Brandix despite global customers focuses CSR on local community development | Daily News

Brandix despite global customers focuses CSR on local community development

As a leader in apparel manufacturing in Sri Lanka, the island is lined with Brandix manufacturing facilities employing over 35,000 Associates, a striking 85% of the female. From the outset, the company distinguished itself as an employer that valued employee wellbeing above all else.

Head - Corporate Social Responsibility at Brandix Apparel Limited Anusha Alles, speaks to Daily News Business on how the company engages its employees, the impact of its CSR initiatives, and why an organisation with a large international market was focusing on local community development.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to carry out all our CSR activities this year while ensuring complete compliance with all health guidelines.”

Excerpts from the interview

Q: Brandix is an exporter of apparel to some of the world’s leading brands. None of your business activities targets the local market. Even so, you have a robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework focused on Sri Lanka. What is the strategy here?

A: Brandix has been an organisation that has been mindful of its social responsibility from the very beginning, and in 2006, we formally set up our CSR unit. Our primary focus has always been the welfare of our Associates, intending to ensure their mental and physical wellbeing. They are the driving force behind our business, and it is critical to us that we look after them and their families. It is this guiding principle on which our CSR strategy is built. This is also reflected in the 4 pillars we have incorporated into our CSR framework - Provide, Educate, Research and Engage.

Q: That is indeed an interesting perspective to CSR. Could you elaborate on some of the initiatives that the company has undertaken as a part of the CSR programme?

A: Our Associates are predominantly female. As a result, many of our CSR initiatives are directed towards female empowerment and ensuring that our Associates’ problems are solved, through which they can have peace of mind. Early on, we observed that some of our Associates living in rural areas struggle with access to water in their homes and communities. Some of them walk long distances and put in significant time and effort to bring drinking water home. This weighed heavily on their minds. This resulted in us launching ‘Mehewarata Diyavara,’, a programme to provide clean pipe-borne water to our Associates’ homes. Since the inception of these initiatives in 2006, we have provided access to clean drinking water to over 4,800 Associates, improving the lives of over 20,000 people in the process.

Many of our Associates have children. As part of our CSR pillar ‘Educate’, ‘Randaru Thilina’ came to life, becoming one of our most important programmes designed to uplift the education of our Associates’ children. Every year, children between nursery age and Grade 5 from across our network are given school bags, books and stationery from Brandix. I am so grateful to note that we continued this programme even during the height of the pandemic as an essential project, considering that the education of many was hampered during lockdowns. Annually 8000+ children benefit from ‘Randaru Thilina,’ and the company has been able to help nearly 37,000 children to date through this initiative.

While our business is dependent on our Associates’ contribution, we also strive to empower them to become their best selves. Together with Gap Inc. and PVH, we implemented the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. programme for our female Associates, empowering their personal and professional growth through the development of specific skills. Since its induction across the Brandix Group, over 4,000 Associates have graduated from the programme, whilst over 125 have become successful Master Trainers.

We also launched the Brandix ‘Abhisheka’ programme for our Associates with entrepreneurial aspirations. While our education is often theoretically strong, it doesn’t necessarily give us the tools to come up with solutions for life’s problems. ‘Abhisheka’ aims to bridge that gap by helping Associates learn a multitude of monetizable skills.

Brandix has always been keen to improve the quality of life of the villages we operate in.

The Brandix ‘Model Village’ programme provides water and sanitation facilities for schools, police stations, religious institutions, and hospitals within communities.

It also gives our Associates pride of place in town and increases their social standing, which is also very important to us.

Q: The past year was challenging for the entire country. Were you able to continue your CSR activities under such circumstances?

A: The pandemic has led to severe disruptions in our day-to-day life, and a big concern for our Associates during this time has been the continuation of their children’s schooling.

While the pandemic limited our ability to carry out some of our usual CSR activities, with our increased focus towards education, our team was successful in providing our Associates’ children with model papers for their respective age groups to ensure that they stayed engaged with their studies. Our team also initiated creativity-driven competitions for children, to help keep them upbeat and in a positive mind frame while being at home.

Q: In this day and age, sustainability is essential for an organisation’s existence and progress. How does Brandix’s CSR build sustainability for the business?

A: At Brandix, none of our CSR initiatives is profit-motivated. As I explained at the beginning, our objective is the wellbeing of our Associates. However, there is a way the company benefits from our CSR indirectly. We create a workplace that is conducive for them to work, with solutions provided for their issues.

What we have seen over the years is that well looked after Associates who are empowered and upskilled are loyal and give their best to the company. This is where the organisation derives sustainability and growth.