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Uncovering the human element in ESG at Kelani Valley Plantations

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Kelani Valley Plantations PLC, General Manager- HR & Corporate Sustainability, Anuruddha Gamage

The challenge of driving meaningful progress in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards hinges on people more than it does processes or policies. That is why organisations that can understand the human element in driving change tend to set the pace in their respective industries.

As a true pioneer among Sri Lanka’s Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) in Human Resources and Sustainability, Anuruddha Gamage, made this realisation early in his career. For more than two decades, he has helped redefine sustainability among one of the largest and most respected Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs). At the core of his approach: people.

A second upper class B.Sc. Agriculture (Hons.) graduate from the University of Peradeniya, Anuruddha joined Kelani Valley Plantations PLC (KVPL) as a Plantation Management Trainee in 1999. During the early stages of his career, Anuruddha developed an interest in Human Resources and Sustainability and the need to adopt best practices in the sector, given the unique dynamics of Sri Lanka’s RPCs during this period.

Commencing his MBA specialising in HR Management at the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayawardenepura, he soon sought opportunities to incorporate academic learning into his work. Currently, he is reading for his PhD at the Postgraduate Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (PGIHS), University of Peradeniya and is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Managers of Sri Lanka (FCPM).

Currently functioning as the General Secretary and an Executive Council Member of the Japan Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association (JASTECA) and the Chairman of the JASTECA Institute of Management, Anuruddha was also ranked among the 100 most influential HR professionals in 2018 from World HRD Congress. He is the winner of the “Most Talented HR Leaders” Award from Asia-Pacific HRM Congress Awards in 2017, where he was named a “Catalyst of Change” and “Most Outstanding HR Leadership in Plantation Industry” Award from the South Asian Business Excellence Awards in 2017.

Empowering change

The challenges faced by RPCs are unique. Environmental conditions have a significant impact on performance. At the same time, given its labour-intensive nature, social harmony is essential. The highest possible governance standards are also essential in translating strategy into impactful action on the ground and enhancing the confidence of all key stakeholders.

“When it comes to ESG, each area has to be carefully maintained relative to the others. A really simple way to think of sustainability is like a tricycle. Governance is the front wheel providing direction. Social and environmental factors are the rear wheels – to be equally balanced for momentum,” Anuruddha explained.

“Within this framework, effective knowledge management is critical to create awareness and enhance support among key stakeholders. Without their support, you are just an individual attempting to drive an agenda and are unlikely to achieve sustained change.”

An unprecedented opportunity for transformation 

In 2013, his mentor and veteran planter – Dr. Roshan Rajadurai, took over as Managing Director of the Hayleys Plantation Sector, driven by a mission to transform the industry by revolutionising its approach to human resources management.

With the support of his team, guidance and backing from Dr. Rajadurai, one of Anuruddha’s priorities as General Manager – HR and Corporate Sustainability were to develop a comprehensive Strategic HR Plan for KVPL – among the first for Sri Lankan RPCs. After years of patience and persistence, the results of the initiatives he was a part of now speak for themselves.

These programmes have won prestigious global, regional and local acclaim and recognition, including most recently being presented with the ‘UNV50’ award in December 2021 by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) for their contribution to ‘promoting the value of volunteerism through citizen engagement, within the corporate sector in Sri Lanka.’

Creating a knowledge bank

An eternal student at heart, Anuruddha continues to expand his understanding of sustainability, driven through effective human resources and knowledge management.

A series of well-coordinated activities have been carried out as part of the knowledge management efforts. Seeking to motivate learning and knowledge management across all levels of the organisation and even to the public, Anuruddha commenced the “Evening with an Expert @ Hayleys Plantations” micro digital learning series – a programme that is now available online for the public.

Reputed global and local experts, including leaders from Toyota, Japan, have addressed employees on various topics of vital relevance to their work and everyday lives, covering over 2500 effective training hours with the highest training yield ratio of 60%, more than the mean average of the last six years. The first 25 learning sessions are expected to be concluded by April 2022.

Anuruddha’s drive to deliver progress on SDGs 4 and 17 – quality education and partnership, respectively – has been fast-tracked with the ‘Hayleys Plantations Technical Skills Development (HPTDP)’ initiative. The first batch of field staff members graduated from the internal certificate programme, accounting for more than 4,500 effective learning hours and a 95% success rate. This led to Sri Lanka’s first-ever NVQ qualification and Skills Passport for field staff members in tea and rubber estates.

Moreover, Anuruddha leveraged his close relationship with reputed local and international organisations such as AOTS Japan and JASTECA to execute the ‘Global Learning Series’ to provide plantations and corporate management professionals exposure in Japan.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve environmental SDGs 

Setting his sights on achieving environment-related SDGs in clean water and sanitation (goal 6), life on land (goal 15) and life below water (goal 14), Anuruddha partnered with key local and international partners such as the IUCN and the Ministry of Environment.

The partnership has led to the development of a new framework on sustainability at KVPL and the launch of the ‘Kelani Valley Protectors’ initiative, which supports the protection of the Weoya catchment in the Kelani river basin under the national ‘Surakimu Ganga’ initiative.

Looking ahead, Anuruddha aims to continue leveraging his vast experience in support of Hayleys Plantation Group’s trailblazing initiatives to set new benchmarks in sustainability and Human Resources Management.

“As a Hayleys Lifecode Champion, my vision is to maximise value for those who depend on us through economic development or by improving the quality of life for our employees, community and society at large.

“As a catalyst of change, it is truly inspirational to work with this passionate team to establish an inclusive working culture, integrate sustainability into strategy and build partnerships that can drive a bigger impact on-ground to make lives better.”



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Seylan Bank takes the lead to promote LANKA QR beyond Western Province

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Seylan Bank, the Bank with a Heart, organized the ‘Seylan Pay QR Carnival’ in Kurunegala to promote the LANKAQR programme introduced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to strengthen digital transactions in Sri Lanka. The special programme, focusing on encouraging local merchants and SMEs to join the national QR transaction system, took place at the Vehera Sports Ground in Kurunegala recently. Officials from the Central bank of Sri Lanka, the Lanka QR Committee and partner banks were present at the event.

Organised as the 14th leg of the LankaQR national rollout campaign, the Seylan Pay QR Carnival set a firm footprint with the highest number of merchants at the event. Seylan Bank alone on boarded over 100 merchants for the SeylanPay payment solutions from the Kurunegala area. Over a thousand customers walked in during the event which benefitted many merchants accepting LankaQR, to process transactions on the day and generate great traction in the district since then.

As the key feature of the event, Seylan Bank educated their customers on the use of the Bank’s QR payment system, the SeylanPay Mobile App, and assisted customers in making payments to merchants. Over 50 stalls selling clothes and accessories, gift items, food, sweets, electronics and electrical equipment, plants, beauty care, cosmetic items and automobile parts were set up for the benefit of consumers, with attractive added discounts for customers using QR payment systems to purchase items, thereby encouraging and familiarizing the use of it among them. This marked a record high number of merchants participating among many LankaQR nationwide rollout campaigns that were organised to date. A Seylan Bank Mobile ATM was deployed at the premises, ensuring that customers had easy access to carry out cash withdrawals if required and check their account balances at any given time. In addition, a special fun zone was set up for children at the event premises, whilst a musical evening entertained the adults present at the Seylan Pay QR Carnival.

“Seylan Bank’s commitment to develop the banking and finance network together with the industry led to us hosting the 14th leg of the Lanka QR national rollout campaign. We also realize the potential this system brings to the SME sector in the country, in terms of transaction efficiency and savings. As a bank that has continued to support SMEs in the country in a wide spectrum, the alliance with Lanka QR helps in developing the entire transaction ecosystem of the country,” commented Chaminda Senewiratne, Head of Digital Banking Channels, Seylan Bank.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka introduced the LANKAQR service in October 2020 with the aim of moving towards a cash-less society while increasing financial inclusion in Sri Lanka, and was supported in this endeavour by Banks, licensed financial institutions and Lanka Clear (Pvt.) Ltd. It has already stood out as an attractive option with notable benefits for small and medium enterprises.

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Stylish Garments unveils its latest export-oriented BOI factory in Ambalangoda 

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With the Board of Investment (BOI) widening its projects, Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd, unveiled its sixth BOI approved factory in Ambalangoda which manufactures children’s wear, jerseys including school uniforms exclusively targeting the international market. The Stylish Garments is a renowned a garment manufacturer and exporter of jersey knit and lighter woven apparel products.

The latest project, which is a USD 3.5 million investment, is to generate 500 employment opportunities for people living in the south and other parts of the country. Moreover, the products are slated to be exported to the UK and Europe. The agreement in this regard was signed recently at the BOI Head Office in the presence of BOI Director General Renuka M Weerakone.

The Director General said “A project of this nature should be recognized owing to the fact that it depicts the vibrant and vivid expansion of BOI projects, which has now started to reach the rural areas, The new venture will uplift the livelihood of the people living in the Ambalangoda area plus become a crucial source of bringing dollars to the country in a situation where the country isin dire need of dollars,” she underscored.

Founder and incumbent Chairman of the Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd Leelaratne Hattanarachchi said,” we were determined to launch the project irrespective of current challenges because such new projects would bring dollars to the country. That’s the very reason why I ventured to start operations at this new factory by turning the advantage of this crisis to ourselves. At the same time, we do appreciate the support rendered by the BOI at this critical juncture and look forward their support in future too.”

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Browns Investments solar power plant deal dominates CSE trading

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE’s leading listed company, Browns Investments, disposed of 50.1 per cent of its stake in Sagasolar Power Power (Private) Limited to another leading company, Aitken Spence Pvt. Ltd. yesterday, market sources said.

The total value of the company was Rs 1.4 billion and under this deal Browns Investments sold the stake for Rs 700 million. The capacity of the solar power plant is 10 megawatts, stock market analysts said.

Sagasolar Power built the solar PV facility on 45 acres (18.2 ha) of land within a dedicated energy development area in Baruthankanda, Hambantota district, Southern province. The country’s previous largest solar plant is a 1.3-MW facility also located in Hambantota.

Amid those developments, the trading activities in the stock market turned negative due to macro and micro economic uncertainties. Accordingly, stocks slipped over 1 per cent at mid-day trade yesterday for the third consecutive day, market analysis said.

The All- Share Price Index fell by 121 points and S and P SL20 went down by 50.8 points. Turnover stood at Rs 982 million without any crossings. Top seven companies that that contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 274 million (3.5 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 185 million (1.2 million shares traded), JKH Rs 77 million (626,000 shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 59.8 million (9.9 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 58.9 million (8.9 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 32.6 million (89,000 shares traded) and Commercial Bank Rs 15.4 million (309,000 shares traded). During the day 51.5 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 share transactions.

Yesterday the Central Bank announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 356.04 and the selling price Rs 367.33.

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