Sunshine Holdings PLC’s plantation sector subsidiary, Watawala Plantations PLC, has obtained certification from Rainforest Alliance covering all 16 tea estates managed by the company, demonstrating its compliance with rigorous global standards relating to the wellbeing of its associates, their families and the environment.
Watawala Plantations has voluntarily adopted environmental and social best practices and is already compliant with several other global standards including Ethical Tea Partnership and Fair Trade, as well as the requirements of local organizations such as Sri Lanka Standards Institution – Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Central Environment Authority. The Rainforest Alliance (RA) certification, which covers Triple Bottom Line (TBL) aspects including the wellbeing of the environment and social and economic considerations, further reaffirms the company’s strong emphasis on sustainable and ethical business practices. RA promotes sustainable agriculture through land use practices and business and consumer behaviour.
The certificate from Rainforest Alliance confirms Watawala Plantations’ compliance with the requirements of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a global standard given to organizations which satisfy stringent conditions relating to the environment (eco-system, wildlife, soil and water conservation), community relations (occupational health and safety and fair treatment of and good working conditions for workers) and economic aspects (integrated crop and waste management).
Following a comprehensive audit, the certificate was presented to Watawala Plantations by the Indonesia-based office of RA-Cert, the auditing division of the Rainforest Alliance responsible for all certification, verification and validation activities in the areas of forestry, agriculture and carbon/climate. As part of the certification process annual audits will be carried out, thus ensuring continued compliance to stringent criteria and further improvements in the respective parameters by Watawala Plantations.
“Watawala Plantations and Sunshine Holdings take great pride in this achievement, as it reflects that our ethical business approach satisfy global best practices with regard to the wellbeing of our workers and the sustainability of the environment,” Sunshine Holdings PLC Group Managing Director, Vish Govindasamy said. “The success in achieving conformity with a prestigious global standard for all its estates also reflects Watawala Plantations’ position as a thought leader in the local plantation industry, especially at a time at which there is strong interest from buyers in sustainable sourcing.”
The certificate recognises the success of targeted initiatives taken by the company especially with regard to the welfare of its associates and their families. In addition to programmes to ensure zero maternal and infant mortality, 100% institutional births, 100% immunization of all children of associates and 100% primary education for all children of associates in the estates managed by the company, Watawala Plantations has gone beyond the call of duty in ensuring the wellbeing of its associates and their families. The company contributes towards the maintenance of 90 Child Development Centres in its estates in which over 2,600 children under the age of five have been registered and has provided individual sanitation facilities for 9,897 families as at the end of the last financial year. The company is in the process of providing sanitation facilities to a further 2,500 families.
Watawala Plantations has taken numerous targeted measures relating to the preservation of the environment as well, in addition to consistent adherence to good agricultural practices. With the intention of satisfying its energy requirement while minimizing the usage of non-renewable sources, as part of its integrated energy management approach, the company invested in a briquetting machine. The machine uses tea waste, paddy husks and saw dust to produce briquettes and thus its usage results in lower net carbon emissions.
The company has launched a series of programmes aimed at water conservation including rainwater harvesting and improving soil water retention and hopes to measure exact quantities of water used from next year onwards. To protect biodiversity in its estates, Watawala Plantations has embarked on a study of habitats within selected estates and has also taken efforts such as the maintenance of buffer zones along water bodies. As part of its integrated waste management system, the company produces compost from bio-degradable waste to fertilise crops, among other measures.
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