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Ronny Solberg

Ronny Solberg: Our Primary Goal is To Change Lives of Residents of Khulo and Shuakhevi For the Better

Recently Tbilisi hosted the International two-day Conference on “Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility in Georgia”, Georgian as well as foreign delegates took part in the event.

Ronny Solberg, a CEO of Adjarisqali Georgia gave a special speech explaining his company’s goals and missions. He also touched highly important issues and challenges that business sector faces nowadays.

“I believe that in order to achieve sustainable development it is crucially important for us, the private sector, to stand together with the state to overcome poverty, to enable future generations to obtain high quality education, to achieve gender equality, and create conditions that enable people to overcome their challenges,”Solberg noted.

The Conference touched upon the issues such as international standards on corporate sustainability, international and Georgian practice in the field and future perspectives for the development of corporate social responsibility in Georgia.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and respect for each of you, who are trying to transform the world and make it a better place and who are looking for new ways to realize these goals. Achieving these goals requires concrete actions, and our actions as a company is what I’m here to talk about today”.

“We are building the Shuakhevi Hydro Power Plant, one of the largest investments in Georgia’s infrastructure and economy, with a total investment of 416 million dollars.  Our power plant will be commissioned at the end of 2016.  All of the electricity that we generate during the winter months will be exclusively for the use of the Georgian people. During the summer, when there is a surplus of power being generated, we will export electricity. Thus, on one hand, we will contribute to Georgia’s energy independence and, on the other hand, increase Georgia’s export potential. This project is the first greenfield hydro project in Georgia that has been accredited by UNFCCC as a CDM project and will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 500,000 tons per year,” Ronny Solberg said.

From the very first day of construction, one of our main challenges was how to best contribute to upper Adjara’s sustainable development. We began by studying the region and its problems.

Not surprisingly, many of the problems that highland Adjara faces were later echoed by the 17 sustainable development goals outlined by the United Nations in 2015, including poverty reduction, improving education, and establishing partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Our primary goal has been to create conditions that enable the residents of Khulo and Shuakhevi to change their own lives for the better. The way that we went about this serves as a good example of public-private partnership.

We worked with local government and residents to identify three main areas where we could assist the region’s long-term development – community improvement, education, and infrastructure development. The challenge was enormous, believe me, and getting where we are today wasn’t easy. But, I can proudly say, we did it.

So far, we have implemented 70 social projects aimed at developing the region and improving living standards for local residents. In terms of strengthening communities, we have partnered with the NGO Institute of Democracy to provide funding to 21 small businesses, who, in turn, have created additional local jobs. We are also helping to develop local small-scale agribusinesses through training and assistance in areas such as beekeeping.

A second goal was education and awareness-raising. Our English education project provided teacher training for 80 local teachers and activities and competitions such as a spelling bee, essay contest, and debates for hundreds of local students. As part of the memorandum which we signed with the Ministry of Education of Adjara, we are providing scholarships for local students to continue their studies at accredited universities.

We are developing the local energy sector workforce and our potential employees through an internship program which targets students from upper Adjara studying at the Department of Energy and Telecommunications at Georgian Technical University.

Our education initiatives include health awareness programs such as health-related training for local women. Here, I’d like to note that women in highland Adjara face a variety of unique challenges, and so we are targeting them with many of our social projects. As part of our efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, we also sponsored the creation of Khulo’s local Khihani football team.

In terms of infrastructural development, we collaborated with local municipalities on nearly 50 infrastructure projects. We have renovated schools, kindergartens, and playgrounds and built or repaired village roads, irrigation canals, and drinking water systems. In keeping with our public-private partnership model, we implemented the majority of infrastructure projects with financial contributions from local municipalities.

These are just some of the projects that we are carrying out in our project area. As I said earlier, the main goal of all of our social projects is to promote the long-term development of the region. Recently, we helped develop a bakery as part of our community development project. The bakery’s owner, Mikheil Diasamidze, is 62 years old, and he’s been baking bread for the people of Shuakhevi for 12 years. He learned modern small business development methods at our trainings and, with our financial support, purchased new machinery and expanded his bakery, hiring new employees in the process. Originally, he had two people working for him, but now he has six. In fact, he is also planning to open a confectionary, whose employees will, for the most part, be local women.

Hardworking and diligent people like Mikheil Diasamidze will change the future of this region, and they need our support. I believe that in order to achieve sustainable development it is crucially important for us, the private sector, to stand together with the state to overcome poverty, to enable future generations to obtain high quality education, to achieve gender equality, and create conditions that enable people to overcome their challenges.

Finally, I would like to note that together with IFC, a co-owner of our company, we are starting the second stage of social projects for people living within the construction area. Even though construction of the Shuakhevi Hydro Power Plant is nearly complete, our social projects in highland Adjara will go on.

At AGL, we all believe that our company’s work can only be considered a success if it makes a significant contribution to the process of sustainable development in the region and country where we operate.