The FINANCIAL -- British American Tobacco (BAT), celebrating its 20 year anniversary in the Caucasus this year, has managed to achieve a 26% share of the market, up from 3% from early 1995. Passion, drive and belief in success - these are at the core of the multinational company, which has been operating since 1902. BAT was named the Best Employer of 2013 and 2014 in Georgia. The award demonstrated to the company’s management that they are on the right path, and to this end BAT plans to continue to be a people-focused company.
BAT operates at a local, as well as global, level. The company does not own tobacco farms or directly employ farmers. More than 1,000 BAT leaf technicians worldwide support over 100,000 contracted farmers.
BAT is a part of many local communities - both large and small - around the world, and in many countries BAT is the top employer and the company of choice for people employed at every stage of its supply chain.
In 2014, the company sold 667 billion cigarettes, made in 44 factories in 41 countries. The number of employees amounts to more than 57,000 people worldwide, with many more indirectly employed through the supply chain.
British American Tobacco alone contributed approximately £30 billion to governments worldwide in excise and other taxes in 2014.
On behalf of US Business in Georgia The FINANCIAL interviewed Kakhaber Benidze, General Manager at British American Tobacco in the Caucasus. We asked him to share the company’s experience and the key factors in building and running a successful multinational company.
Q. BAT is one of the leading multinational companies, which has been operating in the Caucasus for twenty years already. Please can you tell us the main factors in creating a successful company?
A. BAT is a global tobacco company with more than 200 brands sold in over 200 markets. Few companies founded in 1902 still exist today, yet BAT continues its journey to becoming one of the most successful companies in the world. With one billion adult smokers around the world, we manufacture the cigarettes chosen by around one in eight of them.
BAT has been present in the Caucasus since 1995, celebrating its 20 year anniversary of successful operations this year. Our market share has increased from 3% to 26% during this period while the number of our employees grew from a few people employed back in 1995 up to 150 today. BAT Caucasus offers its consumers the following brands: Kent; Dunhill; Vogue; Rothmans; Yava; Viceroy; Lucky Strike; and Pall Mall.
To run a successful company you need to have passion, drive, and to believe in its success. We at BAT take our business and our impact on society very seriously, and do our business in a very responsible way - from growing the tobacco leaf through to how we market our products to adult consumers.
Q. As a multinational company BAT has always been actively involved in CSR activities. How do you structure and prioritize your social activities?
A. We are proud to have a number of important achievements across our markets in the Caucasus. For example, BAT Georgia was awarded the Golden Brand award for the Best CSR Company (Education) and Best Employer in 2013 and 2014. This important award is organized by the newspaper The Financial, marketing company Global Idea, and supported by the International Chamber of Commerce and Georgian Chamber of Commerce.
This recognition came as a result of a number of projects run by BAT, such as the Scholarship Project under which we managed to fund up to 30 Master level students of Tbilisi State and Sokhumi State Universities; a Business Case competition project where we managed to bring all the best universities of Georgia and Azerbaijan together, along with the Ministries of Education of both countries. We continue our best efforts in this direction.
As for Azerbaijan, BAT recently won its first ever CSR Excellence Award for continuous support in improvement of education and employment, a successful nationwide innovative job fair project supported by the local government.
I am very pleased to see that all of our CSR initiatives are so successful and well recognised by other companies and local governments. This is all the result of our hard work, dedication and passion for the best results.
Q. Human resources are at the core of the success of any company. Tell us about your experience of finding and recruiting professionals - how do you try to incentivize your workers?
A. British American Tobacco is one of the world’s most international businesses. We employ more than 57,000 people worldwide meaning that we have a very diverse workforce in terms of nationality. Because our employees come from many cultures and backgrounds, it provides variety and different ways of looking at challenges, encouraging creativity and innovation, who support each other’s successes and create a unique mix.
We are dedicated to providing equal opportunities for each employee. We devote a lot of attention to internal communications and relations, focusing on a sense of belonging and trust. We seek to encourage confidence to ensure that employees can air questions and problems arising during the course of their work. We truly believe that the success of BAT is determined by our employees’ meaningful and confident contribution. Therefore we devote a lot of effort to developing our talents and initiatives.
As we aim to foster a sense of pride and to be the employer of choice, we drive important projects to highlight the role of being a responsible citizen and best employer. The awards for the Best Employer in Georgia in 2013 and 2014 clearly demonstrate that we are on the right path, and we will continue to be a people-focused company.
Q. How has the company transformed over the years?
A. We always have a long way to go, and as much as our business has changed, so has the world around us - from evolving consumer demands and emerging opportunities in a new generation of products, to increasing expectations of the role of business in society.
In 2014, we sharpened our approach further with the development of a new sustainability agenda, focused on the most material issues for our business and our stakeholders in three key areas: harm reduction; sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods; and corporate behaviour. These are not only where we face some of our biggest challenges, but also where we see the greatest opportunities.
Q. What is BAT’s ecosystem policy?
A. We recognise that we have both an impact and a dependence on biodiversity, through our business operations and use of ecosystem services, such as forest products, soil and water.
Under the British American Tobacco business principle of Good Corporate Conduct, we aim to minimise our impact on biodiversity and the wider environment. Part of this commitment means avoiding, minimising or mitigating our impacts on biodiversity and linked ecosystem services, or where this is not appropriate or most beneficial, offsetting those impacts at a regional or national level.