An Indian tale
A commitment that can be traced back centuries...
This Coats story comes from Jamie Coats, the great, great, great, grandson of Peter Coats who founded J & P Coats (the forerunner to Coats) with his brother, James Coats. When Jamie recently visited two of our plants in Southern India, he found a commitment to health and safety that can be traced back to his forebears.
‘In our home we used to have a 1919 copy of the Anchor Thread Works “RULES and CONDITIONS” for the Employment of Workers. The original now hangs in the Coats head office in the UK. Of the nine conditions listed a full five relate directly to health and safety.
I live on the outskirts of the Boston area, in Massachusetts, USA and am trustee of an organisation that manages money for Anglican/Episcopal Churches in Massachusetts. Recently – while on church business nearby – my family and I visited two of the Coats plants in Tamil Nadu; the Madura Mills in Madurai and the Ambas Mills near Ambasamudram.
Getting to the Ambas Mills – where they make the thread that you use to dangle your tea bag in your cup – entails travelling through poor villages with rubbish strewn along the roadside. For the last hour of the drive the road surface was largely washed away by heavy rains, so we were totally unprepared for what we found inside the plant: a world-class facility so clean that I wanted to take off my shoes (what one does when you enter a home or sacred space in India). In fact, we were not allowed to enter the part of the mill that makes the tea bag thread – as we had not been tested for infectious diseases!
Not only that, but in this very remote location – where the jungle meets a mountain range – the plant had multiple Wi-Fi networks and good cell phone access. It also has plans and initial construction for the Mills to go to zero discharge as part of a worldwide environmental commitment, and a solar set of arrays had just been activated.
The plant reports and benchmarks its production, H&S and environmental record to Coats UK headquarters. Coats obviously has a worldwide commitment to all its employees and its health and safety standards are way higher than local cultural norms and regulations. The Manufacturing Manager at the Madura Mills, told me that the importance that Coats gives to H&S and ethical practices is higher than anywhere else he has worked in the textile industry in Tamil Nadu.
This commitment extends to the communities in which it operates. For example, employees have to wear helmets when riding mopeds or motorbikes on their way to the factory and the company offers defensive driving classes and home safety classes to its neighbouring communities.
Having experienced a number of very scary rides during our stay in Tamil Nadu – dodging mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians, buses, trucks and animals – I can vouch for the usefulness of such a programme and we were very grateful for the skill of our Coats driver, Bashan. He was by the far the best driver we had in India and when a flock of goats ran on to the brand-new National Highway 7 south of Madurai, he took the car from 60mph/100kph to a standstill without waking my daughter asleep in the back seat. Back at home in Boston, where we also have our share of bad driving, I have started channelling some of his calmness. To me, Bashan is a wonderful example of the good intentions of Coats put into action every day. It matters how you drive. It matters how you run a company.’
Great, great, great, grandson of Peter Coats
"For the last hour of the drive the road surface was largely washed away by heavy rains so we were totally unprepared for what we found inside....a world class facility, so clean that I wanted to take my shoes off... which is what one does when you enter a home or sacred place in India"