A better world begins with us, says Suresh Narayanan of Nestle India

Plastic waste is becoming a big menace. A large contributor to this is packaging, which ends up as waste in landfills, rivers, oceans and waterways. Nestle India’s Chairman and Managing Director, Suresh Narayanan says, “Plastic waste management is one of the biggest issues that India is facing. Our ambition is to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.” He says, “Sustainability is cultural, and at Nestle we have it embedded in our purpose and values. Our Swiss origins and philosophy of creating shared value have empowered us to make 41 public commitments around all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The commitments, most of which feature specific objectives to 2020 will enable the company to meet its ambitions for 2030, within the time outlined in the SDGs. Essential to achieving these goals is a robust approach to sustainability, human rights and compliance.”

In the area of plastic waste management, Nestle India is working with its research labs to eliminate complex combinations of their packaging materials and exploring simpler ‘mono-materials’ that do not compromise food safety and do not have a negative impact on the environment.

The plastic waste management laws in India now talk of extended producer responsibility, i.e. the producer is responsible for the waste that they generate. Until now, Nestle India has launched projects in 12 states and is helping create an efficient collection, sorting and recycling system that can be scaled-up.

The quantity of plastic waste that India generates is enormous, and so is the magnitude of the task. Hence, the company is also focusing on a collective approach to tackle this. At one level it is engaging with state governments, municipalities and NGOs, at another, it is working with an over 30 member consortium of like-minded companies consisting of Pepsi, Perfetti Van Melle, Tata Global Beverages, Dabur, Abbott, Godrej, Haldiram and more to address this problem.

Nestle realises that the power to change needs a social movement. A movement that can only emerge if it has the support of millions of consumers for its powerful brands. Suresh says, “The new generation, which is now called the millennials, can help create a transformation into a cleaner, greener future. Millennials are constantly connected through technology and interested in what they consume. They want to engage with brands that can do more for people and the planet.”

Nestle’s millennial linked strategy works at two levels. The first step is to focus on brand communication on the environment and to connect consumers to these causes. To this effect, Nestle India has launched a pilot project, “2 minute safai ke naam” (2 minutes for cleanliness) in Dehradun and Mussoorie. Spearheaded by brand MAGGI, the campaign seeks to educate people and aims to bring about a behavioural change about the need for disposing of waste responsibly and incentivises them by giving them a packet of MAGGI for every ten empty MAGGI noodles packets. This initiative is supplemented with a strong communication campaign through print, social media, billboards and community engagement programs to inform the public about the initiative and sensitise consumers and food vendors to dispose waste responsibly. Additionally, the company has developed a holistic end-to-end sustainable waste management plan in Mussoorie by engaging with urban local bodies, NGOs, waste management service providers, to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills. The project is envisioned to develop Mussoorie as the first hill station in Uttarakhand to be relieved from the problem of Solid Waste Management involving citizens, local authority, tourism industry, state authorities, ensuring a 360-degree participation of all stakeholders.

The other part of Nestle’s millennial strategy is to focus on health and nutrition. Nestle’s ongoing research reveals that people are extremely interested in what they eat. The company is now working with Google to create an artificial intelligence powered chatbot that will be able to answer questions on food, healthy eating habits, diets, and nutrition.

“Brands can play an important role in transforming habits and creating a better world, but brands alone are not the answer. A transformational educational system is. Schools, colleges and the families need to lead the change. Change will begin if we teach the younger generation not to waste, to work with empathy and to lead with values. A better world begins with us.” says Suresh.

Based on a conversation with Suresh Narayanan, Nestle India’s Chairman and Managing Director

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BALANCE – Responsible Business For The Digital Age

balance-book-coverThe insights that form the foundation for this book come from a five-year study into India’s to companies’ sustainability and CSR activities, which highlights that while good governance and far-reaching policies are part of the answer, much more needs to be done. Companies now need to factor in a new reality where reputation, responsibility and risk are increasingly interconnected.

Balance with its blend of theory and real-life case studies looks at the responsibility strategies and frameworks of Indian and multinational firms to arrive at a new way of thinking about business. It builds on the premise that in a connected, globalised world, intent and action count.

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We need a better definition of long term success, says G V Prasad of Dr Reddy’s

It’s not easy to run a global pharmaceutical business. The pharma sector is very competitive, highly regulated, driven by constant innovation. And now according to futurists, the industry is on the cusp of significant disruption by emerging technologies. Used to punching above their weight in the global arena through a focus on scientific excellence and manufacturing rigour, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. (Dr. Reddy’s) provides pharmaceutical products, services and active ingredients to 30 countries across the globe. Accelerating access to affordable and innovative medicines is at the core of Dr. Reddy’s work. Mr. G V Prasad, Co-Chairman and CEO, leads the core team at Dr. Reddy’s that has contributed significantly to its transformation from a mid-sized domestic operation into a global pharmaceutical major.

The company’s philosophy of taking health to the masses is institutionalised in many forms such as patient centricity, product innovation and environmental consciousness. The company has been an early adopter of sustainable practices because of Prasad’s belief that circular systems which are based on zero waste and no harm to the environment must be a critical focus for any business. He says, “To create true value we must function in harmony with nature. Businesses that harm the natural systems don’t create value instead they just shift value and create long-term harm for themselves and everyone around them.” Continuous improvement in environmental performance has been a significant part of the company’s sustainability journey. In 2004, Dr. Reddy’s became one of the first companies in India to ensure “zero liquid discharge” by treating and recycling all wastewater, leaving zero discharge at the end of the treatment cycle. In 2017 the company achieved another important milestone: zero hazardous waste to landfill across all manufacturing units in India. This has also been enabled by the company’s focus on “Green chemistry”, which is focused on the designing of products and processes that minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances. The company has institutionalized; Environmental Commitment Statement; that articulates measurable targets for each key environmental performance indicator: energy, emissions, water and waste.

Though Prasad believes that to stall climate change collaborative efforts are necessary and that these efforts need to be driven by public policy and enabling legislation. He says, “Dumping plastic is not a necessity and neither is polluting the water and air. We need good legislation to prevent people from taking the shortest way to prosperity. We need enlightened leadership that can enable this; because people only think creatively when they are put into a box. Right now there is no limit to the amount of carbon anyone can emit. This must be controlled if we are to make an impact.” Dr. Reddy’s is one of a handful of top Indian companies that educates and encourages its vendors and partners to adopt environment-friendly practices.

The biggest challenges in implementing these changes though have been internal. According to Prasad, “We can always find solutions to problems by shining a light on them. However, long-term change needs a commitment from the people who are going to implement it. There can always be a new way, a more sustainable way of working but getting people to commit to it is an uphill task”. Prasad takes every opportunity to highlight that environmental consciousness is part of everyday decision making. On his birthday, he requested employees to stop using paper cups and single-use plastic bottles. People willingly complied and today, across all company offices and factories single-use PET water bottles have been replaced with reusable water bottles that employees carry from home; single-use plastic or paper cups have been replaced with washable cutlery.

Realizing that sustainability commitments need to be institutionalized, the company partners with its suppliers to find innovative solutions and continually improve performance. This ensures high quality products and also helps the organization in mitigating supply chain risk. “We need to be conscious about the social responsibility of business and realise the impact we have on everyone – suppliers, customers and society at large”, says Prasad.

The company pursues community care with the same zeal as the healthcare business. The company was set up in 1984 by Dr Kallam Anji Reddy who was a well-known scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. About a decade after setting up Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, he started the Dr Reddy’s Foundation in 1996, with the vision of assisting young disadvantaged people to have access to quality education and developing skills to keep pace with modern day challenges. The foundation works with children, youth (including persons with disabilities), women and households in 20 states across India. DRF has touched the lives of 5,00,000 socially marginalized people from all across the country.

Dr. Reddy’s has launched several patient programmes to ensure product affordability. In 2006 they launched Sparsh, a program designed to reach out to cancer patients with financial support in India. More recently, the company partnered with a leading diagnostic lab to provide access to interior parts of the country to improve and confirm the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and thereby reduce the time between diagnosis and treatment. Recognising that medicines work only when they are taken in the right dosage at the right time, Dr. Reddy’s deployed design thinking to help treatment become more effective, not just through better medicines, but through intelligent packaging.

Today, the healthcare sector is abuzz with new developments; collaborations between information technology giants and major pharmaceutical companies, big data and IT-driven care pathways, 3D printing and more.

Prasad believes that responsibility in the context of these changes needs a rethink. For instance, the next step of using technology to create personalized medicine will be the fabrication of complex specialty drugs through the 3D printing of living tissues. 3D printing is a type of manufacturing through a process that creates a three-dimensional object by building successive layers of raw material. The flexibility of 3D printing allows designers to make changes quickly, and it enables manufacturers to create patient-specific devices matched to a person’s anatomy as well as those with very complex internal structures. This raises a host of patient privacy and data issues. The next generation pharma company would then equally be a data company.

“We, therefore, need to improve environmental performance without tradeoffs and think about data without compromising on ethics and privacy of our customers. Today, the world has the technology to solve many of the problems we see, but to enable this we need a better definition of long-term success Moreover, we need to do this now. Responsibility can’t wait!” says Prasad.

Based on a conversation with Mr. G V Prasad, Co-Chairman & CEO, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.

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Data can be a force for social good : Nuria Oliver, Vodafone

Can data be a force for good rather than just a way of companies aggregating information about customers buying habits and interests? Nuria Oliver, is Vodafone’s Director of Research in Data Science who believes that big data can be a powerful tool to help us respond more efficiently when facing natural disasters, help us better manage public health emergencies, transportation and foster financial inclusion.

She says, “The two most important forces in the world today – social media and mobile phones, are generating massive amounts of human behavioural data. This large scale data, can help us understand the world.”

For instance, data can play an important role in tackling emergency situations during natural disasters. Rescuers during a crisis need to know how many people are affected by the disaster and where they might be. “Today, we can answer what we couldn’t in the past.

Aggregated and anonymised mobile data was used to help rescuers during the Nepal earthquake and the one in Haiti. We can similarly use data to manage infectious diseases. Diseases don’t spread if people don’t move. By understanding mobility and the patterns of movement, health workers can anticipate progression to stop the spread of infectious diseases.”

The Vodafone Foundation a few months back announced a pioneering programme in Ghana to use aggregated anonymised data to help the government track and control epidemics to prevent widespread outbreaks. The programme, one of the first of its kind in the world, will use aggregated anonymised mobile data to track real-time trends in population movement.

The data is then analysed to provide life-saving insights during an epidemic. The programme is a good example of how big data can be used to gather valuable insights, which the government of Ghana can apply to a number of health and other sustainable development challenges, saving and improving lives. This has been called the ‘Big Data for Good” programme

However, using data for public good has rarely been part of CSR initiatives of companies. Nuria says, “Companies don’t have data for good departments. A data for good program needs a complex understanding of how data works and how it can be used with external sources to deliver real meaning. While the mobile data is very valuable, it is just a window into a complex reality.

Therefore, to generate public health insights we need deep understanding not only of the data, but also of the problem at hand, through partnerships with experts in e.g. public health or epidemiology. Reality is multi-faceted and complex.

We can identify meaningful correlations but making statements on causation is much more difficult; we would need to carry out interventions in the real world to test different hypothesis or findings, which, of course, is always difficult.”

So why isn’t everyone using big data for solving social problems? There are also social and ethical barriers to using data. Data needs to be secure, it also needs to be anonymised well so that people cannot be traced back. Also, social impact programmes mostly involve collaborating with several public-private stakeholders.

Hence, the companies need to negotiate collaboration agreements with external organizations such as governments, NGO’s and institutions who may not always have the same agenda as the company. Besides all this data and AI based projects are horrendously expensive to initiate and maintain. “Data doesn’t sit still – it grows; and many times exponentially.

Companies need to therefore be prepared with flexible budgets and partnerships which can sustain the momentum. We also need to identify feasible financial models so these projects can be sustainable over time”, says Nuria.

Realising these challenges, the mobile industry association GSMA has started the “Big Data for Social Good” initiative.

Through this initiative, mobile operators are adopting a common framework to adopt an ecosystem approach to support planning, decision-making and response to help public agencies and NGOs tackle epidemics, natural disasters and environmental pollution.

There are other coalitions too. Data-Pop Alliance –where Nuria is Chief Data Scientist– is a global coalition on Big Data and development created by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Media Lab, the Overseas Development Institute and Flowminder, bringing together researchers, experts, practitioners, and activists to promote a people-centered Big Data revolution through collaborative research, capacity building, and community engagement.

Nuria says, “People are beginning to understand the value of data to improve the world and telecom companies are at the heart of this revolution for positive social impact. I am excited, grateful and proud to be able to contribute to it.”

Based on Conversation with Nuria Oliver, Vodafone’s Director of Research in Data Science and Chief Data Scientist in Data-Pop Alliance

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Why ITC’s Sanjiv Puri champions Sustainable Agriculture

Food is the essence of life. Apart from being necessary for survival, it is emotional, evocative and comforting. It can soothe the soul, enhance moments and turn the humdrum into joy. Most television advertising is focused around these aspects. Happy families, lunches, dinners, meetings, special moments and more. The producer of the food though, the farmers and their families, are never seen. It is almost as if they don’t exist except in newsprint when you hear of drought or floods or farm distress.

Yet, the third largest food company in India has taken out an advertising campaign focused on farmers. “Sab Saath Badhein” (When the economy, environment and society grow together) is ITC’s corporate campaign focusing on projects that aim at improving the quality of life of farmers and their families. This though is not just a campaign, says Mr. Sanjiv Puri, Managing Director, ITC, “I believe that Indian farmers are amongst the world’s most hard working, resilient and enterprising. They can adopt solutions that are progressive and sustainable. Our extensive engagements with them has led to significant productivity increases and has played an important role in ITC’s journey of transformation.”

It’s never easy to change, and more so when you are a large business. ITC’s transformation in that sense, from a tobacco and hotels company to one of India’s fastest growing FMCG companies and the country’s 3rd largest food company, has been laudable. And to achieve this in less than 10 years is even more so. Mr. Sanjiv Puri, who has been part of this rapid scale up and transformation, says, “ITC’s triple bottomline approach, constituting people, planet and profit has played a strong role in achieving this transformative growth.”

He says, “Whatever ITC does, it does with passion, energy and a tremendous desire to excel. We didn’t just make a decision to transform, we went after every single thing that could be done to grow responsibly. We went to the farmers and undertook a holistic rural development programme that included setting up of digital infrastructure for them as part of our celebrated e-Choupal intervention; we worked on watershed development and afforestation;. We didn’t stop there, we have been working actively to double farmer incomes and create sustainable livelihoods. Over the past 21 years, ITC’s turnover has grown 11 times but what really shows our commitment to deliver across all dimensions of the Triple Bottom Line is that ITC has been carbon positive for 13 years and water positive for over 16 years. This is not all, over 43% of ITC’s energy comes from renewable sources like biomass, wind, and solar. Moreover, the company has greened over 6,80,000 acres and brought soil and moisture conservation to over 9,00,000 acres.” ITC has created sustainable livelihoods for over 6 million people.

The company has set an ambitious goal of achieving a turnover of rupees one lakh crore from its new FMCG businesses by 2030. It is therefore a given that the sustainability efforts will need to be scaled up too. Not just in terms of doing more of the usual, but innovating to charter new paths in areas like water stewardship, plastic waste management and increasing focus on renewables, etc.

ITC’s decades-old relationship with millions of farmers across India has enabled it to make a largescale contribution to the agriculture sector. This relationship with the rural communities, primarily through the e-Choupal initiative, has deepened over the years with the expansion and growth of ITC’s businesses, particularly ITC Foods. The celebrated e-Choupal intervention has provided farmers internet access to link them to the market. The hitherto isolated farmer now has access to real-time weather and price information, relevant knowledge and services, to enhance farm productivity, improve quality and command better prices – thus improving their competitiveness and capacity to manage risk. The programme has benefitted 4 million farmers.

With the e-Choupal as the centre, ITC has implemented an end-to-end rural development programme, expanding and growing in areas like sustainable agriculture, watershed development, animal husbandry, and afforestation, thus preserving and replenishing precious environmental resources.

ITC’s strategy to nurture and strengthen its agri value chains has added a unique advantage to its Foods Business. Through the e-Choupal, ITC has been sourcing high-quality, identity-preserved agricultural raw material directly from the farmers and manufactures products according to consumer preferences. Such competitive value chains eliminate wasteful interventions by unscrupulous middlemen, thereby benefitting farmers as well, as they receive a larger part of the consumer spend and are able align their produce to market demands. There is however no written contract with the farmers and they are free to transact at will and sell to whoever they choose and ITC stands as a willing buyer of the produce.

ITC’s endeavors and interventions in rural India are particularly relevant, given the challenges faced by agriculture in India today. Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy, contributing to over 16 percent of India’s GDP. The uncertainties in growth in agriculture are explained by the fact that more than 50 percent of agriculture in India is rainfall dependent, which aggravate the production risks. Therefore, largescale modern, scientific and technological interventions, like climate smart and sustainable agriculture, are required to provide meaningful solutions to the challenges here.

“A big barrier that ITC faced,” says Puri, “was the availability of cultivable land. But we were ready to play the long term game. We invested in making barren land cultivable, enabling farmers who owned wastelands and lands with low levels of productivity to grow commercially viable pulpwood plantations, thereby turning an unproductive asset into a profitable one.” This not only created a green cover but also created large scale livelihoods for marginal farmers and tribals.

ITC has spearheaded interventions that have the potential to contribute significantly to the Prime Minister’s Vision of Doubling Farmer Incomes. ITC has implemented over the last 4 years, an integrated pilot programme christened Baareh Mahine Hariyali to double farmer incomes in 4 districts of Uttar Pradesh reaching out to nearly 2,00,000 farmers. More than 30,000 farmers have already experienced doubling of incomes.

The journey though is still in its nascent stages and Sanjiv Puri believes that there are many more mountains to climb. Keeping in mind the steep projections for the future, ITC plans to continue on this path through a strategy it calls responsible competitiveness. He says, “Going forward, ITC will continue to scale up its existing programmes, add new dimensions based on emerging needs and gaps, and link up with the government through existing schemes and public-private people partnerships as far as possible. As part of our future plans is a core commitment to create 10 million sustainable livelihoods by 2030.”

Based on a conversation with Mr. Sanjiv Puri, Managing Director, ITC

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