Rising To Do Good For Business And The Environment Mahindra & Mahindra Leading The Way For Ensuring A Sustainable Future

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rb1Mahindra and Mahindra has emerged as a socially-conscious business conglomerate, which takes care of its community and its planet with equal fervour as much as it cares about its bottom line and revenues at the end of each fiscal. Making world class product and upholding sustainable development is ingrained in every Mahindra employee.

While it is almost difficult to put the groups who work together in one interview or article, Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mahindra Group, in conversation with Archana Sinha, offers a peek into the Group’s efforts in ensuring high level of environment sustainability by making technologically advanced efforts towards clean air quality, efficient energy and water management, sanitation, health and hygiene.

Mahindra Group is known for sustainable business practices and its ‘Rise for Good’ mission. Tell us a bit about the environmental sustainability that the Group practices in the production and work areas.

At Mahindra, we derive strength from our core concept of creating value for the nation and for the planet. Towards this end, we strive for optimise use of our resources. The parent company, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., was the first company worldwide to commit to doubling energy productivity in the programme EP100 floated by renowned NGO, The Climate Group. Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India is the first company from the hospitality sector to sign for the same programme.

rb2Mahindra and Mahindra is also the first Indian company to announce a carbon price of $10/ton of carbon emitted. The carbon price reflects investments that will be made to reduce the carbon foot print of its business. This commitment is the culmination of high impact work done over the years. Hundreds of projects in the areas of heat recovery, energy efficient cooling, energy efficient lighting, retro fitment of equipment to enhance energy efficiency, etc. within the company and with suppliers has led to energy consumption per vehicle being reduced by one-third in less than a decade.

Another resource that we work on is Water. Harnessing water and being more water-efficient has helped Mahindra ensure business continuity at water-scarce locations. Our tractor factory at Zaheerabad faced severe shortage of water. Harnessing and afforestation efforts resulted in the factory becoming water secure and the society that lived around it having access to more water than before.

Rain water harvesting in reservoirs are an important feature of every factory site. In some of the factories, almost 200 days of water is procured from these reservoirs, instead of the municipal corporation. In another factory, rain water harvesting and groundwater recharge resulted in raising the water table up to 400 ft.

rb3Water is also a critical resource for Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Ltd. The use of water-efficient technologies and active recycling of water ensures that the business does not impose a water burden on the communities that it is a part of. More than 60 percent of the water that it uses gets recycled. We have energy efficiency and waste recycling technologies in place at the resorts.

In addition to this, there are a host of initiatives that individual businesses have undertaken. We are committed to maintaining the natural water cycle at Mahindra. Hence, efficient discharge systems comprising ETPs (Effluent Treatment Plants) and STPs (Sewage treatment Plants) have been set up. The treated water is used within the campus in the most suitable ways possible and thus many of the locations have achieved zero discharge status. Regular monitoring of our waste water is done by internal as well as external agencies, in terms of parameters specified by statutory authorities like C.O.D, B.O.D, pH etc. The values have always been within the guidelines and limits defined by the State Pollution Control Boards and local regulatory authorities.

We have made investments in renewable energy and Mahindra Susten, which is our Solar EPC offering is being developed and contributes greatly to our sustainability efforts.

Education, public health and environment are the main concerns of the Group. How do you integrate all of  these aspects of CSR?

As a large global corporation, we see an incredible opportunity to drive positive change for all our stakeholders and have been contributing to CSR through thoughtful investments since the time we came into existence. In everything we do, we ensure that we ‘Rise to do Good’. We pursue our community development actions with military precision, such that they manifest in high impact results. The end objective is to usher in self-sufficiency, equal opportunities and self-sustaining transformations across weaker sections of the society. We work in the thematic areas of Education, Healthcare & Sanitation, Environment, Livelihood Enhancement, Women Empowerment, Protection of Natural Heritage, Art and Culture, Aid for Armed Force Personnel’s Families, Encouragement for Sport, Technology Incubation Rural Development, Slum Area Development and Disaster Relief & Rehabilitation.

rb4‘As a large global corporation, we see an incredible opportunity to drive positive change for all our stakeholders and have been contributing to CSR through thoughtful investments since the time we came into existence. In everything we do, we ensure that we ‘Rise to do Good’.

Nanhi Kali is focused on education for the underprivileged girl child, Lifeline Express – our Hospital on Trains, has reached out to a total of 23,000 people of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Hunnar – our Skill Development initiative addresses the livelihood skill development of the underprivileged youth.

Please share details of Project Hariyali.

In 2007, the Mahindra Group set an ambitious goal of planting one million trees every year across the nation to increase India’s green cover and offset national greenhouse gas emissions. This project – Hariyali, has seen 9.2 million trees being planted pan India. In 2015, the Group planted 1.23 million trees as part of our continued endeavor to add to India’s green cover. This brings the total number of trees planted since the inception of this initiative to over 9 million. The survival rate of these saplings is as high as 74 percent with almost about 92 percent in some areas.

rb5‘As a responsible Corporate, we are committed to responding to the needs of our customers – in the case of Mahindra & Mahindra – the farmers. We understand that as an agrarian economy, we are very dependent on an uncertain monsoon. To address this concern, we have implemented integrated watershed management projects in various parts of rural India. These projects have helped the villagers make more than 100 hectares of barren land cultivable, enhance irrigation availability on more than 1500 hectare of land, move from single cropping to multiple cropping, and enhance crop productivity’

We choose plants that are suitable for cultivation in a particular area and plants that need less water. Most of them are horticulture plants that are fruit bearing trees which are grown by local fruit farmers. They adopt water efficient technologies – mulching being one of them, which helps the soil retain moisture and thus requires less water for irrigation, while giving high yields.

Mahindra Lifespaces is in the news for being the most environmentally sustainable project. Please do share  some details on this.

At Mahindra Lifespaces, we understand that with a significant part of the country’s cityscape yet to be built, this impending urbanisation, while unavoidable, also represents an opportunity to ensure that future spatial transformation is sustainable and able to achieve widespread resource savings, while reducing costs and emissions across life stages. We are driven by our vision of ‘Transforming Urban Landscapes by Creating Sustainable Communities.’ Sustainability for us encompasses Business Responsibility, Environment Stewardship and Community Outreach.

We believe that the path towards sustainable urbanisation cannot be traversed in isolation and that the future lies in collaborations, knowledge sharing and capacity building. Our initiatives and efforts in this direction include:

  1. Engaging with policy makers, planners, practitioners and academia to promote responsible urbanisation and evolve sustainable frameworks that can collectively nurture the future of Indian cities.
  2. Mahindra Lifespaces is one of the five founding members of the Sustainable Housing Leadership Consortium (SHLC) – a new CEO-led think tank convened by International Finance Corporation. SHLC aims to mainstream sustainability in India’s urban housing sector and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  3. We have implemented a Green Supply Chain Management Policy to mentor and motivate our contractors, suppliers and vendors towards becoming responsible partners in our sustainability journey.
  4. Through our unique Green Army programme, we are enlisting the support of children, who are the future custodians of our world, in our crusade for sustainability.
  5. We have partnered with TERI to establish the ‘Mahindra TERI CoE for Sustainable Habitats’ to address energy and resource challenges faced by the Indian housing sector.

Mahindra farming sector is also known for fostering sustainable methods of farming among the farmers. It would be nice if you could share something on this.

rb6As a responsible Corporate, we are committed to responding to the needs of our customers – in the case of Mahindra & Mahindra – the farmers. We understand that as an agrarian economy, we are very dependent on an uncertain monsoon. To address this concern, we have implemented integrated watershed management projects in various parts of rural India. These projects have helped the villagers make more than 100 hectares of barren land cultivable, enhance irrigation availability on more than 1500 hectare of land, move from single cropping to multiple cropping,  and enhance crop productivity. The resulting financial gains have helped the villagers buy tractors for more efficient cultivation and micro-irrigation systems for energy and water-efficient irrigation.

Some of our initiatives such as Samriddhi crop care has evolved with time and is now ready with world class product for the pest, diseases and nutrient management of most of the important crops grown all over India. In its endeavour to deliver farm tech prosperity, Mahindra has been continuously upgrading its product portfolio and bringing products which are relatively safe, easily degradable and relatively safe for the environment. Here again, the emphasis is on high yield using modern practices, which includes using high quality seeds, upgrading the soil quality and better water management. Micro farming is yet another technology that we employ. At many places we have developed water sheds and reservoirs that conserve water for irrigation.

Trringo is a revolutionary tractor and farm equipment rental business that harnesses the power of technology and a strong franchisee network to make farm mechanization easily accessible, affordable and reachable to every Indian farmer. Farmers are offered mechanisation at nominal rentals through local call centres which help generate business and movement of equipment. Some of the farmers also learn the process over time, including computer literacy. Local boys are employed along with farmers, guiding and assisting them in their work.

Many companies of Mahindra have featured in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index 2015. Please share details on this.

Mahindra group companies – Mahindra & Mahindra and Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services ltd (MMFSCL) have emerged as leading companies in their sectors on sustainability parameters in the Dow Jones Sustainability Emerging Market Indices (DJSI-EMI) 2016. Additionally for the second time, Tech Mahindra has made it to the DJSI World Category. Only two other Indian companies feature in this list. The parameters for judging the performance of the companies include Codes of Business Conduct, Corporate Governance and Environmental Policy & Management Systems. This is the third consecutive year that three companies from the Mahindra Group have made it to the top in the DJSI-EMI.

Anything else you might want to add?

At the Group level we have been actively working in the direction of conserving biodiversity for the past several years. Last year, one of our group companies – Mahindra &Mahindra, signed the India Business & Biodiversity Initiative (IBBI) to raise awareness and enhance capacity on preserving the natural capital. As part of the same, we have undertaken assessment of impacts and dependencies on biodiversity across our entire value chain and developed strategies for a rich ecosystem.

Our Igatpuri and Chakan plants have taken a lot of initiatives in the water conservation front. By and large, Mahindra as a Group is committed towards sustainable business ethics and this includes working towards environmental sustainability on a humongous scale.