We need to do much more than we are doing today, and we need to do it differently
A few years ago, Richard Branson co-founded The B Team, a non-profit initiative by a global group of business leaders to catalyse, as they put it ‘a better way of doing business, for the wellbeing of people and the planet’. “Governments and civil society cannot solve the world’s problems alone. It is going to take all of us – especially those of us with the resources to make a wide impact,” explained Branson. Plan A, where business is solely motivated by profit, has failed. So, we need a Plan B. I find this idea particularly relevant for us in India today.
The challenge for our policy makers today is to become more ambidextrous – to prioritise economic reforms while directing efforts towards building a sustainable platform for future growth. But like Branson pointed out, they can’t do it alone – nor should they. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is: what role will Corporate India play in driving this transformation? How will we re-imagine ourselves? What is our Plan B?
For us at Godrej, it has always been most important that besides our strong financial performance and innovative, much-loved products, we remain a ‘good’ company. This has held us in very good stead for 120 years now. We have always actively championed social responsibility and are deeply committed to driving the social progress of our communities. Approximately 23 per cent of the promoter holding in our group is held in trusts that invest in the environment, health and education. We also take much pride in owning and caring for the largest privately managed belt of mangroves in Mumbai, on our estate in Vikhroli.
Good and green
We are now bringing together our passion and purpose to make a difference through our ‘Good & Green’ approach to create a more inclusive and greener world. We have set ourselves three broad goals for the year 2020. As part of the first, we aspire to train a million youth in skills that will enhance their earning potential. The second is to build a Greener India. And the third is to generate a third of our portfolio revenues through products that are either for consumers at the bottom of the pyramid or environmentally sustainable.
Like many global companies, we have adopted a ‘shared value’ approach to business growth and innovation which is fundamentally different from social responsibility or philanthropy. It makes social progress a core part of your business strategy. The idea is to link business success with social progress and find ways to create economic value such that it also creates value for society. Our Good & Green approach is based on this philosophy.
Cost effective solutions
As leaders in the household insecticides category, we are committed to creating safe, cost effective solutions to vector borne diseases. So, to tackle this problem, we created the Good Knight Fast Card, a revolutionary paper-based mosquito repellent at one rupee. Fast Card has been a runaway success. We are also extending our full support to the government to control the spread of vector borne diseases. On World Malaria Day this year, we announced our commitment to support a malaria free India by 2030.
Research suggests that ironically, while India is a leading producer and exporter of vaccines, it also accounts for the highest number of deaths among children under the age of 5. A majority of these deaths are caused by diseases which can be prevented by vaccination. The unavailability of vaccines in remote locations is primarily attributed to inappropriate storage, which disrupts the supply chain of refrigerated vaccines. Our Godrej vaccine refrigerator is designed to counter these issues.
We are also ensuring that skilling youth is high on our agenda at Godrej. As of June 2017, we have trained close to 3,45,000 young people across the country. We collaborate with various non-profit organisations and social enterprises on employability training programmes in vocational skills that are relevant to our businesses.
As a group, by 2020, in India, we want to achieve zero waste to landfill, carbon neutrality and positive water balance. We also want to reduce our specific energy consumption and increase the proportion of renewable energy resources. To be able to achieve this, we have introduced different sustainable manufacturing and supply chain practices. This has resulted in significant improvements in energy and water consumption, carbon footprint, waste generation and renewable energy.
Gandhi once famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to co-create the solutions to some of our country’s most pressing problems. So, if we believe that our businesses are intrinsically linked to our communities, then we need to do much more than we are today. And we need to do it differently. We need Plan B.