General Cigars’ Outstanding Social Responsibility Program for their Workers

Ben:  When we visited the General Cigar factory in the Dominican Republic in October 2011, one of the things that amazed all of us was the length of tenure of most of the employees.  Most every employee we asked had at least 20 plus years at the factory and the short timer was “only” 14 years.  One of the biggest reasons no one leaves is all the great things that General Cigar does for their employees like continuing education, funding a fully stocked, non-profit grocery store for their employees, medical care, etc.  I asked Victoria McKee to send me some information on the program which she gratefully sent me after our trip.  Most people would think a huge cigar company, like General Cigar, would be more interested in their bottom line than the welfare of their employees like most large companies, but this is not the case.  Here is some of the things General Cigar does for their employees.

 

General Cigar Corporate Social Responsibility

 

Renowned for producing best-selling premium cigars including Macanudo, Cohiba, Partagas, Punch, La Gloria Cubana and CAO, General Cigar Company also engages in arguably the most comprehensive corporate social responsibility program among those that exist within the premium cigar category.

Just as they are dedicated to cultivating tobacco and world-class cigars, General Cigar is also passionately committed to increasing the well-being of its employees, stimulating the economy and supporting both the people and environment of the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

Since 1984, General Cigar has actively assisted the people of the Dominican Republic and Honduras through a variety of initiatives which are underwritten solely by the company.  In fact, in the 27 years since these outreach initiatives began, General Cigar has continuously financed its socially-conscious programs without soliciting donations of any kind.

Education

General Cigar believes that education is the key to a better future in the Dominican Republic and Honduras.  The company allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to support programs that increase literacy among employees and residents of the D.R. and Honduras, while also providing scholarships for its employees and providing complete funding for schools in both countries.

 General Cigar began its “Literacy Initiative” in 2004, and today, this program remains one of the company’s most unique corporate social responsibility endeavors. General Cigar underwrites the program, provides instructors and holds classes within its Dominican and Honduran facilities.  Under this campaign, company employees, as well as citizens who live in urban and rural areas surrounding the company’s farms and factories are taught to read and write based on curriculum mandated by the Dominican and Honduran governments.  Students who pass the course receive a diploma that is formally presented during an annual graduation ceremony, the most important event held by General Cigar in a given year.  To date, more than 600 Dominicans and Hondurans have advanced under this program.

General Cigar is also very proud of its “Continuing Education” program which continues to offer a range of professional development courses designed to provide employees with additional skills and training relevant to jobs within the company.  More than 4,000 employees have prospered under this program which boasts more than 50 unique areas of training, each developed in cooperation with technical education institutions in both countries.

Another component of the company’s commitment to education is General Cigar’s support of continuing education for its employees. In a given year, approximately 30 employees are able to attend college or pursue advanced technical training, directly due to financial assistance from the company.  As a result of this program, General Cigar currently employs more than 64 college graduates, with 16 of these employees holding master’s degrees. In fact, all of General Cigar’s upper and middle management employees hold college degrees. This investment continues to make General Cigar one of the Dominican Republic and Honduras’ most professionally and technically-advanced companies.

Under the “School Sponsorship” endeavor which was created in 1997, more than 2,500 students have benefitted from General Cigar’s support, which helps to broaden the scope of learning and ensure a better future for the children.  Through this initiative, General Cigar provides broad-based financial to support to four economically-challenged Dominican schools. The company underwrites infrastructure costs, while also providing students with school supplies and sporting goods. General Cigar has also utilized this program to bring technology to remote urban areas by appointing the schools with modern computers.

 Health/Well Being

General Cigar also dedicates considerable resources toward creating a better quality of life for its staff.  Health insurance, dental exams and blood pressure screenings are available for employees of both countries. In addition, the company provides transportation, including new bicycles to employees and conducts intramural baseball and soccer leagues within their Dominican and Honduran facilities.

For those employees who need assistance in paying for home repairs, General Cigar has a dedicated fund which allows employees to secure no-interest financing for home improvement projects. Over the last 27 years, this program has dramatically improved the quality of life for many employees and their families.

Just as General Cigar is passionately committed to advancing tobacco cultivation, the company uses its vast resources to contribute to the health of the Dominican and Honduran people. General Cigar purchases citrus fruits, vegetables, dairy products, livestock and fish which are then sold at below wholesale prices to company employees. Providing nutritious and affordable food is another way that General Cigar contributes to the well-being of its employees.

General Cigar also maintains a “Natural Disaster” fund allowing the company to readily provide its employees and people in the Dominican Republic and Honduras with food, clean drinking water, necessities such as diapers and medical supplies as well as home repairs and shelter.

 Reforestation/Environmental Protection

Protecting the environment and preventing pollution are two additional areas of focus for General Cigar’s corporate social responsibility programs. Perhaps the only cigar manufacturer to have its own reforestation program, General Cigar replenishes cedar and mahogany trees to replace those that are depleted in making their handsome cigar boxes. Each farm in the Dominican Republic and Honduras participates in the reforestation activities which are now part of the company’s standard agricultural operations.  To date, more than 35,000 trees have been replanted.

General Cigar is also pleased to have been recognized for being in compliance with “ISO 14001” standards which acknowledge the company’s commitment to conducting its business in the utmost environmentally-friendly manner.

In addition to its Dominican and Honduran charitable initiatives, General Cigar supports various charities in the United States, to benefit literacy initiatives, support members of the U.S. armed forces and their families, and provide funding for medical research and disease prevention.

With the recent addition of CAO to the General Cigar family, the company now has a dedicated cigar making facility in Nicaragua. They have already begun exploring the possibility of replicating and expanding their corporate social responsibility programs in that country.

 

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Comments

I think it’s great that you all are supporting schools in the DR and Honduras, where they really need it best. It shows that cigar companies can be socially responsible.

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