The Busi­ness of Sus­tain­abil­ity for Sus­tain­able Busi­ness

Mahin­dra Group has a whole new port­fo­lio of busi­nesses, in­clud­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles, mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion, green build­ings, so­lar power and waste to en­ergy, which are in the space of cli­mate change and helps a larger num­ber of peo­ple fight it, re­veals Anirban

FICCI Business Digest - - Contents -

Mahin­dra Group is present in more than 100 coun­tries and its op­er­a­tions span in 21 key in­dus­tries. How has the group in­te­grated its op­er­a­tions with sus­tain­able busi­ness prac­tices across the board?

It takes ef­fort to en­sure sus­tain­able prac­tices over many busi­nesses and re­gions. To bring co­her­ence in work, we have cre­ated a sus­tain­abil­ity frame­work so that there is a com­mon un­der­stand­ing of the def­i­ni­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity as well as the ar­eas of work. Each busi­ness picks up their cru­cial ar­eas of work and sets goals and tar­gets. Us­ing the frame­work, there­fore, har­mo­nizes work across busi­nesses and ge­ogra­phies.

Please elab­o­rate with an ex­am­ple how Mahin­dra has adapted sus­tain­abil­ity in its prac­tices.

At Mahin­dra, one ma­jor area of work is en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and to­day our ve­hi­cles are pro­duced us­ing 60-70 per cent less en­ergy than they were 78 years ago. Sim­i­larly, the work in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency has moved into our hol­i­days busi­ness and spread to all the fac­to­ries. We are work­ing to­wards en­sur­ing that no waste goes to land­fills and 5 of our fac­to­ries have been cer­ti­fied as zero waste to land­fill al­ready. Over time, all our fac­to­ries will be­come zero waste to land­fill. In this way, in­di­vid­ual ar­eas of work are iden­ti­fied and what­ever can be de­ployed to var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and busi­nesses, we try to do that as quickly as pos­si­ble.

How has sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment im­pacted busi­ness?

It has im­pacted busi­ness in very in­ter­est­ing ways. As a group, we have looked at the pos­si­bil­ity of en­ter­ing new busi­nesses, which help fight cli­mate change such as elec­tric ve­hi­cles, mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion, green build­ings, so­lar power and waste to en­ergy. There­fore, there is a whole new port­fo­lio of busi­nesses that the group has which are in the space of cli­mate change and helps a larger num­ber of peo­ple fight cli­mate change be­cause of the ser­vices and the prod­ucts that we are of­fer­ing.

What are the chal­lenges that you face as a chief sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer?

To­day, the chal­lenge is mainly to help my col­leagues and peers get a sense of how they can lever­age sus­tain­abil­ity with busi­ness suc­cess and not just carry out a sin­gle sus­tain­abil­ity ac­tiv­ity. That re­ally is my role.

As the man­u­fac­tur­ing peo­ple take up en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and re­new­able en­ergy, the busi­ness strat­egy peo­ple start look­ing at new busi­nesses, the mar­ket­ing peo­ple start look­ing at green el­e­ments of the prod­ucts or ser­vice as some­thing, which could be po­si­tioned to the con­sumer as a dif­fer­en­tia­tor, sub­se­quently the fi­nance peo­ple start look­ing at things like car­bon pric­ing for equip­ment ac­qui­si­tion or even for in­vest­ments, and the work in sus­tain­abil­ity then gets em­bed­ded in var­i­ous parts of the busi­ness, en­sur­ing sus­tain­abil­ity of sus­tain­abil­ity it­self.

How do you en­sure that busi­ness looks at sus­tain­abil­ity as an in­vest­ment for the fu­ture not an ex­pense?

We found places where sus­tain­abil­ity brings costs down and we have in­vested in them ag­gres­sively. There could be ex­am­ples like meet­ing reg­u­la­tions for emis­sions in a ve­hi­cle, which tends to drive up the cost of a ve­hi­cle. But the cost of the ve­hi­cle keeps go­ing up any­way be­cause of ma­te­rial costs and so on. Hence, it is one more as­pect that may in­crease the cost a bit. More im­por­tantly, it is a rea­son for which con­sumers would be will­ing to pay whole-heart­edly as no­body re­ally wants high emis­sions from ve­hi­cles.

Also, to­day it is pos­si­ble to build green build­ings at al­most zero in­cre­men­tal cost. En­ergy ef­fi­ciency, re­new­able en­ergy and cir­cu­lar econ­omy save money for the busi­ness and bio­di­ver­sity helps in bring­ing dust lev­els down and that im­proves a prod­uct's qual­ity in man­u­fac­tur­ing and again brings cost down for the busi­ness. It is a myth that sus­tain­abil­ity in­creases cost, in ef­fect it en­ables busi­ness more than any­thing else.

How do you en­gage your stake­hold­ers to take up sus­tain­able busi­ness prac­tices?

We look at stake­hold­ers ba­sis their needs. Like for our col­leagues, we have pro­grammes to en­cour­age them to adopt sus­tain­able prac­tices at work and in their lives and, of course, the ben­e­fits are ob­vi­ous over time.

When we do work which ben­e­fits the busi­ness, we are quite happy to take it across and share it with our sup­pli­ers who, in turn, can ap­ply the learn­ings. This is how we en­gage dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers and get them to adopt the prac­tices, which have al­ready worked very well for us. They do not have to go any­where to see whether it is work­ing or not. They can just take it for­ward.

Please share the pro­grammes at Mahin­dra en­cour­ag­ing sus­tain­abil­ity?

At Mahin­dra, every em­ployee who joins goes through an in­duc­tion pro­gramme where sus­tain­abil­ity is a crit­i­cal el­e­ment. We have a pro­gramme called 'Mak­ing Sus­tain­abil­ity Per­sonal', where each in­di­vid­ual has a chance to take some sus­tain­able ac­tion. Last year, around 25,000 of our col­leagues adopted LED lamps, many adopted en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient ap­pli­cants and sev­eral are now par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 'Beat Plas­tic Pol­lu­tion Cam­paign'.

How is In­dia far­ing on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs)?

We are mak­ing re­mark­able progress. You can­not make progress in­de­pen­dently on SDGs, as our coun­try and GDP grow and de­velop, there are var­i­ous as­pects of the SDGs, which get ad­dressed. There is no bet­ter way than a grow­ing econ­omy to pull peo­ple out of poverty and China is a no­table ex­am­ple as is In­dia. As pop­u­la­tion and the econ­omy grows, con­cerns for wa­ter are be­com­ing very real. You would have heard about how peo­ple in Shimla do not want tourists to come. Some­time ago, Cape Town ran the real dan­ger of run­ning out of wa­ter. These are not iso­lated cases any­more. We have not re­ally pro­tected our­selves from run­ning out of wa­ter, so now we have to work and live in a man­ner in which we re­spect our re­sources and make sure that they are re-gen­er­ated.

With the govern­ment proac­tively tak­ing up sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, what role do you en­vi­sion for the pri­vate sec­tor?

A. The govern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor al­ways have com­ple­men­tary roles. There are things that govern­ment needs to do, and mostly it is an en­abling role. Then there are ar­eas where the cor­po­ra­tions must act.

'Re­duce, Re­use and Re­cy­cle' is a not a new mantra, it has been known for a long time and many peo­ple prac­tice it. When you have scarcity of re­sources, you au­to­mat­i­cally 'Re­duce, Re­use and Re­cy­cle'. It is when you do not have paucity of re­sources, and you are chas­ing con­ve­nience more than re­spon­si­bil­ity, it then be­comes a prob­lem.

Any spe­cific re­quire­ments that the in­dus­try has from the govern­ment to ac­cel­er­ate the process of adop­tion of cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity?

In the spe­cific case of waste, one needs en­abling poli­cies. So far, our ap­proach has been pre­ven­tion of pol­lu­tion. It has been an im­por­tant ob­jec­tive, be­cause de­spite hav­ing the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (CPCB) and the State Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Boards, our wa­ter bod­ies get dam­aged.

It is time to move for­ward from the pol­lu­tion con­trol par­a­digm to cir­cu­lar econ­omy par­a­digm. One needs en­abling poli­cies to make sure that plas­tic pol­lu­tion can be avoided and en­sures that the re­cy­cling econ­omy gets a fil­lip. It is ex­pected from the govern­ment, that they un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion and bring in en­abling leg­is­la­tions.

FICCI's Cir­cu­lar Econ­omy Sym­po­sium was held re­cently, which was chaired by you. What were the key take­aways that emerged at the sym­po­sium?

The con­ver­sa­tion on 'evolv­ing role of the CPCB to Cir­cu­lar Econ­omy Pro­mo­tion Board' was an im­por­tant take­away from the con­fer­ence. We shared the idea with Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, who has sought a pro­posal from us. An­other big take­away is that the best prac­tices are iso­lated in their adop­tion. The pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting more peo­ple to adopt what some­one may have dis­cov­ered as a best prac­tice is a huge op­por­tu­nity for In­dian in­dus­try and the na­tion. Through the con­fer­ence, we tried to spread some of the best prac­tices, which could be adopted by oth­ers.

Go­ing for­ward, how can sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and busi­ness go hand-in-hand in pre­serv­ing the in­ter­ests of the in­dus­try, govern­ment and con­sumers?

This ques­tion be­comes im­por­tant if you see a di­chotomy between the growth of busi­ness and the prac­tice of sus­tain­abil­ity. To my mind, there is no di­chotomy. It is a bet­ter way of do­ing busi­ness and gives bet­ter re­sults. If you ask, why were cor­po­ra­tions not do­ing this ear­lier? I would only say that we never re­al­ized what a big prob­lem our pro­cesses were caus­ing. The mo­ment we adopt prac­tices, which do not cause the prob­lem, it does not hurt the busi­ness at all.

We do not be­lieve, there is a di­chotomy in sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices and growth of the cor­po­ra­tion. We think it en­ables and helps us leapfrog in our quest to be­come larger, com­pet­i­tive and best in the world.

“En­ergy ef­fi­ciency, re­new­able en­ergy and cir­cu­lar econ­omy save money for the busi­ness and bio­di­ver­sity can help in bring­ing dust lev­els down and im­proves a prod­uct's qual­ity in man­u­fac­tur­ing like it has at our Igat­puri plant. That sus­tain­abil­ity in­creases cost is a myth, in ef­fect it en­ables busi­ness to save costs. ”

Anirban Ghosh Chief Sus­tain­abil­ity Of­fi­cer, Mahin­dra Group

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