British American Tobacco Bangladesh provides a pioneering example of how the private sector can help the country achieve its development goals.
Having been in the country for over a century, British American Tobacco (BAT) Bangladesh plays a vital role in enhancing farmers’ livelihoods through sustainable agricultural practices and corporate social responsibility initiatives that are aligned to 11 of the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals. BAT Bangladesh’s Bonayan programme started in 1980 and, to date, about 95.5 million free tree saplings have been distributed in the country’s largest private-sector-driven afforestation project. As well as protecting forests and combatting climate change, Bonayan has a major socioeconomic impact. The trees provide fruit, medicine and timber, whilst 68% of those growing the trees earn money from them.
The company’s Deepto project has given 2,064 free residential solar power systems to remote, off-grid hill-tract areas in the last seven years. So far, over 12,000 people who previously had no access to electricity have had their livelihoods changed. As well as improving quality of life, an incredible 65.7% of beneficiaries have started new income-generating activities as a result of access to solar power.
Another internationally lauded project, Probaho, addresses one of Bangladesh’s big problems — the scarcity of clean, arsenic-free drinking water. Since 2009, BAT Bangladesh has installed 73 filtration plants that supply safe drinking water to people in over 100 communities. Previously, 32% of residents in those communities suffered from waterborne diseases and 1% from arsenic poisoning — now, only 0.3% suffer from either.1 The reliable supply has also improved economies and lifestyles. For example, the beneficiaries can collect safe water any time during the day from the nearby Probaho plant.
BAT Bangladesh strives to empower women and enable gender equality in all its activities. It offers equal employment opportunities and has zero tolerance for discrimination. It also provides staff with day-care, safe transportation and maternity leave in compliance with the law. As a result, women hold about a third of the company’s leadership roles, with some winning national awards for female leadership. BAT Bangladesh has been awarded with the country’s ‘Most Female-Friendly Organisation’ by various platforms. Twice, the award was given by Bangladesh Brand Forum, through the Women in Leadership platform in 2015 and 2017.
The company supports its employees’ children by funding education scholarships that support them from school to graduation. Concern for education extends to the staff as well, with training being given to them about the social and environmental benefits of maintaining good health and a safe workplace, amongst other things. From employee development to serving communities and their people, BAT Bangladesh focuses on building strength. It believes it has a responsibility to help to create a sustainable balance of economic growth, environmental protection and social progress in Bangladesh.