In our latest ‘RPC Innovation Update’ we explore one of the world’s most powerful success
stories in sustainable plantations management. Kelani Valley Plantations PLC (KVPL) is a
trailblazing pioneer in the fields of Human Resource Management (HRM), agriculture and
environmental best practices. Today they are working to redefine best practices, and establish a
vibrant new model for plantations that puts people first.
Managed by Hayleys Plantations, KVPL has a long legacy of leadership in sustainability. In
2006, it became the first plantation company worldwide to sign the United Nations Global
Compact (UNGC), endorsing principles of labor standards, human rights, environment, and anti-
corruption. They are also a signatory to the UN CEO Water Mandate addressing water-related
“By pursuing excellence we build on our legacy of sustainable and ethically produced premium
Pure Ceylon Tea. That is how we can reliably produce the right product to create the perfect cup
of tea. This requires a total commitment to quality across the production process. We don’t see
ourselves as just a tea company. Through our holistic commitment to sustainability and ethical
management, we have gone beyond the conventional boundaries of plantation management.
“By internalizing excellence, we deliver superior products, provide employees with sustainable
livelihoods, and manage the business in a way that drives progress on our ESG commitments
and aligns with KVPL’s Corporate DNA and the broader goals of the Hayleys Lifecode,” KVPL
Director/CEO, Anura Weerakoon explained.
A global pioneer in humane HRM
KVPL prioritizes progressive people management channeled through employee and community-
focused initiatives to enhance livelihoods and quality of life, generating stronger employee
engagement and retention.
KVPL’s renowned “Home for Every Plantation Worker” program is a prime example of this
commitment in action, providing comprehensive support in health, nutrition, well-being, capacity
building, and living conditions.
“The plantation industry generally, and tea specifically is experiencing severe shortages of
employees. While there are no short-term solutions, our experience proves that the best way to
reverse this trend is continuous investment in our people to provide them with the systems,
tools, knowledge and training to incorporate global best practices into their daily operations.
“This helps increase employee earnings while making the work itself more manageable and
rewarding. This approach is what defines the Sustainable HRM Model practiced at KVPL. It
encompasses both conventional practices – from employee recruitment to daily operations,
career development and retirement – as well as Sustainable Human Care and Knowledge
Management Practices,” KVPL General Manager, HR & Corporate Sustainability, Anuruddha
Over 8,700 employees and their families have benefited, impacting 58,000+ community
members. KVPL also ensures extensive support for mothers and children, offering pre/post-
natal care, establishing Childhood Development Centers (CDC), and promoting digital literacy in
collaboration with UNICEF. Professionally managed by qualified teachers from the community
the CDCs provide a strong educational foundation for children up to age 5.
Together with its sister companies in the Hayleys Plantations sector – Talawakele Tea Estates
PLC and Horana Plantations PLC, KVPL’s innovations in humane HRM have won the company
resounding global recognition.
KVPL and TTEL were first in plantation industry to be ranked among Asia’s Best Workplaces,
Great Place to Work, and Best Workplaces for Women. KVPL also achieved consecutive Great
Place to Work certification in Sri Lanka in 2022/23 and 2023/24.
KVPL’s investment in its people is nothing short of extraordinary. Over the past year alone, the
company has built 61 new houses, 3 water schemes, and provided sanitation facilities with 5
toilets. A further 164 housing units were electrified, and 3 field restrooms installed, supporting
further improvements for conditions on the ground.
KVPL’s investment in health has been equally impressive. In 2022, they conducted numerous
initiatives to support and empower estate communities. These efforts included 30 Eye Care
Operations, providing cataract operations and spectacles to 547 individuals across 34 clinics.
Additionally, they organized 11 oral cancer prevention programs, 53 AIDS awareness programs,
and 89 Dengue awareness programs. These endeavors have contributed to the well-being of
employees and their families, enabling them to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
KVPL has also invested extensively in digitalization. This includes simple but groundbreaking
interventions such as introducing digital weighing scales and Near-Field Communication (NFC)
cards, and real-time weighing systems. These digitalized systems empower employees and the
company to `keep track of daily harvests, further enhancing engagement and aligning the
workforce towards greater productivity.
Over the past year alone, KVPL has collectively invested Rs. 195 million on community
development strategy, enhancing living environment, health and nutrient, youth empowerment
and community capacity building with 130,000+ beneficiaries. KVPL is also further enhancing
productivity through investments into mechanization, precision agriculture and drone
A nursery for sustainable innovation and circular plantations
The other half of KVPL’s game-changing approach to plantations is centered on innovations to
the business model itself. This manifests in new technologies and best practices, and
diversification into new crops, as well as tourism and hospitality.
“Our rationale is simple but powerful. We want to leverage our people and our assets to make
optimal use of the land that we have been charged with managing. Tea and rubber will always
serve as core pillars of our business. But we are actively developing new streams of revenue
through a wide array of crops and any other sustainable possibilities for expanding export
revenue,” Weerakoon stated.
In recent years, these efforts culminated in KVPL branching out into coffee cultivation, and a
vast array of export crops. From traditional export staples like cinnamon, and coconut to new
and increasingly lucrative diversifications into agarwood, turmeric, ginger, coffee, and pepper.
“Sustainable eco-tourism is another excellent example of high value niches that we can tap into.
Given our commitments to assess 100% of the biodiversity present on our estates, and high
conservation value (HCV) areas that we protect, we are able host tourists, as well as scientists,
biologists and conservationists from across the world who wish to come to study this rich array
of flora and fauna in the country. We are currently exploring the feasibility of a sustainable
tourism model at Halgolla Estate
“While the absolute number of tourists we can host will not be large the growing value of
sustainable tourism can generate invaluable dollar income, and support the emergence of a
truly green national economy and preserving our nation’s priceless natural resources,”
Notably, KVPL pioneered comprehensive biodiversity assessments in Sri Lanka, partnering with
the IUCN in 2008. Through these continuous assessments KVPL has tracked a notable 40%
biodiversity increase across all of its estates. Remarkably, over 25% of flora and fauna species
are endemic. The company invested Rs. 7.3 million in habitat conservation and environmental
management to support these initiatives.
Their commitment to biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka continues through the establishment
of the Ellabeda Ridge Corridor (ERC) – a vital ecological corridor that provides essential support
for leopard populations and preserving the overall biodiversity – in collaboration with the
Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT).
KVPL’s Halgolla Estate was also the first to partner the Netherlands-Sri Lanka pilot project on
“Agroforestry on Tea Plantations in Sri Lanka. The project aims to enhance environmental and
socio-economic sustainability through a public-private partnership focused on agroforestry
development in the plantation sector.
KVPL is also committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through
its comprehensive EESG Strategy and Corporate DNA. The company prioritizes environmental
sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon footprint, transitioning
from non-renewable to renewable energy sources.
“Moving forward, our goal is to uncover all opportunities for value creation, on a global scale,
and feed the returns of these innovations back into the business and the people and
communities that depend on them, and forging a new path for the global plantation industry.
This is the true meaning of circularity,” Weerakoon said.
KVPL and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) employees volunteering for the Kelani
Valley Protectors Initiative (KVPI), in support of the Government’s ‘Surakimu Ganga’ program
End-to-end digitization in tea harvesting – KVPL employees digitally weighing a
morning harvest and syncing it to their mobile application providing real-time visibility