The FINANCIAL -- Adjara Group, leading Georgian company in the hospitality business, is developing agriculture. The company has started building a farmhouse in Kakheti, Georgia’s wine-growing region. It will also be opening Stamba Hotel and Casino Aviator this year. Valeri Chekheria, Company CEO, said that environmental problems in Georgia are negatively affecting the tourism business.
Q. Have you noticed a positive change in the number of companies adopting CSR principles?
A. To begin with, I would like to say a few words about our company. Adjara Group is a leading Georgian company in hospitality and lifestyle development. We are building a modern Georgian business which holds social responsibility at the heart of the corporate agenda.
Our company is therefore a proud member of Global Compact - the United Nations initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to align their strategies and operations ‘with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption’.
To get back to your question, I am indeed very pleased to see the number of companies in Georgia adopting CSR principles growing every year. In that sense, I’ve certainly noticed a positive change, but I think there is still room for improvement and more needs to be done to establish a true socially responsible corporate culture in the country.
Q. Can you tell us what the main obstacles are to the implementation of CSR at Georgian companies, including at Adjara Group?
A. I believe the structural change within the company’s mindset has been the biggest challenge. Historically speaking, the concept of CSR has not been part of Georgian corporate culture. It is slowly becoming recognized and adopted by various enterprises, although it still remains a new notion.
Therefore, understanding and implementing the core principles at different stages is the challenge that every company, keen on being socially responsible, is facing. It is a new process which takes time and requires an in-depth understanding, but luckily the need for it is becoming widely recognized in Georgia and the business sector is slowly attempting to overcome those procedural challenges. It is a long-term goal and we all have to try to do what we can to move forward as fast as possible!
Q. From your point of view, which companies or sectors in Georgia are expected to do more in terms of CSR?
A. As I already said, even though I am glad to witness a positive change, there is still room for improvement and the big Georgian companies have to set stronger examples. I also think the issue of communication is crucial here. Big corporations have to continuously inform and show the importance of being socially responsible. We need to set positive examples and take actions that advance societal goals.
Q. What is your point of view on Tbilisi’s urban development?
A. Unfortunately, the distortion of the capital’s architectural integrity started in the late Soviet era and continued in the ‘90s when due to a lack of regulations many distasteful and urbanely-unacceptable constructions were built. Now we are facing the consequences of the years of unlicensed constructions and lack of aesthetic standards which have destroyed the face of, what once was known as, an architectural jewel of the region.
Today we are cooperating with the current government to come up with an urban development plan for the capital, which will set architectural models and new standards.
Q. How do pollution problems in Tbilisi affect your business?
A. Building a healthy environment should be a matter for every citizen of the city. Regrettably, pollution in Tbilisi affects everyone and everything. First and foremost, it affects the population’s well-being and in particular children’s health. It is a pressing issue which needs to be addressed immediately. In terms of business, it has a negative impact on tourism development. As a company, we are trying as much as possible to be environmentally-friendly and responsible. For instance, the next range of cars we purchase will be electric and we have already set up Electric Vehicle Stations - EVS - in the parking space of Rooms and Stamba Hotels.
Q. What are your suggestions for companies and authorities in terms of environmental protection and green development?
A. I think both the government and the corporate sector have to make drastic changes. Maximum protection of the environment has to be on everyone’s agenda. Big corporations have to alter their means of transportation and move to environmentally-friendly cars - just like we intend to do. Certain protective standards also need to exist on construction sites which cause daily pollution. Fighting pollution has to be the number one priority on the government’s agenda for us to avoid facing an imminent environmental disaster.
Q. Can you tell us about the planned investments of Adjara Group for 2018?
A. We are soon to open Stamba Hotel and Casino Aviator. With unparalleled architecture and a distinguished interior, Stamba has already become an esteemed member of Design Hotels and presents many unique features including the exceptional style of casino Aviator.
This year will also see the opening of Rooms Hotel in Kokhta-Mitarbi in partnership with Georgian Reconstruction and Development Company - GRDC.
Moreover, we are developing agriculture and building a farmhouse in the wine region Kakheti. Our next focus will be on the black sea region.
Q. Are you satisfied with the airline travel facilities in Georgia?
A. No, I would not say that I am satisfied. I would like to see more direct flights to/from Georgia as well as additional budget airlines entering the market. Wizzair from Kutaisi is a good example of an affordable airline which I believe tourism could benefit from. Indeed, with visa liberalization and tourism development, Georgia has to become more accessible and less challenging to travel to.
Q. Do you know business leaders who are sceptical towards CSR prospects at their companies?
A. I do not know anyone who is deliberately resistant to implementing and establishing CSR practices. All our friends and partners are trying to move towards socially responsible strategies, which is key to establishing a new modern Georgian business!
Q. How can the Government of Georgia contribute to CSR development?
A. When the Association Agreement (AA) was signed by the Georgian Government, it made a commitment to promote and protect labour and human rights, as well as corporate social responsibility in agreement with the internationally recognized principles and guidelines. Today, the Georgian Government strongly encourages and protects responsible ways of doing business. More initiatives are put in place to further endorse the CSR engagements within the Georgian private sector.
For us, equality is the essence of our corporate culture. We promote gender equality, we have initiatives to hire disabled workers as well as victims of domestic violence. We develop employment and priorities for the local populations in the regions where we establish our enterprises. In addition, we try to increase long-term profits and foster the trust of our consumers and stakeholders through implementing positive public relations and high ethical standards aimed at reducing business risks by taking additional social responsibility for our corporate actions.