Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us today.
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and it is my great honor to welcome you to the launch of the AMCHAM T&T-Republic Bank - Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) 2022. I take great pleasure to announce that we will be returning to hosting THIS in person in July!
Four years ago, AMCHAM T&T stepped outside our comfort zone to embark on a journey that would see us transform who we are as a business chamber and how we serve our members. We have long prided ourselves as being the chamber that is willing to take risks, willing to try new things, and willing to push and innovate through “change in action”.
Understanding the importance of digital transformation to our economy, six years ago we launched our digital transformation committee. The ultimate goal of that committee is to undertake initiatives to drive digital transformation in T&T.
One such initiative was the creation of the Tech Hub Islands Summit – THIS. THIS is designed to show practically what can be done by the private sector to accelerate our digital transformation. THIS was established to showcase public sector digital transformation initiatives and opportunities using examples from here in T&T and around the globe. THIS was created to provide a meeting place for traditional businesses and startups. Solution providers and those who require assistance to solve their tech-related problems.
Our firm belief at AMCHAM T&T is that T&T can become a centre of excellence, a significant node in the global tech ecosystem.
With that will come better services for citizens and consumers, export-led growth, more resilient businesses, more opportunities for our citizens to find meaningful work in T&T and an overall more attractive place to live work and play.
In the four years since we held the first THIS, we all lived through the effects of the pandemic. As we emerge in the post-pandemic phase, we can’t seek to recreate life as it was. We have to do better.
Last year we asked you to use technology in a way that takes us beyond the “now” problems so that we can diagnose, deploy and solve for what’s beyond. This year we will focus on how organizations -private and public sector – have realized real tangible benefits from doing just that – using technology to solve those problems AND taking us closer to realising this world we are envisioning.
We are calling this “Change in Action” which is the official theme for this year’s Tech Hub Islands Summit
t.h.i.s.2022 will see us once more promoting the adoption of technology and digital transformation to drive economic growth and development while challenging the visions we have for our future. But we will do it differently. This year we are highlighting success stories about how technology can underpin a more fulfilling, productive and profitable way of life by engaging with the innovators and disruptors who are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution wave. You would recall that our 2019 THIS there was the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We will hear testimonies of how accessing technological solutions have improved business processes and customer experience to ensure continued success and survival. We will engage in important discussions around building the local Fintech Industry and Financial Inclusion, developing futureproof digital infrastructure and making T&T a real player in the global tech supply chain.
We will also assess how technology is currently creating a new world with the latest trends around Web3, the Metaverse, digital currencies and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). What are they? Trends or fads? And should we get involved or press the ignore button?
And we will learn from the global tech giants to help us implement practical tech solutions to realise digital transformation in the public sector while building on the local initiatives that are currently underway.
The past two years have been challenging but many exciting things are happening all around. Change through digital adoption is rapidly transforming our lives and creating new pathways for progress and success. Doubt, resistance and hesitation cannot fuel our actions to a standstill. We must keep moving. We must keep adopting and adapting. It is time to go beyond dreaming and talking. Many are already seeing the results of “change in action”.
Joining us live and in-person to help tell these stories are:
• IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Emeritus, Dr Bernard S. Meyerson,
• Global Lead for Infrastructure Modernization in Google Cloud’s Solutions Engineering organisation, David White,
• Senior Vice President & General Manager, Training & Certification of the Linux Foundation, Clyde Sepersad.
These are just three of the major speakers who will headline a dynamic lineup of local and international speakers who are doing amazing and innovative things in the tech world at t.h.i.s.2022.
We are happy to have t.h.i.s.2022 return to an in-person Conference and Exhibition on July 6th – 8th, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency. To maximise our audience and advocacy reach on these important topics, t.h.i.s.2022 will be a hybrid event with the option to stream the summit and participate in a virtual exhibition on our virtual platform at techislands.net.
We are so delighted to welcome back our Title Sponsor: Republic Bank Limited who reaffirm their commitment to this important venture by signing a three-year sponsorship contract to return as the event’s Official Title Sponsor. We would also like to thank our Platinum Sponsors: PwC, Digicel Business, Eximbank and IDB for their continued support. We are extremely grateful to our sponsors who enable us to do all the things we do and attract the kind of speakers that we have lined up at this year’s conference. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing the names of those speakers so we ask that you stay connected to us on our social media platforms and via our official media releases for more information on this.
Technology is the currency that will drive our economic prospects for the future. We must keep investing in technology as we continue to map out a plan that will help us generate the expected growth and sustainability that will be so vital to our survival and competitiveness in this ever-evolving world. We know that t.h.i.s.2022 will once more spark great dialogue, worthwhile partnerships and actions that will help us realize the benefits of the "Change In Action" needed to develop the local tech ecosystem right here in T&T. So, we look forward to your support and participation.
But a conference alone will not be the catalyst of change. In the past four years, we have worked with a team of Googlers to host the BreakbeatCode hackathon – which teaches coding through music – for 50 young people in T&T. We expect to do another such hackathon this year to be followed by a longer 12-week course for more intense coding training.
With the support of the IDB, we are currently finalising a digital skills gap study to identify the areas of need to support the growth of the local tech industry of which I spoke. We hope that this study will guide the development of training programmes to support the growth of local firms and investor firms as the tech sector expands in T&T.
We hosted a tech trade mission with the Canadian High Commission in which local and Canadian firms were able to connect and explore business partnerships.
Next week, we will present a paper to the Government on opportunities that could be derived from a National Nearshoring Strategy, starting with a focus on IT Enabled Services. This technical work was done by our Digital Transformation Committee and Secretariat.
Next week we also intend to share with members some cyber-security guidelines, which are currently being finalised by our Security Committee.
The last two initiatives are examples of how AMCHAM T&T members work together and learn from one another to promote national and business objectives.
We have also introduced a new category of membership in AMCHAM T&T for startup and early-stage companies so that we build a community of entrepreneurs within our organisation to ensure that the ecosystem of innovation and dynamism that we want to see is nurtured and supported.
All of these, of course, compliment the many policy recommendations that we make on an annual and ad hoc basis, many of which have found their way into official government policy. So, we are working. We are building. Join us in this effort as we do our part to make T&T the kind of vibrant, dynamic, future-proof society that we all desire.
As I conclude, let me remind you to check out the official t.h.i.s.2022 Conference Website at www.techislands.net. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details and much more.
Thank you and we hope to see you at t.h.i.s.2022!
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you for joining us this morning. As we gear up for AMCHAM T&T’s HSSE Conference later this year, this is the first Pre-Conference Webinar that we are hosting, and it is on Crisis Communications – What You Need to Know? I am Toni Sirju-Ramnarine – President of AMCHAM T&T.
I want to begin by thanking our sponsors: Title Sponsor- Atlantic, Platinum Sponsor – The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago and our Gold Sponsor – Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited for their support to host today’s Webinar.
Today’s session is meant to provide vital information about the necessity for organisations to have an effective crisis communications strategy. As a responsible organisation, AMCHAM T&T and our speakers today will not be making any announcements or inferences on any active investigations and will appreciate your understanding on this matter. Therefore, we ask that you refrain from asking questions about ongoing investigations.
Now let’s talk about crises. These are often unexpected, unwanted, and unpleasant, and while many organisations do focus on conducting effective risk assessments to prevent tragedies and incidents from occurring, we need to recognise that crises do happen. They may not happen with great frequency but that doesn’t mean we don’t invest in the training and resources for events that are unexpected and unpredictable. That means effective leadership especially in today’s world requires preparing for the unforeseen and unpredictable. Let’s face it, we have spent the greater part of the past two years doing just that!
And so, because all organisations are vulnerable to crises, it means every organisation today must make crisis management planning a major part of its operations. This includes looking at the prevention, preparation, and training strategies that detail what is to be done during the pre-crisis stage followed by managing the response to the crisis as it is unfolding in real-time, and then finally seeking better strategies to prepare for the next crisis while fulfilling the commitments made during the crisis phase.
Part of this preparation has to do with how we communicate BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER a crisis to ensure that the company’s integrity, reputation, brand, and stakeholder relations remain intact. And in stakeholders I include, not only its external stakeholders, but very importantly its own employees as well.
This is what today’s session is about. It’s important to implement the necessary incident management plans and policies to prevent and simultaneously prepare for a crisis which includes having these conversations to respond to a crisis because so much of our world is defined by:
• how we communicate
• what is communicated
• at what point do we communicate
• why do we communicate
• And to whom we are communicating
These are all fundamental questions and concerns we must have when responding to any situation that demands answers where the information is limited, inconsistent or uncertain. However, it is especially during these times that we must increase our outreach to our public to be transparent, to provide guidance, and very importantly, to offer support and sympathy.
During these times, our words and actions can be the equivalent of keeping people safe or increasing the threat.
But what should be the message in the age of social media and the internet where news goes viral instantly. This is what we are here to ask and answer. Inaction and failure to respond will not cut it in an age where accountability is demanded from the public. Ultimately, this is what will build organisational trust and loyalty in the long run.
Now we have to acknowledge that today, the biggest change we have witnessed in crisis management is the revolution of social media. We should never underestimate the voice of the public or fail to accept that they won’t care. Any incident involving injury or fatality shows how quickly the public can move from being engaged to enraged. It is during these heightened periods of a crisis that the public feels most empowered to voice their opinions, propagate rumours and experiences, and cast judgement in a highly visible manner that can reach millions around the world.
Finally, I want to add, that while the message is important, so too must be the messenger. Therefore, it is so important to have effective spokesperson training in any crisis communications plan. These are the people who will deliver your message with the proper media relations training and skills to provide key information that debunks rumours and false theories with concrete facts and evidence that enlightens and comforts.
Today our distinguished panel of experts will provide more insight and information on these points. They will share the strategies to effectively handle crises. I hope that after today’s sessions more companies see the value to invest more readily in this so that they are better prepared to handle these unfortunate incidents and communicate effectively with their stakeholders and wider public.
Welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s 8th Women’s Leadership Conference and thank you for joining us virtually today as we seek to celebrate and elevate the voices of women in our society and around the world.
AMCHAM T&T has proudly hosted this conference every year in commemoration of International Women’s Day because we believe that by supporting and highlighting the barriers to the progress of women, we are doing our part towards creating a gender-equal world. Not only does this make good economic sense, but, more importantly, it is the right thing to do.
Before I go further, I want to take a moment to acknowledge this year’s exceptional and accomplished speakers. Each offers a wealth of knowledge and experience that I am sure will provide insights into many of the problems that hinder women’s progress and growth in society.
I also want to thank the companies and NGOs that are joining us today for all the work they have done to bring increased awareness to these issues and for their sponsorship and participation in this year's conference.
Today a lot of our conversations will be centred around this year’s IWD theme: “Break The Bias”. This refers to the many individual and institutional challenges that place a limit on the progress women can make, and the factors that restrict their right to fairness, justice, and equality in society.
Despite the gains we have made in recent years, there is still so much more work that needs to be done. Right now, issues such as the pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical conflicts are undermining the progress women have made and threatening their lives and livelihoods around the world.
Women on the frontlines of the pandemic have faced disproportionate impacts in employment, education, healthcare, and gender-based violence.
Women on the frontlines of climate change impacts face an increased risk of extreme poverty.
Women on the frontlines of escalating global tensions are displaced, disinherited, and impoverished as either widows or refugees and are easy targets for crimes such as rape, sexual torture, and sexual exploitation.
As women, we know these issues very well because this has been our reflection both in the rearview mirror as well as the vision we have for our futures every time we choose to speak up, challenge, and demand better for our lives.
The question is how are we going to achieve this?
Today we are asked to Break The Bias. So often when we are dealing with problems with marginalized groups, we fail to acknowledge their existence or their problems. We must change this! Therefore,
Breaking the Bias means rooting out negative stereotypes and prejudices against women.
Breaking the Bias means calling out sexism, protecting women from gender-based violence, and ending discrimination by both men and women.
Breaking the Bias means investing in diversity policies to create more inclusive and equitable spaces.
Breaking the Bias means reflecting on what may be our own unconscious bias and examining how this manifests so that we can prevent it from reoccurring.
Breaking the Bias means having honest conversations about these issues and working together to create a gender-equal world. And that is what today’s conference is all about.
Perhaps a starting point would be to look at how we address gender-based violence in our society. If the 1,757 cases of domestic violence reported by the Victim and Witness Support Unit during the period January 2020 to November 2021 can be used an an indicator – it tells us that this is a problem for us all. More than likely, we all know someone who is a victim of gender-based violence.
With one case being too many, we need to take ownership of this problem. No longer must this be seen as a job only for law enforcement and NGOs. Here’s where the private sector can lead.
AMCHAM T&T’s Anti-Gender Based Violence Initiative with our partners at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) is an initiative that seeks to prevent Gender Based Violence and abuse in the workplace by helping companies develop a workplace policy that supports employees who are survivors of Gender Based Violence. The initiative has proven worthwhile with
• 95% of participants indicating that the prevalence of violence against women affects workplace productivity and,
• 66% said they wanted their companies to do more to address gender-based violence against women in the workplace.
Yet, so far participation rates have been disappointing. We need more companies to step up and take the lead on this very important issue. Get in contact with us and let’s bring an end to Gender Based Violence!
Leadership on this issue from the private sector can also begin with addressing our workplace culture and strategy at tackling violence and harassment. We should also ensure we have clear reporting procedures and grievance mechanisms to take action when needed.
Additional steps would require us to align anti-Gender Based Violence policies with our core business objectives to change societal norms and behaviours on gender-based violence, sexual harassment and other unacceptable behavious.
That means stopping the sexualization and objectification of women in the workplace. This is where men can lead by holding each other accountable. When sexism occurs: See It, Name It, Stop It! It’s that simple!
Ultimately, what all of this comes down to is investing in better diversity and inclusion policies since so much of the disparity that women face are experienced in the workplace. It begins in our recruitment and hiring processes and goes all the way to the opportunities, or lack thereof, for the promotion and advancement of women. The limited options we provide send the message that women are inferior, undeserving, and powerless. Perhaps that’s why 50% or half of the total companies currently listed on the T&T Stock Exchange have a board consisting of less than 25% female directors. This has to change.
This is 2022! Surely you know competent women who can serve on boards. If you don’t, ask around. We can help. After all, there are more women currently on the AMCHAM T&T Board than men - all of whom are extremely competent.
But it’s not just about creating a space at the table and making women feel they should be grateful for this seat. It’s about investing in women’s potential that creates more opportunities. It’s about placing value on their contributions. So let’s look forward to seeing more of our country’s boards being comprised of multiple women and not just the token one!
Now is the time to lead if we really want to break the bias. The government has made progress through recent amendments to the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act, the creation of the Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU) in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and through ongoing debates to amend the Sexual Offences Act which will widen protections for women who are victims of digital-based offenses.
In this context of widening social and economic inequalities, we need to urge governments to use budgets as a tool to achieve social justice objectives concurrently with economic objectives. Therefore, we can promote gender equality by incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of our budgetary process, including restructuring revenues and expenditures. These objectives must be clearly defined and measurable with reporting on progress year on year. Imagine if we were doing this all along. We would have already started to enforce provisions that cater to the experience of women’s and men’s lives in national budgets to advance gender equity, rather than reinforce existing inequalities.
I am sure our expert speakers will be covering these issues in their discussions later today. Conferences like this are necessary but it’s just a start. What we need is a more sustained and coordinated effort by all interest groups to recognize that these problems not only exist but to acknowledge that they leave many victims.
So, let’s take what we have learned today back to our offices and to our leaders and let’s work together to create a gender-equal world that values, uplifts, and respects both women and men.
Let’s redefine leadership to make it more welcoming to more voices, more opinions, and more opportunities.
Let’s promote greater diversity and inclusion to fulfil the promise of equality.
Let’s celebrate our distinct differences so that we choose love over hate every time
Let’s break the bias to protect the freedoms and human rights of all our citizens.
I thank you very much and I really hope you enjoy and gain value out of today’s conference.
Hi everyone. I’m so happy to be here this morning for what is now Scotiabank’s 8th year of collaborating with AMCHAM on this fantastic Women’s Leadership Conference.
I am proud that we continue to work with AMCHAM on this initiative. We’re here today to talk about Breaking the Bias. Bias impacts women, especially in the workplace and it’s important that we do what we can to raise awareness and dismantle those biases that inhibit advancements for women.
Bias includes the stereotypes and opinions which either consciously or unconsciously influence how we treat our co-workers, subordinates, associates and just about anyone we interact with.
While we know it’s morally wrong to treat someone differently based on prejudice it’s often impossible to avoid bias. No matter how unbiased we think we are, we may have subconscious negative opinions about people who are outside our group - the more exposed we are to groups of people, the less likely we are to feel prejudiced against others. Bias leads us to gravitate toward people who are like ourselves in terms of gender, race, age, income, personality type or some other factor.
Two years into the pandemic, shows us that we’re in a moment of crisis for women. Millions of women globally have been driven out of the workforce by Covid-19. Many more are struggling with burnout and considering downshifting their careers or leaving their jobs.
To avoid unwinding years of progress toward gender equality, companies need to take actions to support women in the workplace. Combating the biases women face at work is critical to getting this right.
Almost three in four women experience bias at work, and those who do are more likely to leave Women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face more acute biases. Yet only one in three employees, including managers, challenges biased behavior when they see it.
Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. We need to act.
Having women and other diverse voices in leadership roles is good for business and we, as business leaders, are responsible for working towards positive change. As an executive with years of experience leading international teams, I can share the following ideas when it comes to fighting bias:
1. Examine your own unconscious biases. Once we recognize our own biases — yes, we all have them! — we can address the reasons behind them and make conscientious behavioral change.
You can do this by striving to surround yourself with people who hold opposing points of view. Being challenged, rather than having every member of your team agree with you all the time is good; it often leads to more productive discussions and innovative solutions.
2. Speak up, or nothing will ever change. If every manager and employee were to speak up every time, they encountered bias in the workplace, we would have reached that elusive tipping point and effected lasting change long ago.
3. Encourage others to speak up. This may be the most important point of all. No matter what type of bias your team or organization may encounter, the key is meeting a critical mass of supporters. We also need male allies who understand how vital unbiased behaviors are to the success of the organization. Strengthening your relationships with both male and female leaders will help you build a solid team committed to speaking up and effecting lasting change.
As I just mentioned - allyship is key in breaking or fighting biasness. We need to come together to be active allies to women.
We can all help to advance a culture of inclusion by taking intentional, positive action to promote and support a group we may not necessarily be a part of.
Everyone deserves to bring their whole selves to work and thrive in an environment that is safe, inclusive and reflective of all communities.
EVERYONE can be an ally, and everyone can benefit from allyship. By dedicating yourself to education and action, we can learn how to stand up for our colleagues and to take accountability as strong and effective allies.
When we advocate for each other, we rise together.
I am proud to be a part of an organisation that truly values diversity and equality in the workplace. Terms such as ‘breaking the bias’ and ‘allyship’ are everyday actions for us and form a significant part of how we lead.
We know that the most important investment is the one we make in our people. We unlock our employees’ potential through bias-free practices and one set of inclusive values across Scotiabank.
Scotiabank has many initiatives, including Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that operate globally advancing diversity and inclusion mandates. Members are committed to educating and empowering women by supporting their personal and professional growth.
And our dedicated action has resulted in progress:
We’ve also made some bold moves in recent times in advancing our diversity and inclusion agenda:
Through employee feedback, 94% of our employees believe that the Bank is building and supporting an inclusive workforce.
I challenge all business leaders to take active steps to strengthen our organizations through diversity, drive innovation through our differences and constructive discussion, and to build a more inclusive culture by extending opportunities to all who are qualified. If a majority of people become committed to making small changes around this important issue, the implications are limitless.
Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy the rest of the Conference and take away some great insights to help you make your own bold moves while we continue to Break the Bias and Ally On.
bpTT is pleased to continue its support for Amcham’s Women’s conference. This event has grown to become a valuable forum to discuss gender parity issues and, more importantly, to create that link between global trends and insights and what we can do to address issues specific to Trinidad and Tobago.
I would like to congratulate the organizers for continuing to deliver a conference that is timely as well as thought-provoking. I am particularly captivated by the first discussion which looks at how the pandemic has highlighted the inequality that exists in the workplace and wider society.
I have spent the last 20+ years working in the human resources profession– now called people and culture at bp. I am also a wife, a mother of fifteen-year-old twin girls and in my profession, I lead a talented team of people comprised of mostly female leaders and professionals. Like everyone joining us this morning, I have grappled with the challenges brought about by the pandemic, both at an organizational and personal level and I look forward to learning how we can use our experiences over the past two years to address gender issues that have intensified because of the pandemic and those that continue to maturate.
This conference is part of a wider group of activities across the globe to mark International
Women’s Day. It is important to remember that fact because none of us – as parents,
employees, leaders, or corporate citizens – can confront gender issues individually or in silos.
We must rely on the support of the wider global and local ecosystem.
How do we ensure that we are aligned in our approach?
Organizations are crucial.
Organizations set the framework, the culture or the tone for employees or members as in the case of Amcham.
Using my organization as an example, bp’s sustainability aim14, puts bp’s purpose into action, provides a frame and governs how we respond to diversity, equity and inclusion. As part of bp’s purpose to “Improve people’s lives,” Aim 14 sets out that bp will increase diversity, equity and inclusion for our workforce, customers, and suppliers.
In fact, our new gender ambition strives for bp to be a company where gender balance is evident. To fulfil this ambition, our aim is to have by 2025 at least equal numbers of women as men in our 120 most senior leadership roles and 40% of women in the next level of leadership.
By 2030 at the very latest, we aim to have women filling at least half of our most senior
leadership roles and 40% at every other level of the company. Today, I am proud to share that 6 out of 11 of our most senior leaders at bp are women.
This brings me to our discussion today. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is
‘breaking the bias’.
Bias, if left unchecked, robs us of true equity. It leads to exclusion and can erode the prosperity of organizations and societies as a whole.
The targets mentioned previously represent more than numbers. They represent our purpose – To re-imagine energy for people and planet. Or to put it another way, advancing our diversity, equity and inclusion agenda is a key strategic lever to securing a better future for everyone who works with bp.
The organization creates the frame and the expectations at a wider level, but confronting and breaking bias needs to start from within.
That is why bias can be an uncomfortable topic. When the issue of bias comes up, we are
often forced to question others.
I acknowledge that we must confront bias at a structural level, and I am pleased to see this
topic planned for session two.
However, we need to challenge the underlying thought processes.
We need to look within.
Ask yourself – what are my biases? Do they affect my performance or the corporate culture or the prosperity of our country?
How are we, as professionals, enabling ourselves and others to be aware of bias?
Are we enabling the biases that exist?
In the words of this year’s theme, how can we ‘break the bias’?
It brings me pleasure that this year’s theme does not ask a question but sets us in motion.
‘Breaking the Bias’ is not about ‘if’ but ‘how.’!
How do we break the bias? Dialogue is crucial.
Sessions and exchanges like these help us to push boundaries. Dialogue is always important in exploring and confronting issues.
This is where I believe bpTT has done well. Our gender-focused panel discussions include men as participants and panelists. This helps to broaden the conversation. We see men as allies in the discussion rather than obstacles.
Discussion is a start, but we need more...
Discussion alone is not enough to move the needle, however. To break the bias, we need to go further:
I trust that you will hold us to account to deliver these bold statements and targets. Through the course of our discussions, I trust that you will take bold actions, you will set targets and you will be the change that we all want to see. I trust that we will all hold each other accountable. It is incumbent on all of us to help drive societal progress. Together we have an important role to play. Together we can evolve the narrative on gender equity.
It is an honor to be here today and be part of the 8th Women’s Leadership Conference.
I want to start by thanking the Board of Director of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago for providing a platform for an open conversation and to shed light and celebrate the many social, economic, cultural, and political achievements and contributions of women.
My name is Sonia Montes. I am the Director of Sales for FedEx. I oversee a team of 62 Sales professionals in Central America and the Caribbean.
At FedEx, our workforce is as diverse as the world we serve, and we believe that everyone deserves respect.
Embracing diversity is not just the right thing to do; we also have proven that it fosters innovation and makes us a more competitive company.
According to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.” The multiplier effect of the woman not only supports the business and her family but also the community and the economy at large.
Women can lead with sensitivity and firmness; I think that is a virtue.
Together, we can work towards a better future for women by building, supporting and getting involved in groups and practices that protect against gender bias and promote career development opportunities.
We also should bring more women in the decision-making process because they bring different perspectives and different competencies to the table.
I want to close these remarks with a personal take: work with focus to achieve your dreams. Believe in yourself and do not set limits. Challenges are opportunities to learn and be exposed to experiences that help us grow, as women and as better human beings.
Confidence to carry on in the face of challenge comes from an authentic commitment to one’s purpose and being grounded in profound principles
I speak best about the things that I know: from the perspective of a home-grown family business with a track record of growth and change over 140 years and a thirst for new opportunities – both regionally and globally.
The diverse nature of our business is deeply rooted in our purpose, which is to “inspire better choices for a better world”. Our business activities help people move around more easily, make beautiful homes, build financial security for their families, improve their health and well-being and celebrate memorable life events.
The well-being of society is an essential pre-condition to our success. As the pandemic has illustrated, we are all inter-dependent and the success of our business relies on our human connections. It is in our mutual interest that that we create benefits and wealth for a range of stakeholders, including governments and communities, in order to positively impact the social and environmental conditions of the countries in which we operate.
With this in mind, we run a responsible business committed to sustainability, based on sound corporate governance principles of accountability, fairness and transparency and adhering to global standards of business practice. Outside of the energy sector, we are one of the largest taxpayers in Trinidad and Tobago, giving our fair share to Government to benefit the wider society.
This is the context from which I speak – a businessman who believes that business success, national economic development, and societal well-being work in tandem. Simply put, one cannot happen without the other. This is where I see business and Governments seeking deep alignment in order to develop a strong and sustainable society. Business and Government have different roles to play in economic growth – and we fulfil those roles best when we work together in true partnership and take the time to appreciate each other's perspectives.
So what are these different roles?
For business, this means relentlessly seeking new opportunities and accepting that change is inevitable. ANSA McAL has survived well over 100 years by acknowledging this. We are a vastly different company today than we were a hundred years back – we will undoubtedly be very different in the next hundred. The last two years of the pandemic may have been forced reinvention for many companies. In 2022, it should be intentional reinvention. So how are we going about shaping that future?
Any business that ignores purpose and sustainability is unlikely to do well – this is a framing context for our present and future employees, governments, customers, and even shareholders. We must be responsible. We exist in society, and we must be mindful of the expectations on us - and inherently, our impact. Our actions should show that we are concerned about the well-being of our employees, our consumers and how our operations impact the physical environment. We are mindful that we are judged on generating sustainable prosperity for all stakeholders. Of course, sustainability is linked to resilience; we are constantly monitoring for external changes – we stay nimble, remain adaptable and in so doing survive for the long term.
- The practical business implication is that we need to be willing to move into new and emerging business spaces and markets – particularly where we can offer business solutions that help address some pressing social and economic issues. I will give you two examples: our Group's investment in wind and solar energy acknowledges the energy transition business, which will inevitably grow as the world responds to the challenges of climate change. Similarly, our move into retail banking – ANSA Bank – has a strategic objective to address the needs of the unbanked via mobile banking. This brings more people into the formal financial system, eventually improving their circumstances.
- To do the above well, we will be taking more risks to take advantage of changing external markets and consumer trends. To ensure that we take balanced and reasonable business risk, we need to constantly enhance our internal processes, governance and management systems to ensure that we can compete globally – including alignment to environmental, social and governance expectations.
- Overall, we are driving to be a ‘Purposeful Business.’ I have challenged all our business leaders to find ways to deliver their business aligned with our Board endorsed Group Sustainability priorities. In the coming years, we intend to set measurable targets in the above areas and be fully transparent with our stakeholders, who hold us accountable for achieving those goals.
- Our Group's Sustainability priorities are aligned with and in support of the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
1. People and Communities
2. Water preservation
3. Waste reduction
4. Climate Impact
5. Modern Energy
6. Corporate Governance
An organization is only as good as the people it employs. One of our fundamental principles is "Together we are family." As we see endemicity of this pandemic on the horizon, we continue to overcome remote working challenges to ensure people feel connected to the Group and each other. If there is one thing I can say for sure, the nature and organization of “work” will look infinitely different in 100 years – it will be smarter and further enabled by technology. The focus will be less on employees' jobs and more on the capabilities of people and what technology can offer to increase productivity.
I have outlined above how my business responds and changes to the new business realities.
But what about our government? They, too, will need to ensure that they are constantly evolving to create the enabling conditions to allow a business to employ more people, to grow their operations, and to increase their contributions to the state.
I will outline a few ways I feel that they can do this:
- Ensuring that there is a high level of ease in doing business. The government should ensure that the environment is enabling so that business can do what it does best. Currently, the World Bank ranks Trinidad and Tobago as 105 out of 190 countries regarding ease of doing business. Some of the well-known areas for improvement are the procedures for import and export, access to foreign exchange and the implementation of progressive and enabling employment laws.
- Ensuring that regulations and laws are fit for purpose and constantly upgraded to stay relevant. These would include regulations to embed digital transactions, data privacy and protection, and measures to ensure an integrated response to environmental protection. For the last 30 years, several versions of draft legislation to establish a deposit refund system to recycle beverage containers have been in circulation with the collective support and input from the private sector. Such legislation, which has become informally referred to over the years as "the Bottle Bill," will not only have the impact of protecting our environment but also create a whole new recycling industry which will result in the creation of new jobs and businesses. Models for this have successfully existed amongst our neighbours and yet still, there would seem to be an absence of the political will to implement.
- Ensuring that in implementing public health measures that ensure the health and safety of the population, Government must keep up with the rapid changes in COVID-19 protocols. As the virus moves from being a pandemic and into an endemic, the world will start to move towards shorter quarantine periods and removal of travel restrictions and requirements. Longer quarantine periods decrease productivity on a national level and threaten business continuity. We need a risk-based approach to managing our public health response to COVID-19 – one which balances the need for protection of the citizens, with the need to keep people employed, and working effectively.
- Ensuring that the balance is found in fiscal measures, is such that it is neither punitive to business growth nor inadequate to allow the Government to provide the needed social services required by the population.
- Government's role is to facilitate business, not to be in business – except in the case of extraordinary need to protect national interest or to avoid economic collapse of their countries. I will mention the positive role our government played in developing the local natural gas sector, which is now at a global scale. Yet it is well known that government ownership of private companies has been notorious for lowering productivity, wasting resources, and distorting competition—often as a result of unclear objectives, political interference, lack of discipline, and poor transparency. For example, the World Bank has concluded that in emerging markets, a banking sector dominated by state-owned firms poses a threat to economic development and stability—as preferential lending and patronage creates market distortions and chases away private competitors.
- Government should be a self-proclaimed reluctant shareholder and pledge to manage their ownership commercially. They should also insist that they seek to sell their holdings as soon as possible to capable private investors, for a competitive market value, at a profit or at a minimal loss to the public purse. Proficient ownership should result in value creation and taxable rewards. As the first step to success, Government must establish a baseline for evaluating their performance as owners. They should clearly state the objectives for their holdings – to maximize sustainable value for the taxpayer, maintain financial stability, and promote competition. Industries such as Banking, Rum manufacture and Port Management etc., are not the natural domain of Government. The ongoing ownership of these businesses is a considerable distraction from the Government's material work to ensure the safety, security, and health of our beloved nation. Where they have controlling interest, I think a formal timetable of divestment should be developed. After that, publish regular updates on their progress at least twice a year.
- Governance is just as important in the public sector as in the private sector. Trinidad and Tobago has scored a low 41 out of 100 on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. It has been ranked 82nd out of 180 countries. It is well accepted that corruption discourages investment, limits economic growth, and alters the composition of government spending, often to the detriment of future economic growth. Our antiquated governance systems need to be upgraded to ensure our sustainability as a country.
- Just as a business must place greater emphasis on stakeholder engagement to ensure that it understands its impact, the government must also genuinely seek fresh perspectives of others, including business when making its decisions. It seems obvious that Business and Government depend on each other to get the system working in the best interest of all. This does not mean that we will agree all the time, and healthy tension is helpful to ensure that we work to achieve optimal solutions. It is not in anyone’s interest to have antagonistic relationship between Government and business.
Omicron's extraordinary contagiousness combined with hopefully rising vaccination and booster rates could mean that in the coming months, nearly all of us will have some level of immunity to this virus. Repeat infections and breakthrough cases will still occur, but as our individual and collective immunity broadens, these will likely become milder and less disruptive. The influenza pandemics of the twentieth century each lasted around two years. Now, twenty-one months into our battle with the coronavirus, Omicron is accelerating to what we hope to be this pandemic's final chapter. We should be asking ourselves: where will we end up in our attitudes to one another? What lessons are we going to take from this time? Who will we be as a nation and a region after this?
As we wrestle with sensitive issues of the day, such as vaccination policies and reopening of schools among other things, we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by social media’s prioritization of the need to be "right" over the need to allow voices to be heard. We must also be careful about the level of frustration we direct at others who might hold a diametrically opposed position. We must recognize that truth may be the first step to healing and renewing necessary social contracts.
Throughout this time, we must remember the fundamentals of who we are as Trinibagonians: our diversity as a people, our creativity that we bring and the way we have coexisted peacefully in our small twin-island state. These attributes should all be leveraged as we seek to find common ground on thorny issues. We must not forget our humanity and our social responsibility to preserve the essence of our "Rainbow Country" for our children’s children. Let’s not forget who first called us a “Rainbow Nation” when he visited us in 1987 - years before he could apply the same epithet to his own country - the recently passed & Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This is a hefty superlative to bestow upon our nation & as the giver was such a great man who died exactly a month ago (Boxing Day) as at today
I have a deep optimism and hardy resolve for the future of our nation, our people and our economy. ANSA McAL's success over the last 140 years and the measures we are putting in place today make me confident that we will be stronger than ever in the unforeseeable future. The uncertainty of the last two years has underscored the crucial interrelation between businesses, governments, and our people's well-being.
Let us not lose the lesson as we move forward.
“Creating Confidence, Generating Growth”
Welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s first major event of the year – our Economic Outlook Forum for 2022.
Our theme this year is creating confidence, generating growth. To achieve these, we must have two things - a clear sense of direction and we must believe that we are indeed heading there. We hope to address these things over the course of this morning’s session.
By partnering with EY this year to generate some data, this event is designed to provide a snapshot of what the business community is thinking at this point in time as well as offer guidance on how businesses can adjust their strategy to remain resilient and grow, despite external factors that may be out of their control.
Of course, we also take this opportunity to assess the feedback of our members and make some policy suggestions for the consideration of the Government since businesses exist within a framework set by governments.
Building a better, brighter future will depend on many factors but ultimately it comes down to defining a vision, engaging different sections of society to get valued feedback and ensure buy-in and then authentically working together under that shared vision.
Difficult decisions may need to be made and change may not happen overnight, but a better tomorrow begins with the decisions we are making today. And as we all in business know, inaction will likely result in negative outcomes.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Trinidad and Tobago, much like the world economy continues to face unprecedented challenges. T&T’s current economic outlook reveals a sharp increase in the country’s fiscal deficit and public debt from 2019. Melanie Tom of EY will shortly give more details on this in her presentation. What is noteworthy though, is that the data is showing that about a quarter of businesses continue to experience declines in revenue and profitability. That is no small number. The imperative to improve the business environment and accelerate structural reforms cannot be ignored and our panellists will be discussing how this can be done in our session later this morning.
AMCHAM T&T acknowledges the uphill battle these challenges pose, but we also believe none of it is insurmountable. According to the IMF Staff Report of November 2021, a strong economic recovery is projected for 2022, even though this Recovery is Subject to High Uncertainty. Still, real GDP growth in 2022 is expected at 5.7 percent, reinforced by the continued policy support and the anticipated recovery in oil and gas production.
There are a few things that should be noted, however. Firstly, if things remain as they are, the IMF predicts flattening of economic activity from 2024 onward. Secondly, the growth prediction is predicated on more natural gas production compared to last year coupled with higher petrochemical and petroleum prices. This means that the growth prediction is not necessarily the result of an improved business environment but linked to external factors over which we have little control. The third is that GDP growth does not automatically result in enhanced societal welfare. This will require the vision we spoke about earlier and the deliberate and transparent management of increased income.
So how can we create sustainable economic growth from 2022 onward amidst this backdrop? For us, it starts with strong leadership and increased cooperation among all key stakeholders. There is a need for the Government to convince citizens that it has the will to make much-needed changes and get the results that matter most to citizens. Collaboration and action, therefore, are, in our view, what will re-instil confidence.
For at least the next 10 years, the country’s revenue is going to continue to come primarily from the energy sector. And while we hope that the current Deepwater bid round is successful and that we will one day soon have access to gas from our neighbours, it is imperative that we diligently work to develop new sectors.
In pursuit of this goal, last year, in partnership with ExporTT we hosted a “Doing Business” with Illinois session and will follow up this year with some matchmaking for local firms. We also, in conjunction with the Canadian High Commission hosted a mini trade mission, primarily for firms in the tech sector. We’ll be doing more of these this year.
Meanwhile, generating growth could be hampered by our staggering debt. Already the cost of servicing our debt is impacting our ability to re-invest in more productive activities. What we are saying is that we have to link spending to desired outcomes. Those outcomes must themselves be linked to increased productivity and self-sustainability of the individual and of the country.
And of course, this must be done while investing in digital and physical infrastructure, both of which are in need of upgrade.
In that regard, we must accept that our economic survival depends on the creation of a digitally-based economy that attracts investors, creates business confidence, increases social mobility, and ultimately, improves the quality of life. There’s no reason why we should not be able to make T&T a major tech hub in the Caribbean. With the right infrastructure and policy framework, coupled with the creativity and innovation of our people, we can do this. AMCHAM T&T will continue to drive digital transformation in the private sector and collaborate with the Government and multi-lateral agencies to develop the tech industry in T&T. In fact, we are currently undertaking a study, jointly with the TTIFC with the support of the IDB, to determine the tech-skills gap in T&T. Our hope is that we can use the results of this study to identify the training and manpower needs of both companies already resident in T&T and those that are interested in establishing operations here to ensure that there are adequately trained and skilled people to support their operations and growth.
In this regard, we look forward to working with the Government, TTIFC, InvesTT and ExporTT to develop a strategy to take advantage of the nearshoring wave taking place as North American companies seek to move operations from Asia closer to home.
A critical component of effective global trade and therefore competitiveness is the smooth flow of goods across borders. Trinidad and Tobago is in urgent need of customs reform. Our partnership last year with the Ministry of Finance to form the Joint Consultative Customs Committee has seen us working closely with Customs to improve our Ease of Doing Business as well as providing innovative solutions to improve efficiency and customer service at our ports.
It would be remiss of me at this point not to publicly thank the Acting Comptroller, Vidya Marcial and her team for their willingness to listen and to engage with the private sector to find solutions. Through this increased collaboration, we have had some success.
However, AMCHAM T&T would like to see more done to minimize the bureaucracy and the cost at the border if we are to reap benefits. This would require the complete digitization of the clearance process and the implementation of appropriate risk management systems to make it more efficient and business friendly.
So, as I said at the beginning, we want to create confidence and generate growth. What will this look like if achieved? Well, this will mean more choices for consumers, more jobs for citizens, more taxes for government and stronger, more resilient companies.
And from AMCHAM T&T’s perspective, this vision we speak of should address providing:
- a robust financial system that services efficient and reliable business-related transactions.
- adherence to the rule of law with institutions and governance models that are easily adaptable to future crises.
- a stronger and more transparent regulatory and policy environment that will inspire growth and investor confidence.
- low levels of white-collar crime supported by robust prosecution.
- and leaders committed to rebuilding the eroded public trust in institutions
We believe all of this is within reach for our nation. But we ALL must step up and do our part! That means working together to remove unfairness in the market, eliminating barriers that impede progress, and creating more opportunities to reduce inequalities.
This is not a job for the government alone. Citizens, businesses, employers, and employees have a role to play if we are to rebuild and reimagine a better, brighter future for Trinidad and Tobago.
It starts with how we are interacting with each other. If we aren’t talking, we aren’t doing, we aren’t fixing, we aren’t changing, we aren’t creating! And that’s what we need more of going forward.
So, let’s EACH do our part!
Finally, I would like to end with thanks. Firstly, thanks to Pria Narinesingh, Zach Nadur and Melanie Thom from our platinum sponsor, EY for your partnership in conducting this survey and analysing and presenting the results. It will provide useful insights for our discussions this morning and certainly for our ongoing consideration.
I must also thank our sponsors Ansa Merchant Bank, eZone and the Unit Trust Corporation.
And to Rey Anne Paynter Mendez, Melissa Pierre and Kennedy Maraj for their work on the survey and co-ordinating and communicating the event.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your attendance this morning and I hope you enjoy today’s session.
Thank you for joining us this morning, on what is the 25th anniversary of AMCHAM T&T’s annual HSSE conference. Twenty-five years is a long time to be doing anything in today’s world where change happens so quickly. It requires that organizations and more importantly the people who are the lifeblood of organizations demonstrate a willingness to learn, evolve and thrive in an ever-changing environment. I dare say that without these qualities, it is near impossible to stand the test of time.
Today we are here to celebrate the achievements we’ve made in health, safety, security, and the environment over the last quarter-century, but also to look ahead to what we must do to catalyse even greater progress over the next twenty-five years.
It is quite likely that twenty-five years from now we will look back and speak on the events of the past year as one of the greatest challenges we have faced as a nation and a global community. COVID-19 has killed more than four million people around the world. Locally, we too have lost many people to the virus and our condolences go out to their families, friends, and co-workers.
Over 48,000 persons have recovered, so today I ask that we not only take a moment to remember the lives of those we’ve lost but also to celebrate those who have recovered and, in some cases, may still need support.
COVID-19 has caused too much pain and suffering, and we are not out of the woods as yet. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t made progress. The position we find ourselves in today has been largely dependent on our commitment to trusting and leading with the available data and science. It’s the same data and science that we trusted to create all the modern conveniences we now enjoy, and the science that created the COVID-19 vaccines.
I want to say a special thank you to the honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, and the Government for their efforts in securing and making accessible to the population several WHO approved vaccines for use locally. These should not be taken for granted given the continued calls for vaccine equity around the world.
We at Amcham are pleased to lead in this space with all of the members of our Board of Directors and all of the employees of our Secretariat being fully vaccinated. Further we continue to play our part in this regard through our partnership with the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce where we are currently assisting the Ministry of Health in the uploading of vaccination data forms from across the country and of course you would recall that during the months of July to September, we also jointly ran the mass vaccination site at the National Academy for the Performing Arts. This effort would have contributed in seeing us increase the number of vaccinated persons in our country which now stands at 43%. However, this is still not sufficient and we join the Minister in the continued call for citizens, young and old, to get vaccinated. Noting Ministers that concerted steps may need to be taken to increase vaccination levels - as individuals, across industries, within the private sector and within the public sector if we are to secure a bright and prosperous future for Trinidad & Tobago.
In this regard, we were encouraged to see the reopening of many businesses and generation of employment again through the creation of the Safe Zones. Decisions such as these which follow the science, incentivize vaccination and restore a sense of normalcy again are positive steps. More recently, we noted the announcement to have all children, vaccinated and unvaccinated in Forms 4-6, return to school as of today. While we are pleased to see children return to schools, we certainly hope that with the levels of vaccination among students and teachers, the requisite measures and safety protocols will be implemented and adhered to, so that we will not see in the coming weeks a surge in the number of positive cases and deaths. It is in no one’s interests – businesses’ nor the general population’s - to have us go through further lockdowns and suffer further personal loss.
Amcham will continue to play its part in bringing information to the fore and through our membership to support efforts to see an end to this pandemic.
25 years of Progress
I dare say the possibility of that bright future is why we are all tuned in this morning, to learn about best practices and collectively raise further awareness on some of the key topics in HSSE. Everyone on this live stream today recognizes that all growth is rooted in a willingness to learn and evolve; because without doing those two things, it is impossible to adapt and to thrive in any environment.
Undoubtedly, we have made significant progress in the field of HSSE over the last two decades. When AMCHAM founded its safety, health, and environment committee in 1996 to advocate for change and to provide proactive solutions while building best practices in health and safety across industries, many of the laws and standards in place today did not yet exist.
The Environmental Management Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act were introduced in 2000 and 2004 respectively, and as a country we have made several updates to the Petroleum Act to ensure better protection for our marine interests over time.
Today, we can clearly see the fruit of our labour and the trickle-down effect of some of these early efforts and advocacy. Advocacy which was cemented in the knowledge that HSSE investment and advancement wasn’t just a nice-to-do, it made good business sense and would further strengthen our economy.
The success of this conference underscores that we have always known this. It is demonstrated by our focused commitment across the public and private sector to learning, adopting, and evolving our HSSE practices to what it is now, ranked among the best in the Caribbean region. We want to thrive, and it’s clear that we are willing to do the work to get there!
The progress we have made, however, is being challenged by global trends including raising awareness about climate change and its impact on small island states like ours; the growing demand for cleaner energy sources, and the consistent push being made by civil society for governments and large organizations to reduce their impact on the environment.
So there is still so much work to do. I am a firm believer that people and by extension organizations should live in the future world they wish to create. Simply put, it means doing what you can from where you are.
While there are things that only governments and or businesses can do, at the end of the day, each of us has a responsibility to ourselves, to the next generation, and to our country to push the envelope and make improvements. Whatever we think we can, or we can’t do and achieve, is what will manifest in our external environment.
Looking to the Future
At the macro level, it is clear some industries are further along than others. As an energy sector veteran, I can personally attest to the reality that our strong HSSE culture continues to make us an attractive investment prospect. However, recent incidents at home and around the world underscore the need for continued attention to be paid to all aspects of HSSE.
Flooding, for example, remains an issue in communities across the country and indeed the region. This should lead us to question and consider what small changes can be made to our housing developments, drainage, soil management and water capture systems to better manage the increased runoff we experience during heavy rainfall.
More recently, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram suffered a disruption in service that resulted in these platforms going down for hours. This occurrence demonstrated the need for companies to have multiple avenues for communication and connection with their stakeholders in the event of an emergency. We cannot talk genuinely about resilience and business continuity if core functions like communication and sales are solely dependent on platforms that we do not control. And we also cannot overlook the threat of cybersecurity faced by all businesses today.
At a socio-economic level, the need for us to quickly digitize our national records so that we are better able to manage the risks associated with e.g. “double-dipping” when identifying and delivering assistance to those most in need. This data would also allow us to better trend key economic markers that can be used to inform future policy and planning decisions.
In the healthcare space, it would allow us to respond more quickly to future pandemics. In the present, it would provide us with an opportunity to manage access to safe zones electronically easing the burden on both businesses and consumers.
Finally, as economic activities resume, are we rethinking the way we do business and actively working to help our employees adapt to rapid change while encouraging work-life balance? The reality is that remote work has been a positive experience for many employees, with reports globally pointing to its positive impact on work-life balance. Locally, I think the reduction, if not elimination of long commutes and traffic delays, is one of the driving factors behind this sentiment.
Employees who have been working remotely with no loss in productivity for over a year will want to maintain this new-found work-life balance. Keeping these workers motivated and engaged will require companies to consider hybrid ways of working; where employees feel empowered and have the tools to work safely from anywhere at any time, and should include policies such as remote work, flexitime, and mental health days.
I say all of this to challenge us to rethink our approach to HSSE, encourage collaboration and the embrace of technology to help us create a safer more sustainable way to do business. The goal should always be a happier, healthier workforce who are in turn more willing to learn and adapt to safer and better ways of working that will drive businesses, organizations, and by extension, our economy forward.
Much of what I’ve outlined must be done through policy and partnership among businesses, industry groups and the government. At the micro-level however, I want to challenge everyone attending this conference to ask themselves over the next four days one simple question: What can I do to contribute to the creation of a healthier, safer, more environmentally sustainable future? I truly believe that if we each take small, concerted steps individually, that collectively we can realise the change that we want to see.
In many ways, the work we are doing today is about planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we may never see but that should not discourage or deter us because change will never come if we wait for some other person and some other time. We all need to make more conscious decisions in matters of health, safety, security, and the environment.
As I close, I want to thank our sponsors and partners who have supported us in the past and continue to partner with us as we seek to embed HSSE best practices across all sectors and industries in the region. We have partnered successfully on initiatives to address the challenges brought on by the pandemic, and we look forward to future partnerships.
There is much work to do, but let’s start today, let’s start now, by taking actions that will create a healthier, safer, more environmentally sustainable future for everyone.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It may be hard for some of us to imagine it, but 25 years ago, there was no Facebook and no Google. The first smart phone had only just appeared on the market. Amazon and the EuroTunnel were only 2 years old, and the International Space Station had not yet been launched into orbit around our planet.
Into that world of yesterday, the AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference was born. Twenty-five years later, this Conference continues to champion Health, Safety, Security and Environment, the professional disciplines now globally recognized as core to the operations of every company. One could even go as far as to describe HSSE as a key pillar in our society, our economy and our country.
I am therefore honoured to be here on behalf of Atlantic and all the other sponsors of this year’s Conference, as we partner with AMCHAM T&T once again to stage this signature event.
We commend the Chamber for its vision and foresight, and we join AMCHAM in commemorating this year’s Conference as a jubilee celebration. It has been 25 years of tenacious and inspiring advocacy. Your work has reaped many benefits, helping to preserve people’s lives and create a safe environment for them to unleash their potential.
Today, HSSE sits prominently on the local and regional business agenda, due in no small part to the work of the Chamber and all the companies and practitioners who have partnered with your vision, at every stage of this 25-year journey. AMCHAM T&T, we applaud you for your commitment and your tireless efforts, and we continue to partner with your team as you work to promote excellence and innovation in HSSE.
The theme of this year’s Conference is “Learn, Evolve, Thrive,” a theme I believe we could all agree is very relevant to the status quo.
The global pandemic is still with us and continues to teach us that the human species is resilient and adaptable. In the face of regrettable loss of life, economic hardship and other areas of radical change, we have all shouldered grief, discomfort and inconvenience, and we have endured.
We join the international appeal for everyone to get vaccinated so that the recovery process can be accelerated. As the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina Mohammed has said, and I quote: “No person is safe until all are safe, and no country is safe until all countries are safe. Only by working together can we ensure that no one is left behind.”
Atlantic supports this call for a collaborative and united approach, locally and globally. Thanks to the global vaccination effort, protection protocols are now being eased or lifted around the world, and commerce and industry are slowly re-emerging into a new reality. And while it is true that collaboration will be instrumental to success, it is also true that in this new landscape, competitive forces have become more intense than ever.
This Conference is one opportunity to assemble leaders, professionals and other stakeholders so that together we can discover solutions to these forces and other factors that may impact HSSE.
The theme of this year’s Conference is therefore very on point and identifies three interdependent strategies that I believe point a way for us to navigate the challenges of the present and the future.
The first strategy is “Learn”, a word that brings to mind companies that describe themselves as learning organizations. As the various business writers from Harvard and elsewhere have identified: a learning organization is skilled at creating, acquiring, transferring and implementing knowledge, and true organizational learning is not a company initiative; it is a company culture.
At the heart of such a culture is a heavy emphasis on learning and development and research and development. To put this in perspective: last year, the Chinese government invested some 372 billion US dollars in research and development. For fiscal year 2022, the US government has earmarked a research and development budget of some 171 billion US dollars. These gargantuan numbers say it all. These countries know that investment in research and development lays the foundation for future breakthroughs which over time yield new business opportunities, new jobs and new exports.
This is very instructive for Trinidad and Tobago. We too should prioritize learning, research and development in a new national culture of learning. Government initiatives such as the proposed research and development capital allowance are welcome. This can help spur our innate capacity for innovation. As a country, we already have 2 inventions under our belt – the steelpan and the G-pan. As Professor Brian Copeland, UWI Principal and inventor of the G-Pan has said recently, the expertise is all here. The critical need of the hour is that we build support systems and public sector/private sector partnerships that help our local experts and students bring viable ideas to the new marketplace.
At Atlantic, our own culture of Continuous Learning is being built through a suite of initiatives focused on deepening the knowledge of our people and helping them access the skills of the future. In addition to creating in-house and external training opportunities, we facilitate inter- department and cross-functional job rotations and have also arranged special exchange assignments with peers in the global industry.
From a HSSE perspective, our Learning from Incidents initiative aims to ensure that Atlantic captures lessons from personal safety and process safety incidents that occur in ours and oftentimes other’s operations. This data is entered and regularly accessed when on-site jobs are being planned or permitted. This initiative positions us to be more proactive in our prevention of repeat incidents and helps underpin the strong performance of our risk management system.
I’ll turn now to the second strategy in the Conference theme: “Evolve”. Some of us will remember Darwin’s theory that when an environment changes, the traits that enhance survival in that environment will also gradually change and evolve. Case in point: our own immediate everyday circumstances due to the pandemic. What are the survival traits that must change, as a result?
In addition to our individual and corporate pandemic response, as a country with an energy economy, we must continue to take a macro-view and pay close attention to the changes underway in the wider context of the Global Energy Transition. This refers to the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based fuels to new sources of renewable energy. As the cleanest fossil fuel, LNG will play a key role in this transition. In fact, global demand for LNG is forecast to increase by 200% over the next twenty years. This means that Trinidad and Tobago’s LNG business must continue to evolve to remain competitive and relevant.
None of this has escaped Atlantic’s attention. Domestic gas supply shortfall continues to be a challenge and is not projected to return to normalcy before the latter half of this decade. In response, we have implemented several strategies to increase our energy efficiency and enhance our facility’s reliability and availability. We have achieved a great measure of success with such initiatives as Reducing our Ship Load Flaring; and we capitalize on the Spinning Reserve of our Power Turbine Generators. These projects and others are strategic linchpins in our drive to future-proof our business. We will also continue to work with all our peers and all stakeholders in the local energy sector to develop additional carbon abatement strategies that fortify Trinidadand Tobago’s status in global energy.
The third strategy in the Conference theme is “Thrive”. On one hand, it is the outcome of implementing the first two strategies: if we learn and evolve, we thrive.
But on the other hand, Thrive highlights the strategic mentality that the new landscape requires. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and turns opportunities into springboards for growth and for stretching our abilities. The people of Trinidad and Tobago must continue to embrace this mindset. We must choose to be victors not victims of our circumstances and have faith in our innate potential.
This becomes pertinent when we consider the impact that the pandemic has had on many of us and our mindsets. To say it more broadly, the pandemic has had impact on our mental health. Prior to COVID, the world was already facing a mental ill health epidemic. The professionals say that 1 in 4 persons is likely to experience a mental health issue over the course of their lives. COVID has only made the situation worse. Some of the impact has been insidious, including reduced social interaction; anxiety about job security; feelings of helplessness and isolation, to name a few. The medical fraternity has already reported a rise in mental ill health cases.
The new world requires that leaders - if we have not already done so - we must now care for the holistic well-being of our employees: body, mind and soul. Throughout 2020, Atlantic deepened the offerings of our wellness programme and added a mental health component that was even more robust. In addition to 24-7 access to EAP services, our employees attended regular awareness sessions led by our Occupational Health Team. These sessions have not only shared several ways to promote mental well-being and resilience but have also made inroads in reducing the stigma associated with mental health.
With many of our employees now working from home, we also deployed virtual-based wellness programs that encourage camaraderie, including virtual walks, virtual aerobics and virtual cooking competitions.
When leaders care genuinely about the health and wellbeing of their people, business outcomes and HSSE performance are improved. Employees are more engaged and there is high productivity. In the new context, one source of our competitive advantage will come from how well we support our employees and our people to believe in their ability to achieve.
So, in closing, I would like to encourage everyone to become even more conversant with these three strategies over the next three days of this Conference: “Learn, Evolve, Thrive”. Some of the brightest and the best in the world of HSSE will be sharing the latest best practices, something from which we will all derive benefit.
AMCHAM T&T, thank you for your diligent coordination and for continuing to be a champion in this area. We look forward to another successful Conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
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