The Most Sustainable Companies in Georgia During COVID-19

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Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, companieshave been forced to meet significant challenges never seen previously. From slick financial management to monitoring employee interactions, this has arguably become the test of the decade for companies.

Georgia’s RMG (Rich Metal Group) have been among the country’s top-performing companies, who were not only able to proceed with their projects but also continuously provided financial support to more than 3,000 employees and donated more than GEL 1.5 million to charity funds.

The FINANCIAL reached out to Kakhaber Mchedlishvili, the corporate director of RMG, where he gave detailed insights into the company’s inner doings during the pandemic.

Q. What were the concerns during the pre-lockdown period, and what measures became necessary to ensure the continuity of service?

A.While closely following the spread of Covid-19 inthe media, the need for stringent preparations gradually became evident. It was mid-March when the Prime Minister sent out an official invitation to the largest Georgian companies to give first-hand advice. He discussed the possible scenarios related to the virus’s potentialspread and emphasised the need for quick action. The first suggestion was to encourage the administration to shift to remote working.

It was following this summit that our company’s top management began devising action plans to remain a step ahead of the virus.

First, the company decided to divide the working force into two contingency teams, to eliminate the risk of forming a cluster, as well as creating two commissions within the top management, and divided the administrative workers into 10-man teams.

The recommendations were quickly being turned into regulations, therefore we knew the company was maintaining the lead.

While RMG was devising action plans, the first real threats of the virus spreading began to show. There was a Marneuli woman who tested positive, however due to the Bolnisi region being an area she often travelled to, the Government was forced to shut down both of these areas.

As RMG has their mines located within the Bolnisi region, and with the risk being as substantial as ever, we put all our effortsinto designing an effective testing system to increaseemployee awareness. The top management began actively attending our sites to provide detailed instructions.

The allowance at work at RMG is quite alengthy process, as the professionals have to be checked several times, report the relevant documents, thenbegin working.

First, we split the process into two areas, planning thatif one half showed worrying signs, the other was still ready to continue.

With the strategy having been designed, the Government was beginning to put these two regions into lockdown. It was just in the nick of time that we were able to send a working team to Kazreti (the mine located within the lockdown area).

To make the work safer than ever, we began implementing several lines of security against the virus. We implemented thermo-screening early on, on top of that, realising the potential scarcity of masks and disinfectant liquids, RMG decided to begin its own manufacturing of these.With the help of chemists we devised liquids, the spraying of which over 20,000 square meters of space became a daily standard.

To maintain low density through transportation RMG decided to purchase additional buses and only allowed the company-authorised team to enter the working area, meaning that every other cargo was to be checked and only after transported in.

To avoid risky interactions, the top management introduced a waiting room. In the event that someone showed a high temperature, we would send them there and two of our ambulance cars alongside hired medical personnel were then to transport them to hospital.

I can recall onefrightening moment in particular when 14 of our employees showed high temperatures, all of which ultimately tested negative for Covid-19 fortunately though.

While the working process continued we were thoroughly monitoring the spread of the virus, so as to always remain a step ahead.

Being this cautious became very handy when the spouse of an RMG employee, a medical worker at Bolnisi’s hospital, tested positive. While studying the case it became evident that the man had had direct contact with about 50 people.

It was atthis time that we instructed all of 600 employees from Bolnisito go intolockdown, while continuing to pay them their salaries.

This decision increased marginal costs by GEL half a million per month, yet it was a crucial step as 6 family members of the 600 employees later tested positive. Through the vigilance of our staff a much greater threat was successfully averted!

Q. A lot of companies have begun realising the benefits of working remotely, what was the experience of RMG in that regard?

A. We were quick to have created an online working space and designed an automatic calling system. We also enabled people to revise any relevant matter during the remainder of their day. This gained us incredible flexibility.

The remote working system also highlighted the extent of work that can be done without one’s actual physical presence. As the management often used to travel the route from Tbilisi to the mining areas at least 3 times a week, physical visits were a must before the pandemic. During lockdown however, we better realised the benefits of Skype calls, as these can save as much as three hours per day.

An additional asset was the increased trust among the management which highlighted the importance of every position and department.

Q. What are the CSR activities implemented by the company?

A. The company pursued CSR within and beyond the organisation. We have decided to do everything in our power to comfort and motivate the employees who were living on site for more than two months.

As for outside CSR, we donated around GEL 1 million tofoundations aimed at stopping Covid-19. We also decided to help the locals on welfare inthe Dmanisi Bolnisi and Tetricskaro regions, by providing more than 500 families with food packages.

While the government was raising funds for the special Covid-19 tests, RMG decided to transfer GEL 500,000 as well to aid fast testing.

RMG has always supported artists and athletes in region, therefore we decided it was crucial to continue providing for them during such a tough time.

And finally, the company is a huge contributor to restoring seven national heritage monuments which we are proud not to have stopped doing, even through the pandemic.

The company’s role in the region has always been significant. The fact that RMG stands financially stable and provides for everyone even during tough times is a very positive message to locals.

The company was one of the few that the prime minister allowed to continue their operations, which in turn created the opportunity for the other companies in deals with RMG to continue as well. It is very encouraging to see companies still operating during tough times and providing families with continued job opportunities.

Even now that the spread of the virus is somewhat contained, RMG remains cautious. So just in case the virus does continueits spread in the autumn, we will be prepared.

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