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Monday February 6th, 2023

Dole Lanka: Empowering Women to Make a World of Difference

Among the Top 15 Best Workplaces for Women in Sri Lanka, Dole Lanka is driving excellence with diversity, equality and inclusion.

Dole Lanka’s Dillkusi Jayaweera – Head of Corporate Affairs & Legal, and Ishani Hiripitiyage – Manager, Human Resources, share insights into what makes Dole Lanka one of the Best Workplaces for Women in Sri Lanka. Empowering women is integral to the Dole Promise, a value-based strategy to achieve operational excellence in this decade. The Dole Promise aims to increase access to sustainable nutrition and reduce food waste, plastics in packaging and carbon emissions while creating value for stakeholders, including farmers and shareholders. The Dole Promise draws on the spirit of the Japanese philosophy, Sanpo Yoshi, which considers the well-being of society and business as interdependent. Sanpo Yoshi posits that a successful business should benefit the seller, the buyer and the community. Meaning three-way satisfaction, the philosophy believes that nothing should come at the cost of another.

What makes Dole Lanka a great place to work for women in Sri Lanka?

Dole Lanka has a gender-sensitive culture that actively supports females to excel in the workplace and thrive in leadership. It is an extension of a deep commitment to diversity, equality and inclusiveness that seeks to provide equal opportunities to everyone irrespective of gender, race, age, or nationality. There is inclusivity in the decision-making process, where our voices get heard and our opinions and perspectives valued. As women, we feel celebrated and highly valued for our contributions. The open communication policy entrenched in the workplace gives us access to the leadership to discuss issues that matter to us.

Dole Lanka expresses much interest in our professional growth and provides space and opportunities for career advancement, fostering a work environment that prioritizes our well-being with a zero-tolerance for discrimination or harassment in any form. The company has eliminated every conceivable obstacle that has traditionally prevented women from achieving their career objectives. We only find encouragement and empowerment to keep aspiring for greatness, elevating ourselves up the ladder. This culture of equal opportunities has boosted our performance, improving productivity, quality, efficiency and effectiveness across the company, leading to better financial results.

Dole Lanka is part of a reputed global company. How has that influenced your culture and your belief in the advantages of diversity in the workforce?

Dole Lanka is a subsidiary of Dole Asia Holdings Pte., one of the largest global producers and marketers of high-quality fresh fruit and vegetables, with headquarters in Singapore and owned by Itochu Corporation, a leading multinational Japanese conglomerate.

The Japanese business principle for success, Sanpo Yoshi, is at the heart of Itochu Corporation, governing its every move. Sanpo Yoshi means Good for the Seller, Good for the Buyer and Good for Society, resulting in great workplaces for everyone across the Itochu Corporation’s global footprint. The Sanpo Yoshi philosophy extends to the Dole corporate philosophy: Protect the People, Protect the Planet, and Protect Prosperity. Therefore, Dole Lanka believes that educated, motivated, happy, committed and resilient human capital is essential for good profits and a better world. We aspire to champion those values, building an equitable and inclusive business where individuals – irrespective of age, income, location, race or gender – have access to better opportunities, healthcare and nutrition in a sustainable environment.

As a company, we are motivated by the core values of commitment, integrity, fairness, loyalty, quality, respect and results. That has enabled us to build a solid reputation for adhering to stringent ethical and quality standards across our operations by providing equal opportunities for people to thrive in a culture of diversity to excel in their careers and life.

Sri Lanka has faced several challenges over the last few years, first was the impact of the pandemic, and it now faces an economic crisis. Is your diverse workforce advantageous in these circumstances? If so, how?

Our employees showed extraordinary resilience during the pandemic, ensuring business continuity despite the complete lack of physical connection. As a company, we maintained regular communication between teams and senior leadership through virtual meetings, messaging management decisions, and responding to emergencies immediately.

Dole Lanka has a large workforce, over 1,500, in Sri Lanka. How have you managed to create a unified work culture across the organization?

Organizational agility empowers teams to quickly adapt to the recent upheavals in the socio-political and economic fabric of Sri Lanka. We moved from a traditional, hierarchical leadership structure to a more flexible model by establishing clear KPIs so employees can be held accountable. That also gave them something to focus on, inspiring them to strive for greatness in their careers amidst challenges confronting the country at this time. Our first step was to create role clarity for each employee, second to culturize the budget as a control tool, and third to encourage all employees to look for solutions to achieve common goals. Role clarity and autonomy empower employees to be resilient, effectively responding to challenges by collaborating better with teams across the company.

We are living the Sanpo Yoshi vision: while it empowers us as women to become the best versions of ourselves, it is also an opportunity to become a part of something bigger than ourselves or the company, to be an empowered woman, a force for good making an indelible impact in the world: this is the higher purpose that drives Dole Lanka towards excellence by fostering a culture of diversity, equality and inclusion.