Fighting the pandemic and climate change

The rampaging pandemic finds yet another high profile casualty – the triple bottom line. As businesses fight mounting odds with their profits plunging, the global commitment to the environment experienced a body blow with the UN urging nations to declare a climate emergency, which was heeded by a Sri Lankan company and its global partner.

While re-engineering their destinies in the face of a crippling pandemic, Telesonic Lanka and Midea refuse to take the foot off the pedal in an ambitious reforestation mandate undertaken as part of their commitment to Sri Lanka.

Telesonic’s Managing Director Arun Mahtani sums up the company’s outlook as not only burning the midnight oil to navigate stormy seas in desperate times but bolstering commitment to a reforestation and sustainable development mission launched long before the pandemic emerged.

“As a brand, we believe that the best time to make a monumental effort is when pinned against the wall,” he says, continuing: “The economy and health of the planet have been severely affected – one cannot survive without the other and time is running out for both.”

Mahtani explains: “This is why Telesonic, with its global partner Midea, looks to lead from the front in committing to the triple bottom line even in times of great adversity.”

The company notes that one of Sri Lanka’s more poignant reforestation and sustainable development mandates is taking shape with a special emphasis on sustainable forestry.

An exclusive agent for Midea – among the largest global consumer electronics brands with a patent for superior air cooling technology – Telesonic disrupted the air conditioner segment with its swashbuckling approach in a competitive market, positioning itself among the fastest selling air conditioner brands in Sri Lanka.

As the company focussed on blazing a trail, it didn’t waste time in becoming a crusader against climate change, partnering with the Geo Explore Foundation (GEF) – a positive impact influencer.

The nonprofit advocates that reforestation is not planting a million plants in soil but involves a complex biodiversity matrix, and colossal financial and time commitment, which is why few take the plunge.

Mahtani explains: “Telesonic has been on a quiet revolution spanning more than four decades. When Midea selected us to represent the group, it was time to up the ante. Taking the air conditioner market by storm was merely a part of the story. Tackling climate change and growing trees – natural air conditioners – was a natural fit and large part of the tale.”

Moreover, he avers the brand’s relationship with GEF demonstrates that to thrive in business, one must also ensure people and the environment do so as well.

It has been documented that the Earth’s living systems are being compromised. The more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity, warns the Global Biodiversity Outlook.

So in the wake of COVID-19, Telesonic renewed its commitment to nature.

“The pandemic has been a double-edged sword,” says GEF Chairman Dr. Dinesh Watawana, adding: “As the world initially went into lockdown, pollution reduced dramatically and Planet Earth began to heal. The unheard story is that the dialogue on climate change has been deferred.”

He adds: “In fact, businesses and countries are asking for global climate change benchmarks to be relaxed as the focus is on survival.”

If there ever was a time to promote CSR, Watawana says it is now. He believes that the only way out is innovation and accountability on all fronts of the triple bottom line, and Telesonic demonstrates how it can be achieved.

GEF’s Field Base in Buttala hosts a reforestation project where it is growing a model forest reserve. The plant count – many of which are from a women’s empowerment programme – in its nurseries stands at around 45,000, reportedly making it Sri Lanka’s largest plant nursery.

Plans are afoot to establish a biodiversity R&D centre along with several partner programmes in conservation and sustainable development. One such initiative – reforesting an area around a tank in the Yala National Park buffer zone – commenced in partnership with a farmer society.

“Our conservation mission is made more difficult by a commitment to ensuring plants grown by us are taken care of for up to three years so that they can grow into a biodiverse forest on their own,” Mahtani reveals.

He stresses: “Our partnership is built on an unwavering commitment to our people and the planet – and as a trailblazer, it originates from the vision of our founding fathers that business must be built on the foundation of true care and unwavering integrity, and profits will come along the way.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “stepping up action to safeguard and restore biodiversity – the living fabric of our planet, and the foundation of human life and prosperity – is an essential part of this collective effort.” To this, Mahtani quips: “We’re already out in the field.”

– Compiled by Lourdes Abeyeratne
Arun Mahtani
Managing Director