|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SRI LANKAN GLOBAL COMPACT PARTICIPANTS
At a Headquarters press conference today, Sri Lankan Global Compact participants Kelani Valley Plantations Ltd. and Mabroc Teas Ltd. –- both part of the Hayleys Group –- announced plans to distribute information about the Global Compact to consumers worldwide and to use profits from a new product line of teas to improve the living environment of plantation workers.
The United Nations Global Compact brings business together with United Nations agencies, labour, civil society and Governments to advance 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. It is the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative, with over 3,000 participating companies and hundreds of other stakeholders from more than 100 countries.
According to the announced plans, leaflets with the 10 Global Compact principles will be added to each package of Mabroc Kelani Valley Tea, a joint operation of Mabroc and Kelani Valley Plantations, launched under the companies’ commitment to the Global Compact. Beginning in March, more than 18 million packs of tea per annum will be shipped containing the leaflet, which has been translated into Arabic, English, German, Japanese and Russian. The teas will be marketed in 40 countries around the world.
Hayleys Group Chairman and panellist, N. G. Wickremeratne, explained that the company was synonymous with ethics, integrity and good governance in Sri Lanka. As the first Sri Lankan multinational conglomerate, it had started as a British trading company over 129 years ago, and was at the forefront of the nation’s transformation from an agricultural to an industrial, service-based economy. It had also abided by a code of propriety, sustainable development, and concern for social development -- long before such concepts had assumed their present significance. More recently, the company had won “ Sri Lanka’s Best Corporate Citizen” award from Ceylon’s Chamber of Commerce for three successive years, and currently accounted for 3.7 per cent of the country’s export income -- employing over 36,500 people in 11 countries.
“We are proud to be associated with the UN Global Compact as its principles resonate strongly with the high integrity and ethics that we have maintained in the Group since its inception in 1878,” he said.
Under the company’s new “Home for Every Plantation Worker” programme, profits from the tea’s sale would contribute to improving the living environment for roughly 10,000 families involved in tea production in the Kelani Valley Plantations. The programme provided land for housing to plantation workers, improved local infrastructure, offered free medical services and community capacity-building projects, and supported vocational training and recreational activities.
Also on the panel was Bandula Jayasekera, Chairman of Mabroc Teas Ltd., noting that: “Together, these initiatives will help our teas to improve the lives and well-being of those who help us to produce the best teas in the world.” For every pack of Mabrac Single Garden and Valley teas sold, he explained, the company would pledge a minimum of 1.5 United States cents to the programme.
Bernard Goonetilleke, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States, remarked on Ceylon tea’s great significance to the Sri Lankan economy. Today, Sri Lanka was the largest exporter of black tea worldwide and its tea industry was the largest employer in the country -- providing direct and indirect job opportunities to over one million people.
“It is heartening to note that Mabroc Kelani Valley Plantations, an affiliate of the Hayleys Group, has become the first member within the entire UNGC (United Nations Global Compact) network to communicate the UNGC principles throughout the world in a very practical and effective manner,” he said. “We need more and more benevolent partners like you, to make this world a better place.”
Responding to a question on whether Sri Lanka was a forerunner for sustainable development, Mr. Wickremeratne said that Sri Lanka was not a rich country and therefore, had an incentive to find alternatives to oil. Sri Lanka was currently using solar and wind energy. In fact, its topography created ideal conditions for windmills.
In a follow-up to that, Ravi Fernando, Focal Point, Global Compact Network Sri Lanka, said that, in terms of solar energy, Sri Lanka was among the top three per-capita consumers of solar energy in that part of the world. “ Sri Lanka does have a heritage of moving towards sustainable, renewable energies,” he added.
On the topic of whether the Hayleys Group was playing a positive role in promoting peace and security in Sri Lanka, Mr. Fernando said that the Group was truly a multi-ethnic company at the management, director, and worker levels. Organizations like that played a huge role -- both in producing camaraderie and promoting understanding amongst peoples.
On the same question, George Kell, Executive Director, Global Compact Office, added that business was a stabilizing force, especially when done in a responsible manner. Wherever business brought together different ethnic groups and demonstrated that working and living together was doable and beneficial, it helped to overcome tensions, reduce prejudices, and was a contributing force towards more peaceful and collaborative efforts, he explained. “The project introduced today is of global significance and breaks new ground for us in many different ways,” he said. “It is social marketing and ethical marketing -- but combined with implementation.”
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