltd. – a joint venture between Sri Lanka’s Sunshine Holdings, TATA Global Beverages Ltd. and Pyramid Wilmar Plantations Private Limited.

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Date : 30-12-2014