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The challenge of meaningfully advancing environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards is more about people than process or policy. This is why organizations that can understand the human element in driving change tend to set the tone in their respective industries.

As a true pioneer among Sri Lanka’s Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) in human resources and sustainability, Anuruddha Gamage realized this realization early in his career. For more than two decades, he has helped redefine sustainability at one of the largest and most respected Regional Plantation Societies (RPCs). At the heart of its approach: people.

An upper second class B.Sc. An Agriculture graduate (Hons.) from the University of Peradeniya, Anuruddha joined Kelani Valley Plantations PLC (KVPL) as a plantation management trainee in 1999. Early in 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.

Starting his MBA specializing in Human Resource Management at the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayawardenepura, he quickly sought out opportunities to incorporate academic learning into his work. Currently, he is studying for his PhD at the Postgraduate Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (PGIHS), University of Peradeniya and is an associate member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Managers of Sri Lanka (FCPM).

Currently Secretary General and Member of the Executive Board of the Japan and Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association (JASTECA) and President of the JASTECA Institute of Management, Anuruddha was also listed as one of the 100 Most Influential HR Professionals in 2018 by the World HRD Congress. . He is the recipient of the “Most Talented HR Leaders” award from the Asia-Pacific HRM Congress Awards in 2017, where he was named “Catalyst of Change” and “Most Outstanding HR Leadership in Plantation Industry” Award from South Asian Business Excellence. Awards in 2017.

Driving change

The challenges facing RPCs are unique. Environmental conditions have a significant impact on performance. At the same time, given its labor-intensive nature, social harmony is essential. The highest possible governance standards are also key to translating strategy into impactful action on the ground and building trust with all key stakeholders.

“When it comes to ESG, each area needs to be carefully nurtured relative to the others. A very simple way to think about sustainability is like a tricycle. Governance is the front wheel that gives direction. Social and environmental factors are the rear wheels – to be balanced for momentum as well,” Anuruddha explained.

“As part of this, effective knowledge management is essential to raise awareness and build support among key stakeholders. Without their support, you are just an individual trying to complete a program and you are unlikely to achieve lasting change.

An unprecedented opportunity for transformation

In 2013, his mentor and seasoned planter, Dr Roshan Rajadurai, took over as General Manager of the Hayleys Plantation business, driven by a mission to transform the industry by revolutionizing its approach to people management.

With the support of his team, the guidance and support of Dr. Rajadurai, one of Anuruddha’s priorities as Managing Director – HR & Corporate Sustainability was to develop a comprehensive HR strategic plan for KVPL – among the first for Sri Lankan RPCs. After years of patience and perseverance, the results of the initiatives he was a part of now speak for themselves.

These programs have won prestigious global, regional and local acclaim and recognition, including being awarded the “UNV50” award in December 2021 by United Nations Volunteers (UNV) for their contribution to “promoting the value of volunteerism through civic engagement, in the corporate sector in Sri Lanka.’

Create a knowledge bank

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

A series of well-coordinated activities have been carried out as part of knowledge management efforts. Seeking to motivate learning and knowledge management at all levels of the organization and even the public, Anuruddha launched the digital learning micro-series “Evening with an Expert @ Hayleys Plantations” – a program now available in line for the public.

Renowned global and local experts, including executives from Toyota, Japan, spoke to employees on various topics vital to their work and daily lives, covering more than 2,500 actual training hours with the rate of return of training the highest 60%, above the average average. of the past six years. The first 25 learning sessions are expected to be completed by April 2022.

Anuruddha’s drive to make progress on SDGs 4 and 17 – quality education and partnership, respectively – has been accelerated with the “Hayleys Plantations Technical Skills Development (HPTDP)” initiative. The first batch of field staff graduated from the in-house certificate program, representing over 4,500 actual learning hours and a 95% pass rate. This led to Sri Lanka’s first ever NVQ qualification and skills passport for field staff members in tea and rubber plantations.

Additionally, Anuruddha has leveraged its close relationships with reputable local and international organizations such as AOTS Japan and JASTECA to run the “Global Learning Series” to provide plantations and business management professionals with exposure in Japan. .

Multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve the environmental SDGs

Aiming to achieve the environment-related SDGs in the areas of drinking water and sanitation (goal 6), life on land (goal 15) and life below water (goal 14), Anuruddha has partnered with key local and international partners such as 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 watershed in the Kelani River basin as part of of the national initiative “Surakimu Ganga”.

Looking ahead, Anuruddha aims to continue to leverage its vast experience to support Hayleys Plantation Group’s pioneering initiatives to set new benchmarks in sustainability and people management.

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

“As a catalyst for change, it is truly inspiring to work with this passionate team to build an inclusive workplace culture, embed sustainability into strategy and build partnerships that can have greater impact on the ground to improve lives. .”

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