Stronger Together: Industry Veterans Initiate Collaboration for Sustainable Tea Industry
‘Stronger Together’ – a first of its kind initiative aimed at building collaboration among the Ceylon Plantation Community towards a more sustainable tea industry, was launched on March 17 at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The project was introduced with a ceremonial auction and the launch of ‘Wisdom in the Leaf’ publication authored by tea industry veterans and eminent scientists, of which the MJF Charitable Foundation doubled all proceeds, amounting to Rs. 6.9 million, for the benefit of the plantation community.
Wisdom in the Lea
f is an evolution of ‘The History of Ceylon Tea’ project which began in August 2003 as part of Merrill J. Fernando’s commitment to making ‘business a matter of human service’. This service to the industry preserves its knowledge, enhances the appreciation of fine Ceylon tea and offers wisdom and context to future generations of tea planters. It has evolved into what is today the world’s largest free and online information resource on Ceylon tea. The book is a tribute to the generations of men and women who have made Ceylon tea possible; it pays homage to labourers, tea pickers, factory workers, field & factory officers, estate managers, scientists, visit agents, brokers and tea drinkers.
Present at the event were the authors and contributors of the publication, from tea industry veterans to eminent scientists, and members from The Tea Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and Tea Companies. The publication was intended to coincide with Merrill J. Fernando’s commemoration of 70 years in tea last year, however, due to the pandemic, the formal launch was delayed to his 71st year, which on his suggestion, has now grown into a tribute to Ceylon Tea. Going beyond this tribute, the MJF Charitable Foundation has put forward a call to action through the ‘Stronger Together’ initiative.
Addressing the essence of wisdom contained in this book and how the ‘Stronger Together’ project will benefit the wider plantation community, Tea Grower and Dilmah CEO – Dilhan C. Fernando said,
“You cannot look into the future without understanding the past. As we look to the future as an industry, this is the MJF Foundation’s open invitation for collaboration towards a sustainable tea industry, because we have a shared future … The ‘Stronger Together’ project will enhance the industry and country’s capability connected with health and nutrition, livelihoods, education and climate change adaptation amongst others … the intention is to strengthen collaboration, to understand the changing socio-economic and environmental dynamics of our plantations and work together, so that we can confront the challenges of the future and build a sustainable industry.” Supporting these sentiments, Anselm Perera – Founder and Managing Director of MLESNA spoke on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tea Exporters, expressing that, “If we don’t go forward as one industry, we don’t have the strength … we should support each other … we should bring forward demands that are common to the trade.” On behalf of the Plantation Fraternity, Dr. Rohan Fernando – Executive Director of Plantations & Business Development, Aitken Spence Group shared the following words,
“My humble appeal to you – The [Tea] Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and the [Tea] Companies here – all associated, not only with the tea industry, but the entire plantation industry… There is a lot that all of us can do together. We can take the Ceylon tea industry to the next level and grow together to ensure that the next 150 years of tea in this country will be right up there – second to none in the world. I think we all owe it to the industry.” The MJF Foundation was established by Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando in fulfilment of his pledge to make making business a matter of human service, it’s activity is evident today in the work done to offer dignified empowerment to less privileged children, youth, women and men, with a specific emphasis on vulnerable communities including children with disabilities – approximately Rs. 300 million is annually dedicated to support these communities. The ‘Stronger Together’ initiative is designed to amplify the current efforts across plantations to build a united and sustainable industry.
EU funded SEDR Project launches Policy Brief to strengthen alternative dispute resolution in Sri Lanka
The Supporting Effective Dispute Resolution (SEDR) project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council in partnership with The Asia Foundation, launched a Policy Brief titled ‘Strengthening A Just Alternative’ to strengthen community-based alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms in the country.
The launch event, held at the British Council Library in Colombo, was attended by several distinguished dignitaries, including Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Minister of Justice, Ms. Beatrice Bussi, (Interim) Head of Development Cooperation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Priyanath Perera, Secretary of the Mediation Boards Commission, Hon. Justice Yapa, Chairperson of the Mediation Boards Commission, and Commissioners of the Mediation Boards Commission.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Beatrice Bussi stated that “The importance of mediation in Sri Lanka is twofold, as it ensure an easy and economic access to justice to citizens, while it provides the opportunity to reduce the burden on the Sri Lankan court system. I want to praise the model of Sri Lankan community mediation boards, for its effectiveness and for the value it delivers to communities in addressing local disputes preventing their escalation”.
Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe stated ” One of the main tasks of the Ministry is to ensure the necessary legal, policy, and institutional framework is set up for efficient resolution of disputes. Alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, play a major role in this regard. There are different opinions regarding the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, especially mediation among the community and stakeholders. In the meantime, the Ministry has initiated a number of reforms to improve dispute resolution processes in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the Ministry highlights the importance of surveys of this nature to facilitate evidence-based decision-making regarding alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. As such the Ministry would like to congratulate the SEDR project on this successful initiative.”
The Policy Brief is based on the findings of a Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) survey commissioned by SEDR and conducted by the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in 2022. The survey aimed to assess knowledge, attitudes and practices of various community-based alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including mediation boards. The survey covered six districts in the country, targeting 1,712 households of all three main ethnic groups.
COYLE urges government to engage business leaders in policy-making process for fair, sustainable, and economically sound decisions
The Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) held its 24th Anniversary Celebrations on 10th March 2023, at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. The event was attended by the chief guest, Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena; the guest of honour, U. S. Ambassador, Julie Chung; former President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena; Chief of the Defense Staff, General Shavendra Silva; cabinet and state ministers; parliamentarians; commanders of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces; government officials, and business leaders.
The Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) comprises more than 116 prominent individuals who serve as Chairmen and Controlling Shareholders of some of the most influential companies in Sri Lanka.
It has over 500 member organizations and is affiliated with nearly 50 business chambers in the country. The organization is managed and controlled by young entrepreneurs but also boasts a number of senior and respected business leaders who joined the organization during its formative years to help shape COYLE into what it is today.
The Chamber actively promotes entrepreneurship, the development of rural communities, and thought leadership. In adherence to the organization’s strongly held principles and as a mandatory service to the community, COYLE engages in countless CSR initiatives through its member companies around the country. The Chamber provides leadership, learning, and development for its members and stakeholders, and over the years, it has grown into a vehicle for business growth in Sri Lanka via its many local and global networks.
The past year was an exceptionally challenging one for all parties in the Sri Lankan economy. Remarking on this, the Outgoing Chairman of COYLE, Mr. Dimuth Chankama Silva, stated during his address, “This year was the greatest test of our mettle. Even diamonds are born out of pressure. This year gave us the opportunity to shine through pressures from all directions. I believe we shone. We are here alive and kicking, our businesses are growing, we are conquering international markets and territories, and COYLE has grown in leaps and bounds.”
A notable emphasis was given to the introduction of the COYLE theme for the year 2023/24, EVOLUTION: #Resilience, #Agility, and #Transformation. The incoming Chairman, Mr. Rasith Wickramasingha, stated, “Evolution is to upscale capability, enhance skills and increase creativity, innovate at a time of chaos, and re-imagine a new business environment. Evolution requires change: change in mindset, attitude, self-awareness, and acumen of the surrounding environment as well as culture.”
He went on to note that in today’s environment, every five years constitutes a generational gap and emphasized the need for COYLE to evolve as a chamber in order to be relevant and sustainable for the future. He further mentioned that decades of ill-conceived, politically driven policies based on the advocacy of a few, rather than consultative decision-making with recognized business chambers, have led to the current crisis. Elaborating on this point, Mr. Rasith Wickramasingha said, “Policy formulation should be done based on sound economic principles and business acumen. Businesses rely on stable policies so that they may plan ahead. Ad hoc policies which bring no economic benefit have led to losses in the private sector and leakage of foreign exchange from the country.”
He emphasized that it is heartbreaking to see that the individuals who strive continuously for the betterment of the country and persistently do the right thing get penalized while those engaging in unethical practices to avoid taxation are rarely held accountable. COYLE hopes for more genuine dialogue from policymakers regarding these issues and affirms that the organization’s globally exposed and experienced members could be a great value addition to any actions taken to revive the economy. What sets COYLE apart from the rest is that its members are made up of business owners and decision-makers who are passionate about doing something good for the country, who are genuinely aligned with this cause, and willing to embrace the future without diluting our national and cultural heritage.
The 24th Anniversary Celebration of COYLE closely reflected in its overarching tone the state of the country following the Easter Bombings, the pandemic, and the economic and political crisis. The event also honored and recognized the Chamber’s numerous members who weathered the storm by building resilience, being agile, and transforming their businesses. It also highlighted the many CSR initiatives undertaken by COYLE member organizations, many of which were carried out quietly, purely as a service to the country.
These initiatives focus on communities most affected by the calamities of the past years and were chosen regardless of race, religion, or creed. With a host of esteemed and influential guests attending the celebrations, COYLE made this event a platform to convey a strong message calling for sociopolitical change in the country. COYLE believes that the hardline decisions taken by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, were tough but necessary considering the state of affairs. The Chamber also notes that as a result of these decisions, gradual change for the better is apparent in the economy. Considering the massive pool of collective experience, expertise, and connections held by COYLE, it is capable of providing significant value and insight for economic reform. Hence, COYLE urges the government to actively engage and work together with the Chamber to expedite economic revival.
Once again, AIA Ran for their Lives – proud sponsor for the 3rd consecutive year
AIA Insurance was humbled to be a part of Run For Their Lives 2023, in raising funds for the Apeksha Cancer Hospital. The charity run aligns with AIA’s brand purpose of helping people live healthier, longer, better lives with focus on the prevention and management of Non-Communicable Diseases in Sri Lanka. The company will continue its commitment to fight NCDs and actively engage in creating awareness on leading NCDs in the country.
With AIA’s goal of making a positive impact on one billion lives by 2030, participants at RFTL were encouraged to make a pledge for a healthy habit that could help prevent illness and remain healthy in the long run. The participants also took part in a real-time survey that measured their unhealthy habits and recommended healthy lifestyle habits. Participants were also instantly rewarded for taking part in the wellness games and the free BMI sessions organised by one of AIA’s wellness partner Vida Medical Clinic.
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