Japan Tobacco International among the Few Georgian Companies with a Dedicated Budget for CSR Activities

Japan Tobacco International among the Few Georgian Companies with a Dedicated Budget for CSR Activities

The FINANCIAL -- Japan Tobacco International is a leading international tobacco company with operations in more than 120 countries. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, JTI employs around 27,000 people and was awarded the Global Top Employer for three consecutive years. JTI is a member of the Japan Tobacco Group of companies.

JTI started its business in Georgia in 2000. In 2011, JTI Caucasus LLC (regional hub for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) was established in Tbilisi. The company currently employs 108 people in Georgia. JTI in Georgia has been recognized as Top Employer for four consecutive years.

Boasting such an impressive résumé, JTI was on our radars when conducting our CSR research on the Georgian market. Anna Skhiladze, Community Investment & Communication Manager at JTI Caucasus LLC, answered our questions regarding the CSR activities of the company, as well as some of the ways JTI ensures its business runs as responsibly as possible.

“We are aware of the health risks associated with smoking and are committed to developing reduced risk products. Our long-term business growth and success depends on being a responsible member of all the communities we operate in,” Mrs. Skhiladze stated.

“This is a journey we’ve already begun; we’ve been tackling sustainability-related issues across our global business for many years. But, in an ever-changing business landscape, we acknowledge there are still many challenges to understand and achieve – and expectations from employees, governments and wider society are high,” she continued.

“We are continuously working on our long-term sustainability, designed to tackle the biggest issues across every aspect of our value chain – from how we work with our farmers and responsibly source raw materials, to the way all our products are distributed and sold. We’re also proud to be recognized by law enforcement agencies for our strong company integrity in the fight against the illegal tobacco trade.”

“The need to secure a sustainable supply chain makes good business sense. But we know that our responsibilities go even further. At the heart of everything we do are our customers, employees, communities and JT Group shareholders. Their contribution and commitment to understanding our approach is just as vital to the continued success and sustainability of our business. That’s why our sustainability approach is not solely focused on our supply chain, but extends to our fundamental belief that we must be a responsible member of all the communities we operate in.”

Mrs. Skhiladze went into detail concerning JTI’s CSR-related policies. The company is one of the leaders on the Georgian market when it comes to its systematic approach to CSR. According to JTI’s Global Community Investment Policy, up to 1% of the company’s profit of the previous year is spent on Community Investment projects annually.

The CSR directions at JTI are distributed between Communication and HR departments. Employees’ healthcare, safety and welfare (EHS) projects are managed by the HR department, while social projects are managed by the Communications and Community Investment manager.

Not only does the company have a pre-approved budget for CSR projects in 2018, but also for 2019 & 2020.

JTI’s CSR Projects in Georgia cover two main directions: Arts & culture, and people.

The company has been carrying out several projects to support the elderly beneficiaries of the charity fund “Caritas Georgia”.

All four projects of Caritas are very important for socially vulnerable people. The list goes as follows: Soup Kitchen – it has been 8 years already since JTI started supporting the “Caritas” soup kitchen, where 200 socially-vulnerable elderly people receive hot meals five days per week.

Then there’s the socialization day centre “Harmony” – for 4 years already JTI has been supporting Caritas Day Centre Harmony. This is a place where socially-vulnerable, lonely elderly people stay during the day. The Centre is heated during the winter, it is also equipped with hot water; it has a library, a sewing room, TV, a piano, chess, etc. In 2014, due to a lack of funds, Harmony was on the verge of closure. With JTI’s support, the Centre continues functioning. From time to time, the management of the company, as well as volunteer employees, visit the Centre, bringing fruit and sweets.

Next in line is the New Year Food Packages for Caritas Beneficiaries programme – for 3 years the company has foregone corporate New Year gifts and instead transfers money to Caritas. This year, 1105 Caritas beneficiaries in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Ozurgeti received New Year food packages.

Finally, there’s the Home Care Programme – at the end of 2017, the company financed another project of Caritas. The home care programme implies medical, rehabilitation and psychological services that are provided in order to stabilize patients’ health at home. This service of Caritas is used by 650 (six hundred and fifty) beneficiaries. The company has allocated funds for the purchase of a yearly supply of essential hygiene and medical products for bedridden beneficiaries.

Mrs. Skhiladze pointed out the Home Care Programme as the most important one implemented by JTI in 2017. “This is the field that gets the least attention and there is no organized and complex approach to this problem. At the same time, it was a new programme for JTI, that was not accounted for in the annual budget, although we were able to mobilize additional funds based on the local management’s decision,” she explained.

As for projects in the cultural field, JTI supports Marjanishvili Theater and the Georgian Programme of Tbilisi International Theatre Festival. The company also finances the annual educational journal of the National Museum.

JTI ensures environmental awareness of its employees through its eco-driving programme: “There is a motivational programme in the company for employees who drive corporate cars. The cars are monitored through GPS, which allows the assessment of how ‘ecologically’ (less fuel consumption and less emissions) the employees drive the cars. The results are summarized and the most responsible driver is awarded.”

In 2017, in the framework of the aghadgine.ge project, “green” boxes were placed in JTI’s Tbilisi office to collect waste paper.

On a final note, Mrs. Skhiladze pointed out that JTI does not forget about the well-being of its staff: the improvement in social conditions of the company’s employees was reflected in salary increases (salaries of more than 90% of employees were increased by 7% on average in 2017), as well as in annual bonuses.

Written By David Aleksidze, The FINANCIAL