Climate Change, ESG & Business Strategy

Sustainability for Breakfast 8: Climate Change, ESG & Business Strategy

Investors, Private Equity, CFOs and CSOs discussed the challenges, and the drivers for solutions to mitigate climate change risks to businesses, at Treeni’s 8th edition of Sustainability for Breakfast (S4B)

Treeni Sustainability Solutions, a software product company focused on ‘Enabling mindful enterprises to transform ESG Risk Management and Disclosures for a better tomorrow’, joined hands with Mahindra Group to present the 8th edition of Sustainability for Breakfast (S4B) in Mumbai this time. The intent was to engage with industry leaders from across sectors and discuss the drivers and best practices for risk mitigation from climate change.

Speaking about the session, Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mahindra Group, highlighted that “There are two pillars to enabling a conversation on climate change related risks to business. One is identifying the drivers for this conversation and the second the action by businesses to assess, collaborate and make an impact on addressing climate change risks. An important driver is the increased pressure that the investor community is applying on global companies to make commitments, including investments in a long-term approach to addressing climate change. We hope strategic conversations like this will lead to making the case for a long-term approach in the way organizations think and act in the future.”

On the panel “Understanding how climate change is influencing the way businesses approach ESG Risk & Performance Management, and Business Strategy”, Mr. Amit Lahiri, CSO, O. P. Jindal Global University said, “Sustainability for Breakfast co-hosted by Treeni Sustainability Solutions and Mahindra Group fostered an excellent combination of ESG, Finance and Technology as 3 inter-connected themes and the panels to drive sustainability across industries and sectors in India. It was an excellent forum in the financial capital of the country to drive this, much necessary change in one of the fastest growing economies of the world.”

While sharing his experience about Sustainability for Breakfast, Mr. Navneet Munot, Chief Investment Officer, SBI Mutual Funds said, “India is just at $2000 per capita GDP and there is a need to grow more substantially over the coming years, but it has to be equitable and sustainable. Whether it is a business community, policy makers, investors, academicians, or civil society everyone will have to work in collaboration to ensure that India’s growth trajectory is equitable and sustainable. Given the challenges posed by climate change, our growth model has to be different than China. In the future, investors will have to play a major role in this process with the conviction to include ESG impact into their portfolios for a better risk adjusted returns. If organisations do not comply with this there will be a negative impact on the companies and economy’s growth prospects. Platforms like Sustainability for Breakfast can play an important role in conveying this message to all the relevant stakeholders”.

Speaking on the key takeaways from this edition of S4B (Sustainability for Breakfast), Ankush Patel, CEO & Co-founder, Treeni Sustainability Solutions said, “In the recent past climate change risks to businesses has taken on increased importance and urgency, investors are urging businesses to take a thoughtful, disciplined approach to including ESG Risks in enterprise risk management framework. The takeaways from this edition of S4B helps enterprises understand the tangible reasons to address and mitigate climate change risks and provides clear approaches that includes technology enablement in creating a 360 Degree view of enterprise ESG Risks.”

The event included panel discussions by domain experts including Amit Lahiri (Executive Director, CECRAS), Anupam Nidhi (Head Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability, Siemens), Himanshu Nautiyal (Head Business WCM, sustainability, Aditya Birla Group), Jayantt Manmadkar (Chief Financial Officer, Mahindra Lifespaces Developers Ltd.), Navneet Munot (Chief Investment Officer, SBI Mutual Funds), Nakul Zaveri (Managing Director, Trust- Private Equity) and Mahesh Chandak (India- Africa EHS & Human Rights Lead, Monsanto). The session was attended by sustainability executives, academia, and thought leaders from across Indian industries.

Role of Women in Sustainability and Climate Change

For the next edition of Sustainability For Breakfast (S4B), we decided to focus on the women in sustainability and climate change. The platform, in association with YES Bank, witnessed women leaders from sustainability come together to discuss the current and future roles of women in the sector as well as draw recommendations to improve the gender gap issue across the country. The opening address for the event was by, Namita Vikas, Group President & Global Head, Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking, YES BANK who quoted from the McKinsey Global Institute report:  The power of parity: How advancing gender equality can add $12 trillion to global growth – “The economic potential of India’s women is not achievable without gender gaps in society being addressed”.

For the first time the event brought together women leaders from grassroots to corporates, to deliberate on following key topics:

The Leadership’ Role in Bridging the Gender Gap

This panel deliberated on issues of gender inequality and gender inclusion in enterprises. What emerged was that more than talk, action needs to be taken to resolve gender gap issues. As Shweta Munjal, Head of Corporate Affairs Asia Pacific, at Thompson Reuters, pointed out, her values and beliefs have been shaped by her leaders & managers, which has in turn, allowed her to trickle down the same, from her position. With leadership commitment, the impact will be greater than the status quo of addressing issues in silos. A very key point made by Deodutta Kurane, Group President, Human Capital Management, YES Bank: The leadership contribution to this cause is about sensitizing leaders: What is the gender difference? How do we leverage that gender difference for the benefit of the organization?

Shalaka Joshi Gender Lead from IFC spoke about – IFC’s work with clients and partners in the private sector to ensure that women-focused initiatives and reforms are part of wider employment efforts. This includes women’s entry into management, nomination to corporate boards, and training in financial skills.

Women in Sustainability and Climate Change

Two specific relationships exist between sustainability, climate, and women. First is an example set by women leaders such as Namita Vikas and Deeksha Vats who are at the helm of directing sustainability initiatives across their enterprises, and how they serve as an inspiration for many others to follow suit. The second perspective of this discussion was the effect of climate change on women and their importance in grass root level fight against climate change.

Inspirational leaders who have risen to the top in leading sustainability efforts across their operations clearly emphasize the role women can play in sustainability. Namita Vikas while highlighting the role women empowerment plays in ensuring holistic sustainable development said that “It’s the responsibility of women as well, not to hide under the garb of “being a woman. Sustainability has always faced a problem of acceptability, it ultimately comes to a top-down and bottom-up approach. It comes down to understanding what language to use. But being a woman does not make it difficult or easier”.

In response to the challenges in driving Sustainability & CSR and whether women deliver better results, Deeksha Vats, Joint President- Sustainability, Aditya Birla Group said, “What I believe sets a woman apart is the ability to be adaptable and less intimidating. So that makes conversations much (more) flexible and easier. Also, having empathy is crucial to having faith and working hard. It is all in our heads that we see things work differently. How we see the world is how we see ourselves.”

Climate change adds to women’s daily challenges in developing and less-developed countries in Asia, as in other regions. Naman Gupta from DFID, explained how climate action initiatives in India must involve women in their efforts to address climate change by developing more options for empowering women so that they can play a role during climate risks and building more climate resilient communities.

Women Leading Social Mobilization

 Leaders across sustainability have been leading initiatives aimed at enabling social mobilization and women empowerment. Using the influence and impact they have, leaders in sustainability have been looking at scalable social initiatives to create social change. Women empowerment and social mobilization initiatives like the great work done by CORO India, and Samhita Organization were discussed in this panel. Along with stalwarts like Sugandha Sukrutaraj of AMBA, and YES Foundation’s Prerana Lange, the discussion helped showcase and extract ideas, strategies, and approaches for other industry peers to follow suit. Social Mobilisation is an area where development objective is met through collaboration and dialogue. This area has seen many women leading various areas of social mobilization.

Undoubtedly, a great marker of how the panelists created impact is this quote that we led with, and kept going back to, by Prerana Lange, CEO, YES Foundation “What we are saying is that we teach the person how to love the water, so automatically he or she builds a boat and then learns how to fish.”

Conclusion

This version of S4B focused on the role women are playing in the area of sustainability, the platform encourages engagement, inclusiveness, and recognition of women in every sustainability role within the organizations they work in. The platform not only discussed primary issues such as gender inequality and women empowerment but also looked at how women leaders in sustainability have played important roles. The sessions included speakers engaging with the audience on topics such the role of women leaders in bridging the gender gap, women & climate change, and women leading social mobilization.

The Need of Women Leaders in Sustainability

The passion and energy in the room was palpable, the venue was YES BANK’s corporate office in Mumbai and the date very special – 8th of March i.e. International Women’s Day.  The event was Treeni’s Sustainability for Breakfast (S4B 6.0). It was the first time in India that an event focused on women in Sustainability and Climate change.

It’s 2018: Women breaking the mold in a male-dominated world still surprise us!  Gender disparity still exists and a wide variety of complex social and cultural factors are responsible for it. A worrisome statistic that the World Economic Forums Global Gender Gap report 2017 brought out was – Economic gender gap remains and at the current rate of change, closing the gender gap will now take 217 years. This report highlights that “women represent fewer than 50% of leaders in every industry analyzed – and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20% of leadership positions. The rate of progress for women has been slow: over the past decade, the proportion of female leaders has increased by an average of just over 2% across the 12 industries studied.”

While conceptualizing the event, our research showed that – only a handful of the top companies in India have an organized sustainability function headed by CSOs, out of which very few CSOs are female. And for Indian core manufacturing companies  –- CSO is a position with EHS and sustainability rolled into one with hardly any ladies heading them!! The saving grace most Indian companies have a CSR function led by women.

Interestingly one participant pointed out: “Is it because Sustainability is considered a fringe function by organizations that we see more women in this area?”

This is a party true. Yes, unfortunately, sustainability is a fringe function, and the fact is we do not see many women leaders here but many women especially young consultants are active in this space.  We should keep in mind the difference in CSR and core sustainability. Since traditionally social work has been a women’s area, CSR function is often headed by women, however in sustainability while we see a lot of women the CSOs are still predominantly men. This corroborates with the facts outlined in the World Economic Forum report in Gender Gap 2017.

Women leadership in sustainability (encompassing CSR, Corp Sustainability, and EHS) is the need of the hour, and the power of the feminine perspective is the most formidable weapon that the world can mobilize, to solve the greatest challenges of our generation, and build a sustainable future.

Building Sustainable Value Chains

Learnings from the Fifth Edition of Treeni’s Sustainability for Breakfast (S4B)

Our recent edition of #S4B focused on how to incorporate sustainability in supply chain. This was arranged in association with Institute of Sustainable Communities. Newer standards, investor pressures, climate risks, social risks, and wide spread environmental pollution and social inequity are forcing companies to look at impacts beyond their own operations. Stakeholders are more focused on knowing how your business is sustainable and green. Supply chain forms one such part of any business, which plays an important role in making an organization sustainable.

Responsible Sourcing

Walmart’s contribution to incorporation of sustainability supply chain is legendary. They have been pioneers in this area since 2005 and launched their famous Walmart Supplier Assessment questionnaire and Index in 2009. Being one of the largest retailers in the world, responsible sourcing is an integral part of the Walmart business, and the company shared the processes, systems and technology interventions they are implementing to ensure they are not only a responsible company, employer, but also a responsible buyer. It is a great example of how large companies can be a great role model for the rest of the industry.

Working towards building Sustainable Communities

Institute of Sustainable communities’ presence is India is being felt through their work in establishing EHS+ centers in India. ISC believes in creation of sustainable communities and for this reason their work globally is helping create resilient supply chains. Suresh Kotla, Director (Sustainable Manufacturing), Institute for Sustainable Communities stated, “At ISC, we have been working with various global organizations to help them implement sustainable processes for building great supply chains. Large business houses will have to play a major role going ahead to mitigate the risk and to achieve sustainability in the supply chain.”

LCA approach to sustainable supply chain

Approach to supply chain from life cycle impact perspective is necessary to identify hotspots from both social and environmental perspective. Dr. Avantika Shastri from SABIC presented how life cycle approach to sustainability at SABIC has helped to define feedstock strategy, marketing of sustainable products, designing of products, assessment of megaprojects from sustainability perspective, technology development, and risk management.

 Inclusion of SMEs

Sustainability is not just a big corporation problem. Here are the top 4 hurdles faced by SMEs in implementing sustainability in their operations.

  • Limited understanding of the strategic importance of sustainability
  • Availability of suitable and affordable technology platforms to manage sustainability initiatives
  • Supporting government policies.
  • Access to sustainable investments.

Suppliers need to be deeply engaged and technology enabled, for innovation and for building resilient value chain, without which SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) cannot be met.

Technology Enablement

Vital to this is technology enablement of sustainability in the supply chain. Some of the key areas of technology enablement are:

Real time data capture

To trace data for multiple tiers of suppliers. Big Data, Mobile Applications, social media, IoT, etc.

 Traceability through data

To trace where the materials were coming from all the way from source of origin. Blockchain, QR codes, ERP, Online surveys.

 Transparency and collaboration in Business models

For reduced costs, delivery times, liability. VMI (vendor managed inventory), PRO (producer responsibility organizations), product design, etc.

Better (remote) connectivity and faster service

To ensure reaching remote areas and faster service. Drones, glocal business models, mobile apps

 Predictive Logistics

To infer effects of climate change, social movements/unrest, distances, etc. GIS, maps with real-time traffic and other data

 Corporate Responsibility

To enable tracking of carbon, water or other footprints and to collaborate with suppliers to reduce their footprint and address fair trade practices and ethical sourcing.

Conclusion

Enterprise players across the globe have been working towards the implementation of sustainability practices in their operations. Collaboration with suppliers can be achieved through the implementation of scientific tracking and reporting methods and enable enterprises to create real impact. Governments and enterprise must enable inclusion of sustainable practices for SMEs.

The Lorax is back!! Speaking on behalf of Biodiversity…

Those who have read Dr. Suess book “The Lorax” to their children know the heartfelt message this book conveys. For those who are not familiar with this book, it chronicles the plight of the environment personified by “the Lorax”, who speaks for the trees against the industry, personified by “Once-Ler”. This fable is relevant even more today as the insatiable appetite for growth and profits tightly coupled to the consumption of natural resources poses a danger to the environment and society at large.

Says the Once-ler to the Lorax who spoke on behalf of the trees and animals who can’t speak:

And then I got mad

I got terribly mad.

I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!”

All you do is yap-yap and say, “Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!”

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering

and BIGGERING

and BIGGERING

and BIGGERING,

turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds

which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”

Fourth edition of Treeni’s  ‘Sustainability for Breakfast’ (S4B), co-hosted by Tata Motors at their Worli, Mumbai offices on 4th September, was on “Importance of Biodiversity and the role of Industry” and began with the book reading of “The Lorax”.

Ecosystem and biodiversity loss is linked closely to climate change. The close linkage is symbiotic as Biodiversity loss hastens climate change, and climate change impacts biodiversity loss. Arvind Bodhankar, Corporate Head- Health Safety Environment & Sustainability, Tata Motors, said, “Biodiversity management has become an imperative today, if we have to mitigate the impact of climate change and keep the global temperature rise below 2deg C, large business houses will have to play a major role and support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector. ”

The key learnings from this engaging S4B event was:

Is biodiversity a material issue for my enterprise?

  • If you are a company with large landholdings especially in climate vulnerable areas – biodiversity is a material issue from the sustenance of your operations.
  • If your company with requires resources drawn directly from flora and fauna such as food, cosmetics and pharma sectors biodiversity is core your supply chain vulnerability.
  • If your company’s operations have direct impact on air, noise, soil, water and are operate in the vicinity of sensitive sites such as national parks, protected areas and biodiversity hotspots then it is a material issue for you.

Beyond boundary for biodiversity conservation 

TCS has demonstrated that though their operations do not have a direct negative impact on biodiversity, they can contribute positively to biodiversity through creation of oasis in amidst urban chaos. The incredible work of TCS in protecting the olive ridley turtles showcases how biodiversity project can lead to deeper employee engagement and societal job creation. The value of such work goes much beyond the boundary of the organisation and stands out like a beacon in an ocean.

Natural ecosystem service

The foresight of Sumant Moolgaonkar created an oasis at Tata Motors Pune, which was a scrubby baren land and is now a haven of greenery, a natural wetland habitat of 245 acres amidst rapidly expanding Pune. It attracts 150 species of birds and 60 types of butterflies.  The habitat was planned at the same time as the manufacturing facility. A dam was constructed to conserve rainwater ensuring year-round water availability for Tata Motors and sustains the green cover. This oasis also acts as a natural oxygen generator and safe haven for migratory birds. This provides two vital ecosystem services of clean air and sustained water availability. Conservation efforts by the Tata’s are exemplary and here is a link to a list of initiatives by various Tata companies.

Godrej owns the mangrove forest spread across several hundred acres in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai. The three vital ecosystem services provided by the mangroves are carbon sequestration, clean air, and protecting the coastline from inundation.

How can biodiversity preservation become a part of our culture again?

Indian customs have traditionally worshipped nature, and living in harmony has been a part of Indian tradition. However lately widespread disregard for nature by young and old alike due to use of disposable plastics, use of POP idols in festivals, noise pollution, thoughtless killing of snakes in townships & farms, fertilizers & human sewage in water bodies and garbage burning etc., have led to air, noise, and water pollution. The role of the citizen and how we can rally for our green spaces, rivers and water bodies, has the potential for transforming our lives and urban and rural spaces. The need of the hour is cultural transformation where we are back in touch with nature.  Lately corporate landholdings and green spaces have been opened up for nature walks, like Godrej has with the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre. Active citizenry also means establishment of a new breed of citizen scientists who can contribute to efforts of ecologists in terms of bird/animal spotting in various localities. Understanding how human affluence and greed impacts biodiversity and inculcating a culture of protecting our natural habitat is crucial. One great example of how such a culture of protecting biodiversity in saving the whale sharks along the coast of Gujrat is documented in this wonderful movie called the Shores of Silence.

How can Technology be leveraged to enable biodiversity efforts?

Technology is all pervasive, increasingly Geographical Information Systems(GIS) and drones are being used in context of biodiversity. GIS applications allow mapped data collection, scenario creation and predictions, understanding impact in geospatial context affecting landcover, forests, and human habitats.

Businesses today have several free GIS repositories at their disposal.

  • One such free resource is the Atlas of Global Conservation by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). It is an excellent resource for understanding biological diversity, scientists have divided up the world into more than 1,000 ecoregions and analysed how they compare across dozens of measures. TNC’s atlas offers dozens and dozens of layers of geographic information by terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregion.  Dozens of biodiversity metrics can be viewed in this atlas
  • Another free resource is Global Forest Watch. This WRI initiative uses the most advanced satellite data and crowd-sourced information to track deforestation throughout the world in near-real-time. Global Forest Watch offers the latest data, technology and tools that empower people everywhere to better protect forests.
  • The India Biodiversity portal has a unique repository of information on India’s biodiversity. The portal aims to provide open and free access to biodiversity information, and enables widespread participation by all citizens in contributing to and accessing information on Indian biodiversity.

Drones are emerging as a valuable tool for biodiversity conservation. These unmanned vehicles can help monitor protected areas, collect data in inaccessible regions, and even deter poachers and plant trees. In a unique initiative in Burma drones were used for planting mangrove, first drones flying 100 metres (328 ft) above the ground take highly detailed, 3D images of the land while sensors record information such as soil type, soil quality and moisture. The data is then used to create a planting pattern, pinpointing the best spots and species to plant in each location. Then a drone uploaded with the mapping information flies 2 metres above the ground, shooting biodegradable seed pods designed to enhance germination success. A drone carrying 300 seed pods can cover 1 hectare in 18 minutes

Ankush Patel, the Co-founder & CEO of Treeni said “The use of technology to track and monitor industry’s impact on bio diversity has enabled a process for the industry to ensure that a focus on biodiversity is a part of their business operations.”

Sustainability performance management and collaboration platforms which enable enterprises to track their biodiversity indicators, and share best practices within and outside the enterprise, are increasingly used by companies. In context of sharing platforms, it’s worth mentioning about India Business Biodiversity Initiative, which is a business-led initiative that serves as a national platform for business, to promote sharing and learning, and will ultimately lead to mainstreaming sustainable management of biological diversity by business. IBBI was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, and is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

The key message from this edition of the S4B on biodiversity is same as the message from the book, The Lorax, that “Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” In this book “You’ signifies the new generation, but it is clear the going forward industries are the ones that will have a care a whole awful lot…and I was glad to see the exemplary work done by Tata Motors, Godrej, Mahindra Susten, Tata Power and TCS.