As a rapidly expanding global company with a current footprint in 32 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, Africa, Europe and South America, the impacts of our presence and operations on the environment, as well as on local communities, present both opportunities and challenges.
Our hospitality business operates many properties located amongst breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes, pristine beaches and lush forests. These locations would lose significant appeal as holiday destinations if the flora and fauna of their natural surroundings are no longer part of the ecosystem. Biodiversity protection is therefore a Material Aspect of our hospitality business, and our key initiatives focus on elephant, marine and wildlife conservation.
As with any business, all our operations consume typical resources like energy and water, and generate by-products like emissions and waste, which impact the environment. In the design, construction and operations of our properties, restaurants and retail outlets, our approach and actions are to be as responsible and sustainable as much as possible in all locations.
We have also established adaptive contingency plans, as part of our precautionary approach in mitigating potential environmental impacts, particularly on disaster preparedness due to recent extreme weather conditions attributed to climate change.
In Thailand, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) is our elephant conservation initiative based in Anantara Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai. Its initial mission was to rescue street-begging elephants through rescuerental program where we brought both elephants and their mahouts and families to our elephant camp in Chiang Rai, and to improve the welfare of captive Asian elephants. More recently, the Foundation has also expanded its work to promote wild elephant conservation and elephant-related research initiatives. These include promoting ethical and non-abusive work with elephants, providing a controlled and safe environment for publishing research scientists and veterinarians to perform ethical and non-invasive research into Asian elephants, their behavior and intelligence, with the goal of learning how to better look after them in captivity and protect them in the wild. The Foundation also works with conservationists to protect those elephants still roaming wild in Thailand, and to develop projects that will allow them to live safely in the forests. We also work with the human communities surrounding the elephant territory to minimize the ill-will felt by those whose livelihoods are compromised by human-elephant conflict.
As part of advocating a less-intrusive interaction between humans and elephants, the Foundation introduced the "Walking with Giants" guest experience at Anantara Golden Triangle in 2015. The activity offers guests the opportunity for a 2-hour stroll with elephants during their daily walks and free-roaming time. Guests get to be close to the elephants and also learn more about elephant behavior and biology from the GTAEF team. In addition to this activity, guests can also opt for the "Elephant Learning Experience" (E.L.E) - a fun, educational and interactive experience on elephant biology, conservation and onsite research conducted into elephant cognition and behavior.
In 2015, GTAEF continued to run its annual onsite Target Training Positive Reinforcement Project for key stakeholders involved in elephant camp operations, namely camp owners, managers, mahouts and veterinarians, as well as provide support for trainings in the region. Target Training focuses on training elephants to undergo veterinary treatment in a safe and stress-free environment for both the elephant and veterinarian. The project, led by Dr. Gerardo Martinez, a veterinarian and animal trainer from the Africam Safari, and supported by GTAEF, was presented at the International Conference of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance in Denmark, where it won "The Impact Award" for most impactful use of animal behavior management, and "Behavior Management Achievement Award" for achievement in pioneering this animal behavior management approach.
For the past three years, the Foundation and Minor have also been providing funding support to our local partner, Wildlife Alliance, for the protection of a vital 18,000 hectares of forest and wildlife corridor in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, for the construction of ranger stations and anti-poaching/ anti-hunting patrols.
In addition to the protection of the corridor in Cardamom Mountains, a number of our properties in Africa which are located either in or adjacent to protected areas like national parks and wildlife conservancy, work with partners to protect over 300,000 hectares of wildlife conservancy. Some of our properties in Thailand are also located in protected areas. They therefore work with local government agencies and institutions on conservation initiatives. Details on these properties are provided in the Performance Data section of this report.
The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation (MKMTF), based in Phuket, is our turtle conservation initiative that aims to ensure the conservation of leatherback turtles and other marine life. Over the recent years, it broadened its goal to also preserve the environment with the involvement of local communities, schools, universities, government and other organizations. One of our key initiatives is to support the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) and Royal Thai Navy in their efforts to ensure the collection of hatching of eggs from Phuket beaches, and the safe release of sea turtles. Turtle hatchlings are raised in the PMBC nursery for release when they are 12 months old, which increases their chances of survival at sea.
In 2015, MKMTF opened a Turtle Shelter that provides a home to three rescued turtles - one blind, one with deformed shell and one with guidance problems - which could never survive in the wild. The Shelter also serves as education center for local schools and guests.
In Trang, we assist the local National Parks Research Department in not only monitoring dugongs that do exist there, but also re-planting and monitoring seagrass beds, their favorite food, that were destroyed following catastrophic human exploitation. Seagrass is also an important habitat for many other marine life, and one of the best natural carbon sinks.
In the Maldives, our marine conservation initiatives include rejuvenation and propagation of reefs through our "coral adoption" program run by our properties. In 2015, Anantara Dhigu and Anantara Veli hosted marine biologists from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation who embarked on a program to remove the Crown of Thorns Starfish, an invasive coral predator. The program was also open to guests with advanced diving qualification and excellent buoyancy control.
We also work with our partners in Africa on conservation initiatives. Elewana Collection's Tarangire Treetops funds the "Randilen WMA (Wildlife Management Area) Crop Protection" project, a Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) prevention initiative. Thirty village crop protection scouts were selected from 5 villages and trained on crop protection by mitigating HWC in the form of crop damage. Other initiatives include funding to support the upkeep of wildlife conservancies which allow for local communities to continue traditional ways of life alongside wildlife, as well as for education, livelihood-strengthening and anti-poaching initiatives.
In 2015, no material non-compliance with environmental laws or regulations was identified.
Our properties, restaurants and retail outlets are strongly encouraged to consume energy and water responsibly and sustainably. The design phase of our properties incorporates energy-saving elements. These include rooftop installation for rain-harvesting, lightweight structure for reduction of cement usage and energy savings, sensor installation to turn off air conditioning if guests open doors or windows for a long period of time, and waste water treatment and recycling systems. Upon operations, our properties continue these conservation practices with effective recycling, energy-saving and waste management practices. Where possible, we install energy-saving lighting, recycle water for irrigation, use recyclable products such as glass bottles and paper, and use solar or heat-generated energy. We also supply drinking water in glass bottles in most of our locations, and are experimenting with drinking water purification and refilling facilities in remote properties, in order to reduce waste and carbon footprint from transportation.
The project and facilities team of Minor Food Group came up with an innovative "knock-down kiosk" concept for Dairy Queen. Similar to assembling Lego blocks, kiosks available in 3 sizes are constructed using a modular method, resulting in faster installation, flexibility to down-size or up-size according to retail space, and zero write-off as materials are reusable. Three Dairy Queen "knock-down kiosks" were constructed in 2015. Other resource and material-savings initiatives include utilizing existing frameworks and structures to construct new The Coffee Club outlets, durable ceramic tiles and wallpapers instead of bricks for Burger King outlets, and standardization of stainless steel kitchen equipment for cross-brand usage.
This year marks our first attempt at reporting on the energy and water usage of Minor Food Group's logistics activities and factory operations in Thailand, along with continued reporting of Minor Hotel Group's properties. We acknowledge that the information on total energy and water usage for our restaurant business is not yet readily available, and will attempt to attain such data accurately in the near future. Details of these aspects are in the Performance Data section of this report.
In 2015, twenty-seven of our hotel properties enrolled as members of Green Growth 2050, a sustainability certification program with performance management capabilities. The Green Growth 2050 Certification Standard consists of 37 criteria and 406 indicators on Sustainability Management; Legal Compliance; Labor Practices; Health and Safety; Human Rights; Sustainable Design and Construction of Buildings and Infrastructure; Sustainable Operations - Best Practice; Bribery and Corruption; Environmental Stewardship - Conserving Resources; Environmental Stewardship - Reducing Pollution; Environmental Stewardship - Conserving Biodiversity; Social and Community Development. Seven of the properties were audited and achieved scores above 80%, and were certified as Gold level members. The list of members and certified properties is in the Sustainability and CSR Highlights section of this report.
Anantara Medjumbe recently completed the installation of a 925-panelled solar power generation system which will be in operations starting February 2016. The system is capable of generating 450 kilowatt-hour of power per day, and will support power requirements for the operations of our property, guest villas, staff quarters, as well as the hot-water system.
This year marks our first attempt at reporting on greenhouse gas emissions for Minor Food Group's warehouse in Thailand. These are results of a carbon footprint reduction project led by one of our Top Talents of our Sustainability Leadership Development Program (SLDP), and are detailed in the Sustainability Leadership Development Program Spotlights of the Driving People Development section of the report. Additionally, we are also reporting on the greenhouse gas emissions, waste and treated waste water of our three manufacturing plants in Thailand - detailed in the Performance Data section of the report.
Minor International made a strategic acquisition of Tivoli Hotels & Resorts, with 14 properties in Portugal and Brazil. Besides the economic advantages, there is also the opportunity for Minor to learn from Tivoli's established environmental management practices. In 2011, Tivoli Hotels & Resorts became the first Portuguese hotel chain to obtain the Green Dot 100R® - Guaranteed 100% Recycling Certification. This environmental certification ensures that 100% of waste is correctly separated at venues and events.
We also engage with local communities to raise awareness for biodiversity protection and environmental conservation. Initiatives include elephant conservation campaigns, turtle releases, seagrass planting, beach and community clean-up events and education at local schools on resource conservation. Some of these initiatives are carried out as initiatives of Anantara's 365 Days of Good Deeds program.
"Customer Focus" is one of Minor's Core Values, and as a leading hospitality and restaurant operator and lifestyle brand retailer, excellent customer service is imperative to the success and sustainability of our businesses. We actively connect and communicate with our customers at every customer touchpoint, and do our utmost to deliver the best products and services that provide 100% satisfaction in a responsible and sustainable manner. In delivering our products and services, we do not confine ourselves to just providing good products and services, but also include local and responsible sourcing of our products, ensuring supply chain traceability and food safety, as well as offering our customers opportunities to get involved in our sustainability initiatives, community engagement, conservation and social responsibility activities.
Given Minor's diverse portfolio of businesses, the types and numbers of suppliers differ in the supply chains of our business units. Nevertheless, our practice is to always source responsibly, and as much as possible, locally at the locations of our operations. Sourcing locally not only increases traceability and reduces carbon footprint in product transportation, but also generates wealth for local suppliers. In Thailand, where Minor is headquartered, with operations contributing 56% of total revenue in 2015, a significant percentage of our business units' procurement budgets is spent on local suppliers. Sixteen of the Minor Food Group's top 20 suppliers by spending are local suppliers, and these 16 suppliers together contributed to 30% of Minor Food Group's total buying spend. For Minor Hotel Group, out of its top 100 procured food and beverage items, which contributed to over 35% of its total buying spend, 72% are procured locally.
Our business partners and suppliers are required to sign Minor's Business Partner Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct outlines the minimum standards and requirements expected from our business partners and suppliers when doing business with Minor. Aspects covered are legal compliance, ethics, labor practice, health and safety, and environmental management. Additionally, 100% of all new suppliers are screened using environmental and human rights criteria by completing our newly launched Self-Assessment Questionnaire on Sustainability. Suppliers are required to answer questions on labor standards, freedom of association, health and safety, environmental management, and business practices.
Stringent food safety standards are non-negotiable in the hospitality and restaurant businesses. As such, food safety is the core focus of our supplier audits. In Thailand, Minor Food Group has over 500 suppliers, of which over 50% are food product suppliers, all of whom must undergo food safety audits, with frequencies depending on the level of food safety risks. In 2015, 111 production facilities of Minor Food Group's suppliers were audited, of which over 86% achieved a score of 85% and above. Minor Food Group also initiated an environmental and labor practice compliance program to identify and evaluate potential risks to the business, in order to prepare a proper risk mitigation plan. Minor Hotel Group has over 400 suppliers of food and beverage items, and those whose buying spend exceeds Baht 1 million are audited on food safety. In 2015, 49 suppliers were audited, of which over 84% achieved a score of 85% and above.
In addition to supplier audits, end-to-end supply chain traceability is another important aspect of our operations. The quality and safety of our core food products has a significant impact on customer health and safety. As part of its Farm-to-Fork philosophy, Minor Food Group's Supply Chain Management team in Thailand works closely with our biggest suppliers to ensure traceability of core food products within our supply chain. 100% of core food products is traceable from our warehouse to our outlets, and 20% is traceable from initial producers to our warehouse. At restaurant operations level, all employees undergo training on food safety and handling to ensure our high food safety standards are followed during food handling and meal preparations.
In terms of compliance on customer health and safety, as well as marketing communications, we did not identify any material non-compliance with regulations and voluntary codes, nor did we identify any substantiated complaints concerning breaches of customer privacy.
No material non-compliance with laws and regulations concerning the provision and use of products and services was identified.
Our Minor Hotel Group brands have their own distinct brand positioning targeted at different market segments. In line with Anantara's brand positioning of "authentic luxury and locally connected", its guest experiences are crafted to offer guests the opportunity to experience the culture, heritage and natural beauty of the locations of our properties. An example of this is property activities led by our "Anantara Gurus", our local experts and ambassadors with unique knowledge and skills that help enrich guests' experiences. These experts include Anantara Riverside Bangkok's Klong Guru who leads guests on an exploration of the maze of canals by longtail boat, seeing timeless river communities and exquisite temples; Anantara Xishuangbanna's Tea Guru who shares the history of tea production with guests while guiding them on a tour of a tea plantation; Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara's Connoisseur Falconer who showcases his skills in the ancient sport of falconry.
Anantara also offers guests excursions that promote cultural awareness of local communities and support their livelihoods. Anantara Si Kao brings guests to the village of Baan Yaan Sue, to observe the villagers' way of life, and to learn how to weave local nipa palm leaves into functional products like baskets and wine bottle holders. They can also choose to extend their support by buying woven products from the villagers which they can bring home as unique and memorable souvenirs. Guests of Anantara Sanya are brought to the lush jungle of the Ganza Ridge Natural Reserve to watch a traditional weaving demonstration by Li elders from Bing Lang Gu Village. The elders produce exquisite handicrafts with simple ancient textile tools that are renowned both locally and abroad. These include the valuable dragon quilt embroidery and other popular cotton woven Li products like covers, bags and skirts, which can be purchased as souvenirs. By offering and involving our guests in these excursions, we enable niche market access to these artisans who are facing down the tide of modernity, and help to contribute to their sustainable livelihoods.
As an example of fostering a social responsibility mindset, our brands run marketing campaigns that create awareness and raise funds for certain causes. In referencing the LBG Framework (founded by Corporate Citizenship, LBG or London Benchmarking Group, provides an internationally recognised global standard for measuring and reporting corporate community investment), we are making our first attempt to report some of the significant campaigns as "commercial initiatives in the community". The Framework states that the most common example of this type of initiative is cause-related marketing, i.e. marketing campaigns that involve a contribution from the company to a charitable cause. For our first attempt, we are following the recommended approach of scoping our reporting to only the Inputs and Outputs of our contributions, and using broader estimates.
Over the past decade, Minor has experienced rapid growth. This growth was made possible partly as a result of selecting and working with the right partners - a demonstration of Minor's "Partnership" Core Value. We believe long-term and sustainable partnerships create synergies that bring about significant mutual benefits. In order to maintain our current expansion pace, we are committed to building on the shared success that is vital to the long-term growth and sustainability of both Minor and our partners.
Our partners are selected and treated equally and fairly. We realize the importance of having partners with a track record of good reputation and ethical conduct, professionalism and employee welfare which meets our standards. Partners are required to sign Minor's Business Partner Code of Conduct, which outlines the minimum standards and requirements expected from our partners to adopt and adhere to when doing business with Minor. Aspects covered are legal compliance, ethics, labor practice, health and safety, and environmental management.
Our partnerships are not solely commercial in nature - we collaborate with stakeholders throughout Minor's value chain, ranging from local communities, suppliers, third-party service providers, hotel owners, joint venture partners, franchisees, brand principals, to non-governmental organizations and government agencies. These collaborations have resulted in mutually beneficial partnerships with business and social outcomes. Some examples include capacitybuilding and economic opportunities for local suppliers and communities, operational excellence, knowledge-sharing and wealth-creation with franchisees, best practice-sharing and recognition from brand principals, and strategic joint ventures offering new destinations and food concepts for our valued customers that contribute to local employment.
Wherever we operate, our approach is always to source responsibly, and as much as possible, locally. Sourcing locally not only enables increased traceability and reduced carbon footprint in product transportation, but also generates wealth for local suppliers. It also allows us to contribute to the economic wealth and uplift the social well-being of the communities where we operate, by working with small-andmedium sized suppliers and producers to build capabilities and innovate together to create new products to meet customer needs. Wherever possible, this approach is also extended to local communities. By working collaboratively with local suppliers, we are able to invest resources into initiatives and improvements that are mutually beneficial. These include consistent product quality according to world class standards, and better relationship to create long-term value for both parties. As part of stakeholder engagement and capacity-building, suppliers participate in our regular supply chain conferences. At these conferences, we recognize top-performing local suppliers. By showcasing their success stories, we are able to share knowledge across our supply chain and show the benefi ts of collaborative initiatives.
One example of local sourcing partnership of Minor Food Group is that with the Royal Project Foundation of Thailand, a produce supplier to Sizzler. The partnership is growing at a steady pace - from an initial trial of 6 produce items, the Foundation now supplies 38 produce items to 46 Sizzler restaurants, and some of The Coffee Club restaurants country-wide. These vegetables and fruits are grown by local villagers and hill tribes living in northern Thailand, where the Foundation is based. For over a decade, the Foundation has led development initiatives involving the local villagers and hill tribes to solve problems of deforestation, poverty and opium production by promoting alternative crops. Growing commercially-viable crops has enabled the villagers and hill tribes to engage in a respectable and sustainable livelihood, which has significantly improved their lives and lifted them out of poverty.
One of our Sustainability Leadership Development Program's Top Talents is leading a project to work with local organic farmers in Thailand on establishing a sustainable supply of organic produce to Minor Food Group, and is assessing the supply of organic rice to Sizzler. The output of this project is not just the produce, but a much better understanding of the farmers and the limitations and opportunities in the organic produce supply chain.
In Zambia, as part of its commitment to sustainable development, The Royal Livingstone Resort, A Minor Hotel Group's property, sources approximately 70% of fruits and vegetables from various local Zambian farmers. The resort also helps enhance the capacity of small-scale farmers by contributing to their training in eco-friendly agricultural practices.
Through Anantara's brand positioning of "authentic luxury and locally connected", its properties connect with local communities to create guest experiences that expose guests to local cultures. These include guest excursions to visit the Dai Tribe Village in Xishuangbanna; take coconut leave weaving and Balinese dance classes in Bali; observe and learn nipa-palm weaving from the last few remaining weavers in Sikao; explore the Liwa Oasis community in Abu Dhabi by camel trekking across the Liwa desert; visit the Tra Que Herb Village to see traditional herb and vegetable farming methods in Vietnam; shop at local markets for ingredients for traditional cooking classes.
Elewana Collection's lodges and camps in Africa were constructed by using recyclable products and local materials, which in turn means the employment of local craftsmen. Each of the Elewana Collection lodges and camps works closely on local community projects, and seeks wherever possible to train and employ staff from the local communities. Joy's Camp works closely with the Nakuprat Gotu community and employs staff, the majority of whom are from the nomadic Borana community. Guests of Kitich Camp Mathews Forest are hosted by the local people of Kitich. Elephant Pepper Camp Masai Mara employs many of the Masai as staff. Tortilis Camp Amboseli offers visits to local Masai homesteads, where the families will show guests around their home for a fee and take the opportunity to sell their traditional handicrafts. Tarangire Treetops has close relationship with the neighboring Lokisale Masai Village, where nearly half of the hotel staff are from. The property also works with the local community to develop the Wildlife Management Area in Tarangire and extends the cooperation further to education and employment.
Minor Food Group initiated its foray into franchising in Thailand in 2002, with 3 franchise owners and 3 outlets of The Pizza Company brand. As at year-end of 2015, our domestic franchise community is made up of 409 outlets of The Pizza Company, Swensen's and Dairy Queen brands system-wide. For its international franchise expansion, Minor Food Group works with master franchise owners in Australia, Southeast Asia and Middle East. As at year-end 2015, there are 485 franchised outlets of The Pizza Company, Swensen's, The Coffee Club (and VGC), Ribs and Rumps, and Thai Express outside of Thailand.
The rapid growth of our domestic franchise business is powered by an unwavering passion and dedication in educating franchise owners to develop a "Learning to Create Wealth" mindset, based on the concept of "teaching how to fish". Each partnership is an at least 10-year collaboration that is supported by training and development initiatives, and best practice-sharing sessions for franchise owners. As part of stakeholder engagement, franchise owners participate in our Annual Franchise Conference and Franchise Satisfaction Survey. In 2015, we launched our Franchise Academy in Thailand where top-performing franchise owners were selected to attend development courses on leadership, human resources, marketing and operations. These courses were facilitated by professional trainers, industry thought leaders, and senior members of our management teams. Franchise owners found the sessions to be impactful and value-adding, and expressed interest to continue participating in future sessions.
As part of the initiatives to include our franchise owners on social responsibility opportunities, we invite them to our annual school improvement initiatives on Minor Founder's Day. It is also an engagement opportunity in a social setting that helps to foster mutual respect and trust.
Minor Food Group's partnerships with its brand principals are equally sustainable and successful. The partnership between Burger King Thailand and Burger King Corporation started since 2000. This year, Burger King Thailand hosted the 2015 Asia Pacific Convention in Bangkok, where it was recognized as "Operator of The Year" among 24 participating countries. This was its third consecutive win.
Dairy Queen Thailand's partnership with Dairy Queen International began in 1996, and its achievements have been consistently recognized. Dairy Queen Thailand won the Best Franchise Operator Award (for operators outside of North America) for the sixth consecutive year in 2015. The recognition was not only for its business performance, but also for sharing the values of Dairy Queen International.
Minor deepened its strategic partnership with its long-time partner S&P Syndicate PCL by establishing a joint venture, Patara Fine Thai Cuisine, to develop the "Patara" and "Suda" restaurant brands in the United Kingdom. This joint venture supports Minor's vision and aspiration to be a leader in promoting and propagating Thai cuisine worldwide, and builds on the establishment of the MSC Thai Culinary School in 2014, its other partnership with S&P and Thailand Iron Chef Chumpol Jangprai. The School aims to be the best institution in teaching and preserving the art and creativity of cooking and serving authentic Thai cuisine, which will be more widely appreciated and enjoyed by customers globally.
In Thailand, Minor Food Group's Supply Chain Planning team continues to build on its strategic 10-year partnership with Linfox, Australia's largest privately-owned logistics company. Linfox manages the logistics operations of our custom-built 10,000 sq.m. distribution center, which incorporates energy efficiency and flood mitigation features. This close collaboration has brought about mutually benefi cial outcomes including fuel savings and carbon footprint reduction in our logistics operations, and increased effectiveness in the monitoring of our supply chain that enables better food safety compliance. The efforts on fuel savings and carbon footprint reduction was initiated and led by one of our Top Talents of our Sustainability Leadership Development Program, and is modeled off Linfox Australia's Green Fox sustainability program.
Minor Retail Group added another American fashion brand to its portfolio by introducing 3 outlets of Banana Republic to Thailand. Banana Republic is the sister brand of Gap, a fashion brand distributed by Minor Retail Group with 15 retail outlets in Thailand.
Minor International made a strategic acquisition of Tivoli Hotels & Resorts, with 14 properties in Portugal and Brazil. With the acquisition, we are able to leverage on an existing operating platform for potential expansion of our other businesses and brands into Europe and South America.
Minor Hotel Group welcomed another 6 safari lodges and camps in Kenya, under its Elewana Collection brand with the acquisition of Cheli & Peacock Group of Companies. Since 1985, Cheli & Peacock has been developing environmentally-friendly safaris in Kenya, and more recently in Tanzania with a focus on lesser-visited areas of significant biodiversity. As part of leveraging on our partnership synergies by tapping into their expertise and experiences, knowledge-sharing exchanges on elephant and wildlife conservation with the owners of Cheli & Peacock have already been initiated by our team from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).
With over 55,000 employees serving more than 190 million customers in 32 countries, driving for "People Development" is certainly one of our Core Values that underpins our success and sustainability in our peopledriven hospitality, restaurant and retail businesses. We believe people are a valuable asset that can be transformed into change agents who create positive economic, social and environmental impacts not just in the company, but also in communities and countries. Therefore, our approach to developing and harnessing the limitless potential of this "human capital" is multi-tiered, and expands beyond our employees.
Our contribution starts at the grass-root level where we support initiatives on children's education and development. An extension of this grass-root level engagement is our employee volunteering initiatives involving charitable contributions and community activities, to foster a social responsibility mindset within our employees and partners. We then devote our efforts and resources to engage and develop youth in local communities by creating hands-on training environment and offering employment and further education opportunities.
Once they become our employees, we continue to invest in their personal and professional development as they progress in their careers with Minor. This includes being a responsible employer in terms of providing equal work opportunities and remuneration, training and development, and a safe working environment. At the pinnacle of our human capital development approach, we focus on Minor's Top Talents to develop them into outstanding leaders who demonstrate sustainability leadership. We believe leaders of this caliber will not only contribute to Minor's long-term growth and success, but will also strive to create positive social and environmental impacts to key stakeholders within Minor's value chain, the society and the countries we operate in.
As part of our on-going contribution at the grass-root level, we continued to support nine disadvantaged schools. Our approach involves working with the school principals to identify improvement opportunities by understanding the requirements of the schools, students and communities and provide needed resources for improvement initiatives. Our work with the schools include hardware improvements such as classrooms, library and playground refurbishments; landscape improvement; as well as software improvements such as providing English learning support and hygiene education.
Our "English for Kids" program sponsors native Englishspeaking teachers to teach at two schools under our support, with the aim of improving the English skills and Ordinary National Educational Test (ONET) English scores of the schools' students. 201 students got the opportunity to practice their English with the native-speaking English teachers in 2015. In addition, we enhanced the English learning environment at another school by converting a classroom to an English lab, and equipped it with English language interactive media and learning materials. Furthermore, we invited the teachers to join our online English learning programs to further develop their English capabilities.
In 2015, over 120 The Pizza Company store managers were involved in inviting schools to participate in The Pizza Company's Book Club Program as part of community engagement. This 13-year old program promotes reading habit amongst students by working with teachers and schools. Teachers recommend books for students to read, and upon completion, students are awarded stamps which are exchanged for pizzas. School participation in a single semester increased by a significant 38% to 816 schools, with over 200,000 students achieving their reading assignments and over 65,000 pizzas were redeemed.
Over 860 students received scholarships in 2015
As encouragement to students to pursue academic excellence and be socially responsible, we support education scholarships for students in need through Minor International and the Heinecke Foundation. In 2015, over 860 students from primary to tertiary levels received scholarships. Majority of them were nominated from schools in communities where our operations are located, including the Klongtoey railway community in Bangkok, Thonburi, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, Trang and Phuket.
We demonstrated our support for children's rights by being a signatory of the Statement of Commitment on "Children's Rights and Business Principles" developed by UNICEF, Save the Children and United Nations Global Compact. The Principles recognize that children under 18 years old have specific human rights as recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that our company has a role in respecting and supporting those rights within our operations and value chain. As part of our commitment, we will participate in sessions and trainings in 2016.
In 2015, Minor embarked on a partnership with a social enterprise, NISE Corporation, and the Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities to provide career opportunities for people with disabilities. We provided funds, resources and consultancy to develop Half n' Half brand at the Ray Bakery School in Pattaya to support baking skills training for 153 people. As at year-end, 77 persons have been trained, with the remainder to be trained in 2016.
The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) is the main sponsor of the Thai Elephant Assisted Therapy Project by Chiang Mai University. The project, started in 2007, is run at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. It aims to help autistic children improve their sensory processing, social skills, postural control and balance, and generally helps the children in their daily living activities and adaptive behavior through an occupational therapy program with Thai Elephants.
Our Minor Corporate University (MCU) initiative was developed to achieve our goal for Minor to become a "practical knowledge training center". It comprises of three programs: internship - 320-350 hours; cooperative education - 4-6 months; bilateral cooperative - 1-2 years. This initiative creates both economic and social impacts as it builds our employee pipeline, and offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and earn income while pursuing their education. It is spearheaded by Minor Food Group, and involved 140 vocational schools and universities in 2015, an expansion from 106 institutions in 2014. Over 4,000 students participated in Minor Food Group's program in 2015.
Minor Hotel Group's Explorer Program is part of Minor Corporate University. It is a vocational training program in the hospitality industry, for youth aged between 18 to 25 years-old, whether they are our employees, or external school leavers. The 12-month program with remunerated work experience focuses on food and beverage service, kitchen, and housekeeping, and is delivered in a 70-20-10 format: 70% on-the-job, 20% online, 10% classroom. It is also accredited with international certification from Australia, and is aligned with Thailand's bilateral vocational education. Upon successful completion, participants are awarded the SIT30713 - Certificate III in Hospitality. They can go on to pursue a Certificate IV, and ultimately a Diploma in Hospitality.
The Coffee Club Australia joined First10, the largest careers and employment program in Australia and New Zealand targeting secondary school students between Years 9-12. The program aims to assist the students in making decisions about their future career options. The program enables The Coffee Club to be considered as an employer of choice by young people. First10 is accessible on multiple engagement channels, including publication, online hub, website and mobile application. 3.85 million students are exposed to the program.
Minor Food Group was recognized as one of Aon Hewitt Best Employers - Thailand 2015. The recognition was for innovative employee development initiatives of three of its brands: The Pizza Company - "New Generation Development Program" relating to the Best Employers Theme of High Performance Culture; Swensen's - "Talent Management Program and Leadership Academy" relating to the Best Employers Theme of Effective Leadership; and Sizzler - "Chinese-Speaking Employees (Career in China)" relating to the Best Employers Theme of Compelling Employer Brand.
Minor Food Group's recognition as a Best Employer was the result of its effective learning and development programs of its brands. Our other business units also have their own learning and development programs, where courses are tailored for employee development. Our employee development programs are listed in the Performance Data section of this report.
Minor Food Group also initiated a partnership with the Eastern Technological College (E.TECH) to create an online equivalency program that allows our employees to combine work experience and online learning to attain academic qualifications. 190 employees are participating in the program. In addition, our cheese and dairy factories established a "school in factory" program with Muaklek Technical College to provide further education for 50 of our technicians.
As part of knowledge enhancement, Minor Food Group invited world-renown "ice-cream guru", Dr. Douglas Goff, to conduct training for 50 participants on important technical aspects of ice-cream for retailers.
In 2015, our employees received an average of 72 hours of training per year. All our full-time employees undergo a performance appraisal at least annually. The performance appraisal enables our employees to review their performance, receive feedback and discuss future developments with their supervisors.
Minor complies with the labor laws of the countries we operate in globally, and is committed to being a fair and ethical employer. In Thailand, where Minor is headquartered and operations contributed 56% of total revenue in 2015, we comply with Thai labor laws which prohibit anti-collective bargaining and discriminatory practices. Due to our diverse portfolio of businesses and international presence, our employees are hired from different countries and backgrounds, which contributes to the diversity in our workforce. Employee compensation and benefits are based on employee capabilities and experiences, and are benchmarked to industry standards. Male and female employees are compensated equally, and are offered the same development opportunities. From our analysis, standard entry level wages of our business units in Thailand range from being on par with the country's minimum wage of Baht 9,000 per month to 30% higher, depending on the type of business, nature of job and location.
As part of workforce management, we track and monitor employee turnover rates. Exit interviews are conducted with employees who have resigned prior to their departure from the company. This enables us to identify the resignation causes and take appropriate actions to reduce future attrition. Details of turnover rates are in the Performance Data section of this report.
The health and safety of our employees are very important to us. Minor owns and operates three manufacturing plants in Thailand: Minor Dairy Limited, Minor Cheese Limited and NMT Limited. Each plant has a formal joint managementworker health and safety committee that helps to monitor and advise on occupational health and safety programs. The percentage of each factory's total workforce represented in each committee is as follows: Minor Dairy - 4%; Minor Cheese - 16%; NMT - 2%. The factories' occupational health and safety standards are stringent with robust practices, which have been recognized with a number of safety awards in 2015. Details of the awards, and our occupational health and safety practices are in the Sustainability & CSR Highlights section and Performance Data section of this report.
We have a number of leadership development programs which are designed for different groups of leaders of our business units. The New Gen Talent program targets emerging middle management talents from all our business units. In 2015, 14 talents participated in the 8-month program where they proposed and implemented projects that develop capabilities linked to their individual development. As part of experiential learning, they were also sent on a field trip to one of our overseas operations.
Minor Hotel Group has three "Learning Journey" programs focused on leadership development: Ascent, Endeavour and Horizon. Ascent is an 18-month fast-track graduate program designed to find future leaders. In 2015, 6 graduates from Ascent's pioneer class joined new properties as assistant managers of their chosen specializations. Endeavour and Horizon are 9-month programs which involve projects and business assignments, with continuous coaching, feedback and peer-learning. In September, the 2015 programs were launched with 10 participants in Endeavour, and 7 in Horizon.
13 top talents from Minor Food Group participated in the third iteration of our Sustainability Leadership Development Program (SLDP) in 2015. SLDP is a 9-month action-based assignment on sustainability leadership development, where participating senior management talents propose and implement approved projects with anticipated business and social and/or environmental impacts. Talents participated in one-on-one coaching sessions with one of Thailand's sustainability thought leaders, attended a session by a prominent guest speaker from one of Thailand's leading non-profit organizations, and also connected with commercial and non-governmental organizations, to learn about best practices. Implemented projects include carbon emission reduction in logistics operations (project highlights in Sustainability Leadership Development Program Spotlights section); increased school participation in The Pizza Company's Book Club (project highlights in Sustainability Leadership Development Program Spotlights section); enhancement of The Pizza Company Driver Safety program, where over 1,200 delivery drivers were trained on safe motorbike-riding skills; warehouse asset management system for Minor Food Group to increase recycling and reduce waste; and cooking skills training for hearing impaired students using Sizzler curriculum, where 2 high-school students were trained in 3 months.