RTL Holding is Belarus’s top food wholesaler and is the fifth largest food retailer through its 56 stores mostly under the Rubliovskiy brand. This long-standing IFC client is not only making a significant contribution to employment and development of the food supply chain in Belarus, but it is also an important example of corporate environmental and social responsibility in the country.
Belarus’ grocery retail market is fragmented and underdeveloped distribution limits the selection of fresh food available for consumers. In 2008, IFC provided $26 million of financing to support the opening of 20 stores and new warehouses in Minsk. The global financial crisis prompted RTL to scale back the number of warehouses constructed by the company to just one, while renting the remaining required capacity. However, the company introduced new wholesale and distribution technologies which have helped them improve wholesale operations and take advantage of economies of scale. The relationship has continued with IFC financing further expansion over the years, helping the company grow and thrive, despite operating in a weak economy plagued by hyperinflation.
RTL has worked with IFC to help strengthen its environment and social practices. Management of life and fire safety throughout its operations has become more systematic, a functional internal grievance mechanism was introduced, labor requirements for non-employees are now addressed in contracts, and a basic E&S management system was launched. Currently, RTL is working with IFC to enhance food safety. The company has made a significant contribution to economic development in Belarus. The company added 1,556 new employees between 2008 and 2012, almost half of whom 43 percent are women. Overall, the company employs almost 7,000 people.
RTL has also had a strong impact on indirect employment through stronger linkages to local suppliers. Between 2008 and 2012, its annual purchases from domestic suppliers have grown 25 percent annually.