A discussion with Dr. Rohan Fernando, Director, Head of Business Development & Plantations, Aitken Spence PLC
Sustainability, the carbon footprint and carbon neutrality have become the “buzz words” of business today, but few truly understand the need or the multi-faceted significance of sustainability in today’s business climate. Dr. Rohan Fernando says that the Corporate Sustainability Team champions the need for sustainability in the current global context, adding that “Sustainability is not about doing good; it is about doing good business.”
Whilst most understand the environmental aspect of a sustainable business, many are unaware of the economic and social factors being focused on in a corporate sustainability strategy. In a drive to ensure the long term viability, profitability and integrity of business, the Corporate Sustainability Team in conjunction with the SBUs have taken it upon themselves to build on the strengths of each individual company, guiding the group on the path of corporate sustainability. The team is led by Mr. Ravi De Silva, whose vast experience and knowledge on the topic of sustainability, is consulted on sustainability strategizing and implementation.
Dr. Fernando says that sustainability in business makes the company more competitive, and, therefore, improves the bottom line. Globally, customers, investors, financing institutions, governments and interest groups are increasingly demanding greater levels of transparency in business conduct. Likewise, businesses which embrace corporate sustainability stand to gain with more loyal customers, enhanced business opportunities and mutually beneficial partnerships with key stakeholders. Hence, as a leading conglomerate with a dynamic global outlook it is natural that Aitken Spence builds on its heritage to aggressively pursue a group-wide sustainability strategy.
The diverse activities of the group pose a challenge in itself, for the nature of each company’s business dictates the aspect of sustainability it should adopt. Whilst certain companies, within the group such as Aitken Spence Hotels are able to champion sustainable strategies which have an environmental impact, other companies may decide to champion health and safety, governance, innovation, quality and human resources.
A deep-rooted belief that “As a leading corporate in Sri Lanka, with a global reach, it is our responsibility to maintain sustainable practices,” is one that must be both instilled and cultivated. Each subsidiary has its own “sustainability representative,” who works in tandem with the Business Development unit to help inform and assist their colleagues in formulating an enduring and practical strategy for continuance, one that is customised to each entity’s separate needs.
The road to sustainability will be neither short, nor easy, but if travelled properly it will most certainly be a rewarding one for Aitken Spence.
Ace Magazine – 2010