As all the world knows, my beautiful country, Sri Lanka, is currently stricken with conflict. As a nation we are in a state of major upheaval in a world that is trying to recover from the pandemic and facing serious threat to global stability with the Russian war on Ukraine.
Sri Lanka has the double burden of being in the eye of both economic and political crises. This has manifested in excessive price hikes for daily essentials, and shortages in food, gas and fuel. Depletions in our foreign reserves have impacted import and export trade, resulting in all-time high inflation – sadly matched by an all-time low in quality of life.
While this plays out, we must do our best to provide certainty and hope for our business. Which is why I believe we must look beyond profit and take greater responsibility to ensure our circle of impact is minimised, starting with our own people.
My company, English Tea Shop, is a relatively new business, founded in 2010. We are an independent speciality tea company with a manufacturing arm in Sri Lanka, committed to bringing a variety of 100% organic teas to our customers.
We pledge to work closely with everyone in our value chain to make our planet a better place for living beings. We want to be part of creating a world that is both environmentally secure and economically prosperous for generations to come. A world where all people are treated fairly and given the chance to grow and develop.
In recent times the lifestyle concepts of ‘hygge’ (cosy) and ‘lagom’ (just enough) have become accepted wisdom. I would like to propose another concept – ‘prajava’ – which in Sri Lanka means community. It is at the heart of our philosophy.
For me ‘prajava’ is about a mindset change when a business goes from thinking of itself as part of the community, to being the centre of it. Counterintuitive as it may seem, it is by striving to be the heart and soul of a community that we can serve it better, and, by doing so, grow sustainably.
ETS has voluntarily introduced practical ways to help our people, our community. We have taken measures we never thought we would have to consider, such as increasing salaries by over 60% in the past 18 months, pegged to US dollars. We’ve distributed infra-red cookers for everyone as we no longer have assurance about the supply of LPG. We are also looking into funding a solar-based power generation solution for our 300 employee households to do our bit to minimise the burning of fossil fuels.
We have commenced holding an in-house inventory of daily essentials for convenient purchase (some even free of charge). And we have introduced free transport as travel has become such a challenge.
Though these measures are costly and burdensome, we believe businesses should hold themselves more accountable for resolving growing income inequalities and social issues. We believe we can’t simply wait for governments to act.
Increasingly, companies are adopting more robust sustainability credentials in their production and sourcing protocols, but social sustainability is equally vital. I believe we need to view societal challenges as every bit as important and commit to safeguard the livelihoods of our communities. ‘Prajava’ should be at the heart of everything we do.