Businesses, by incorporating CSR at the very core of their strategy, can be at the forefront of driving sustainable and inclusive growth. Only through inclusive growth and responsible business leadership can we realize our ambitions of becoming a sustainable, high-growth, developed economy.
‘Goodness is the only investment that never fails.’
~ Henry David Thoreau
The practice of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy is not new to Indian businesses. Many Indian conglomerates and business houses have a rich history of social welfare activities and interests behind them.
Yet, our country continues to be a land of contradictions. On the one hand, we have one of the largest economies, and on the other, a third of the world’s poor; we have an abundance of political freedom, and yet a deficit of economic opportunities for all. While the USD 20 billion Indian pharma industry today is the third largest API market in the world, yet 24 per cent of the world’s tuberculosis cases were reported in India. We are considered as the outsourcing destination of the world, and yet the world’s largest population of illiterate people resides in India.
Correcting these imbalances and ensuring the economic prosperity of over one billion people continues to be one of the greatest challenges in the decades ahead. It is a challenge that requires us to create employment opportunities; improve the quality of human capital through education, skilling and training; provide accessible healthcare; deliver affordable shelter; ensure food security; and create institutions that are transparent, responsive and efficient. Doing this requires companies to be inclusive in their approach of business and pursue a ‘triple bottom line’ instead of being focused purely on their financial results.
The Godrej Journey
As a Group, we have always actively championed social responsibility and are committed to driving the social progress of the communities that our businesses operate in. Instead of focusing on what is to be done with profits after they are made, we believe that we need to factor in the social and environmental impacts of conducting business, that is, how profits are made.
Close to one-fourth, i.e 24 per cent of the shares of our Group’s holding company are held in trusts that include the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation and the Godrej Memorial Trust. Through these trusts, we support healthcare, education and environmental sustainability through initiatives such as the Udayachal Schools, the Godrej Memorial Hospital, the Mangroves, Teach for India, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Smile Train.
Additionally, ‘Good & Green’ is one of the key pillars of our Vision 2020, as a Group. We have publicly shared the ambitious but realistic goals that we carefully measure and report on. As a Group, we aspire to:
- Ensure Employability: We will train one million youth in skills that will enhance their earning potential
- Build a Greener India: We will achieve zero waste to landfill, carbon neutrality and a positive water balance, while reducing specific energy consumption and optimizing the use of renewable energy
- Innovate Products: We will generate a third of our portfolio revenues from ‘good’ and/or ‘green’ products.
In the area of employability, we have created and/or support skill training programs in seven broad areas: beauty and wellness (SALON-I), retail management, animal husbandry, agriculture training, channel sales, construction and facilities management, and manufacturing and engineering. So far, through these seven programs, and in partnership with 20+ NGOs at 190 training centers, we have trained 140,000 youth.
On the green pillar, we have actually been able to exceed our goals on reduction in specific energy consumption and increasing renewable energy use, and are on track to achieving our goals in the areas of zero waste to landfill, maintaining positive water balance and being carbon neutral. Our experience has shown that this commitment to sustainability has led to significant cost savings and hence improved profitability for our businesses. Thus, across our 100+ manufacturing and construction sites, we have been able to integrate sustainability into the very core of our business processes and value chain.
In keeping with our commitment to social development, we also encourage our employees to become active and responsible citizens by promoting impact-oriented volunteering under our ‘Brighter Giving’ program. Our employees volunteer their time for long term, skill-based projects such as developing a marketing strategy for a non-profit, or mentoring a child from a low income background. This is also in line with one of the pillars of our people philosophy, ‘Whole Self,’ wherein we believe that passionate, rounded individuals with diverse interests make for better Godrejites.
As a conscientious corporate citizen, we feel that improving the lives of all our stakeholders, including those at the bottom of the income pyramid, safeguarding the environment, and following sustainable manufacturing and supply chain practices, makes good business sense.
To conclude, India as a nation is at the cusp of transformation. We have moved from a largely stagnant, inward-looking, over-regulated economy to a thriving, market-driven economy that has now integrated with the world. Yet, there are legitimate concerns about whether we have, in the pursuit of growth, neglected the imperatives of equity and the institutions of sustainability. No nation, much less a democracy, can expect to maintain internal cohesion, if it chooses growth without equity.
While equity is a moral and social imperative for growth, good institutions are a concomitant condition for its sustainability. The institutions in an economy – educational, legal, labor and financial – provide the framework that reduces uncertainty, increases productivity, and creates the necessary incentives
to enlarge economic activity.
Businesses, by incorporating CSR at the very core of their strategy, can be at the forefront of driving sustainable and inclusive growth. For, it is only through inclusive growth and responsible business leadership, that we can realize our ambitions of becoming a sustainable, high-growth developed economy.
The article is an excerpt from the CII Foundation book ‘The Privilege of Responsibility: Perspectives from Corporate India’. The book has contributions from eminent industry leaders who have shared their thought leadership on themes of development, CSR and philanthropy.
The book covers issues ranging from the Trusteeship Model, Philanthropy & CSR as the sustainable way to SDGs, CSR economy & Creating Premium by Creating Value. The eminent authors, who are also the Trustees of CII Foundation Board (2015-16), have shared their outlook on corporate responsibility towards society, governing factors, the economy & business strategy of CSR, and the future of CSR in the country.
The book was brought out in April 2016 to commemorate five years of CII Foundation. CII Foundation, a trust set up by CII in 2011, works with member companies towards CSR implementation by channelizing efforts towards designing, developing and managing customized and high impact development projects. Know more on CII Foundation at www.ciifoundation.in
This article is penned down by Mr. Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group