The President of Malta

Diskors mill-E.T. il-President George Vella waqt żjara lill-kumpanija General Soft Drinks Ltd.

Good morning to everyone,

Ms Maria Micallef, first of all, thank you very much for that very interesting, detailed overview of the development of the company and also your look into the future as to what you think will be the challenges as well as the opportunities that you will be facing in the not-so-distant future. And also thank you for kind words about our duties in the Presidency.

I thank you all for the invitation extended to me to visit these premises and to meet with all of you. As Ms Micallef said, one cannot talk about a company without talking about the employees, because it is you who make the company, it is you who make the successes and without full cooperation with happy employees, nobody can actually think that one can move forwards. This is a very refreshing start to a new chapter, now that we are all hoping that the Covid situation is giving us some breathing space.

I wanted to visit General Soft Drinks (GSD) to show my appreciation for your hard work over these past months. All of you – from Directors to the production line – form part of a chain that has kept the country going in difficult circumstances.

As has already been pointed out, your contribution to the Maltese economy, at present, and over the decades, is a very significant one. Apart from providing employment to hundreds of individuals, both local and foreign, your company has been a pillar of strength to the manufacturing sector in Malta.

And how very much we talk about shifting from manufacturing to services, our economy will still depend, and is still depending, on actual manufacturing – whatever the nature of it – but manufacturing is part and parcel of our economy.

I am not here only to commend you on your successes of a commercial nature, because these are known to us all and need no further elaboration from my end.

I wanted to use the opportunity rather, to speak on the contributions that you are making, and should continue to make to our community, starting with the Environment.

And I have to say that this morning, before coming into this room, we were having a friendly chat with the directors and with the CEO and I was impressed by the environmental vocation that this company is talking about. What is going to happen in the future, specifically to try to avoid as much as possible the ill effects of environmental degradation. Talking precisely on the recollection of all the material that goes out in manufacturing – talking about glass, talking about plastics, talking about aluminium – and that is with the environment in mind.

And we made the point that this is not something that we’re talking because it is in the distant future. It is something which is in the very near future. And this is very unfortunate because you will be definitely facing it, your children, our children, will be facing it and we have to start a very intense campaign to make people realise we are not talking science fiction. We are talking facts which could make the whole lot of difference in the quality of life for us and for our children.

I have noted how in your mission statement you have highlighted that your long-term success “depends on ensuring the protection and preservation of the environment and, more importantly, the health and safety of our workers and the community in which we operate”.

This is a mission which you have been living up to, from what I observe, both on the environmental level as well as from your engagement with the community, what today is being called Corporate Social Responsibility.

From where I stand, I have noted that following the announcement by the Government of Malta in 2016, that Malta had to tackle the issue of plastic waste in Malta, GSD with the support of The Coca-Cola Company drew up a deposit system for returning containers, and discussions were launched with the government and interested stakeholders on the prospect of implementing it.

And now we have heard today what the development and what the plans are for the immediate future on this same theme but with a much more broad appeal and involvement of other producers.

I also note how you worked hard to bring together practically all major industry stakeholders with the aim to drive the message home that the scheme should be the responsibility of beverage producers. And not only that, because as I was told this morning, it is also going to include producers of other products who produce plastic.

Today there is irrefutable evidence of the long-term harm that irresponsible disposal of plastic objects can do, and is already doing, to our environment, especially our seas and our oceans. Enough to realise that plastic, which has been discovered some 100 years ago, in 100 years we manged to pollute practically all the seas and all the oceans around the globe. In hundred years.

I urge you to strongly continue building on your commitment and drive in this regard.

With regard to your work on a social level, one can mention several examples that attest to your willingness to give something back to the community. Along the years, you have done this by successfully creating jobs, investing responsibly in local communities, and supporting youth activities, especially in the fields of sports and entertainment.

You have done this as a company. Your employees – as individuals – have also taken admirable initiatives.

It was very encouraging to note the initiative taken by hundreds of your staff, to register as organ donors in 2019. This is truly an outstanding altruistic and noble gesture, which has set a good example to one and all.

It would also be great to see you developing further your engagement with students that embark on vocational training. Hands-on experience in these premises, and in a high-level professional set-up, could provide immense benefits to our young students.

This sort of vocational training could also serve as a measure to promote further inclusion and equality. I refer in particular to the way you have cooperated with MCAST students engaged in the ‘Pathway to Independent Living’ some years back, enabling these young men and women to enhance their independent capabilities through work.

Please do keep this up, as such opportunities bring hope, boost the individual’s self-esteem and restore dignity to those who are most vulnerable in our society.

On top of these initiatives, I also wish to add to the support that GSD has been giving to the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation along the years, a support for which we have always been very thankful.

Allow me to remind you that this was a very difficult year for us at the Foundation as practically all fundraising events had to be cancelled, and this had obviously a very deleterious effect on donations, on income and activities as well as cash liquidity.

I therefore thank you all for your unwavering support to the MCCFF – CEO, Directors, and employees at all levels – for your generosity and assure you that every euro from your contributions will be spent on measures that make a difference in the lives of those who qualify to benefit from assistance and who are going through rough times either through sickness or because of social circumstances.

A final word goes to the large number of foreign employees, some of them here this morning, I was told there are South Africans, Somali, Italian, Indian, Filipino, Croatian, Portuguese, Polish. If I missed anybody, hands up.

I convey to you our thanks for the valuable contribution that you are making to the growth of our economy and for enriching our social fabric by your presence amongst us.

Rest assured that you and your families, are all very welcome amongst us and I wish you every success in Malta, which for some, has become a second home.

Thank you very much.

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