The British introduced tea to the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century to overcome the Chinese monopoly. Today, we are the second-largest tea producing nation, with an estimated production of over 179 million kg in July 2021.
However, the tea industry of late is facing the consequences of an extremely common and pressing issue, climate change, which has been impacting tea yields by altering precipitation levels, shifting the timing of seasons and encouraging insects and pests to thrive. These effects are compounded by modern farming practices that rely heavily on the use of weedicides and inorganic fertilisers, creating additional environmental hazards.
Therefore, it is no surprise that conversations around climate change and the environment have grown in the last decade, even among plantation owners and tea manufacturers.
While globally, companies’ sustainability goals have been getting bolder across industries, and most organisations are pledging to become carbon-neutral, tea plantation companies have already been embracing sustainable agriculture in their own smaller ways.
For Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML), the second-largest employer in the state, after the Government of Kerala, however, the objective of sustainable agriculture is not just rooted in climate change and the cause of environmentalism. It is a promise to leave a legacy of kindness, goodwill, and care for the next generation.
HML’s sustainable agriculture practices seek to improve production efficiency, productivity, and profitability, while ensuring there is minimal impact on the environment. The company continues to strive towards preserving and restoring critical habitats for animals without posing a threat to their existence, and also improving the standard of living for employees and their families.
HML’s sustainability transformation comes from several localised initiatives and deep-rooted conversations that span the environment, and the social and economic development of communities around its plantations.
Awareness programmes on waste management, farm-hygiene practices and plastic-free living are regularly organised for estate employees and their families. HML also ensures supply of safe drinking water, and conducts regular medical check-ups for them to ensure a thriving and healthy ecosystem for everyone at its plantations.
This all-encompassing approach may seem like a stretch, but HML has delivered results on its sustainability agenda. It is today what many companies can only hope to become — environmentally & socially conscious, and an ethical & happy workplace.
The consequences of overconsumption, exploitation of natural resources, increasing pollution and deforestation in modern times are alarming. Today, it has become more than necessary to have laws that govern sustainable practices. Not only is HML leading the way in this aspect, it is also creating new benchmarks for the industry.
Over the years, formal systems that shaped HML’s sustainability initiatives were adopted without any fanfare, becoming a way of life for HML and its employees. Amid various challenges over the years, HML has proven that it is ultimately people who drive progress through positive mindsets, and not merely the enforcement of policies. For this, HML has been ranked among India's Best Companies to Work For in 2021 at No. 6, and among the Best Large Workplaces in Asia at 16th position for 2021.
This RPG company has amply demonstrated that a shared purpose and commitment to give back to society and the environment is indeed a true measure of the wealth that a business can generate, beyond just profits.