Achieve Sustainability Goals with Maximum Results in Skill Building for Using Low Carbon Technology

Which are the main pillars of your CSR and Sustainability strategy?

To create a responsible future, it is important that a company broadens its view on the value it brings to the world. The value of an organisation is more than just the financials alone. The true picture is revealed by the sum total of our actions in economic, environmental and social areas. When social and environmental results are added to the economic results, we get the True Value.

At Ambuja we are committed to bettering ourselves in every sphere. It is a personal mission to increase our True Value with every year, through every task we undertake daily. All its plants and facilities have always been planned in consideration of this futuristic effects to the society and environment.

Through its sustainability strategy, ACL strives to –

– Leave no trace of our existence
– Give back more than we take
– Clean more than we pollute

To create a mutually beneficial relationship and co-exist peacefully with the host community, ACL established Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) as its CSR arm in 1993. Working with the mission to “Energise, Involve and Enable Communities to realize their Potential”, ACF acts as a catalyst that ensures community’s progress at the same stride as ACL. ACF’s intervention to create True Value are through the following key areas:

– Natural Resource Management: Land and Water Resource Management
– Livelihood Development: Agro based Livelihoods and Skill and Entrepreneurship Development
– Human Development: Community Health and Sanitation, Education and Women Empowerment
– Rural Infrastructure Development

ACF implements these activities in collaboration with and to reinforce people’s institutions such as local panchayats, self-help groups and Village Development Committees. These strengthened people’s institutions make the Foundation’s impacts more sustainable. In over two decades of its work ACF has accomplished some important reforms in its communities like improved access to safe drinking water, increased agricultural productivity from 1 to 3 crops in a year, 5 tobacco free villages and 46 tobacco free schools, improved access to health care in 209 villages, lowered infant mortality (IMR) and maternal mortality rates (MMR), 37 open defecation free (ODF) villages, 3 Women’s Federations with a corpus of Rupees 5.4 Crores, improved quality of education at 332 schools and anganwadis and such.

What have been some of the greatest challenges in realising your CSR and Sustainability goals in the past year, and how has your company overcome them?

Community Safety – Hundreds of trucks move in and out of ACL’s premises daily, causing a road and vehicular safety concern among the communities in our immediate neighbourhood. Wherever geographies permit, Ambuja Cement has created separate roads to divert traffic from public infrastructure. Further, with the objective to attain ‘Zero Harm’ and as an extension of ACL’s ‘We Care’ initiative, ACF undertakes safety training about road, fire, water, electrical, health and farm safety and general safety behaviour in its neighbouring communities and schools.

Reduce energy consumption – Cement manufacturing sector consumes high energy in its plant operations and also for the final product transportation. Apart from reducing fuel consumption in the plants, ACL undertakes the use of Alternative Fuel Resources.

ACL constructed its own shipping ports in early 90s for environment friendly transportation of products and raw material. Today the company has ten ships and five Bulk Cement Terminals (BCTs). This directly saved a lot of energy that was earlier used for transportation of cement by road and rail.

Sanitation – With Ambuja Cement’s geographies mostly being rural, open defecation has been a common problem. The practice hugely impacts community health and also poses direct threat to the environment.

With an objective towards making all the villages surrounding Ambuja Cement 100% open defecation free, Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) endeavours to bring a change in people’s mindset and believes that the rest (infrastructure, cleanliness & hygiene) would follow. ACF has been focussing on mobilizing communities to construct toilets and also use them. This requires a great deal of persuasion that can be best done only by the community members. ACF has specifically identified women and children as the frontrunners of the sanitation drive who are actively steering behavioural change and generating demands.

Women’s Federations in Chandrapur (Maharashtra) and Kodinar (Gujarat) have played instrumental role in encouraging people to construct toilets in their households. The two Federations, with 435 SHGs and over 4800 members are driving communities to adopt hygienic practices. Loans applied for toilet construction are given prime importance and disbursed on priority.

In Darlaghat (Himachal Pradesh), ACF has elicited the support of young children from the community by making them responsible to ensure an open defecation free village. Known as “Swachata Doot” (Messengers of Cleanliness), these children spread the message by demonstrating hygiene and cleanliness in their allocated area.

As part of the sanitation project, more than 22,000 toilets have been constructed in 130 villages in different locations of the company. ACF aims to make all its villages 100% open defecation free by the year 2020.

Keeping in mind the targets set in the Paris accord what do you see on the horizon for corporate sustainability initiatives? How can companies and government work together to achieve sustainability and CSR goals?

The cement industry in general is an energy intensive industry with prospect of pollution. Given the vulnerable nature of geographies and societies that Ambuja Cement operates in, the company is highly aware that its operations could leave a negative socio-environmental impact. However, since its inception, ACL has worked with tremendous advanced consciousness of these probabilities and acted in a responsible manner. The Paris Agreement will be further guiding ACL in scaling up our sustainability solutions further and faster.

Our hard work, commitment and collaborative spirit have set the bar high. The Green House Gases (GHG) reduction and increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impact of climate change will be the major thrust areas for Ambuja Cement. ACL is working to conserve biodiversity and natural resources for the future generations without hampering present-day development at Ambujanagar, Darlaghat and Rabriyawas.

As part of sustainable development initiative, ACL is working to reduce its carbon emissions, enhancing its Waste Heat Recovery Systems to avoid emission of hot air into the system, increasing use of Fly ash and minimising Limestone mining, enhancing its Alternative Fuel Resources and cutting down use of Coal in its manufacturing.

We are sure these initiatives will contribute to the Paris Accord project goals in a positive manner.

Government and companies can work together to achieve sustainability goals with maximum results in skill building for using low carbon technology and adoption of package of practices in agriculture. One of the best example is Ambuja Cement Foundation’s CSR initiative Skill and Entrepreneurship Development Institute (SEDI) that are supported by government ITI’s to train the local youth. Various Agro Based Livelihood programmes implemented with partial government funding and in collaboration with government institutions have changed lives of many local farmers and their families. This is certainly going to help better adaption to climate changes.

What are your goals for 2016 and your priorities for the year?

– Currently, Ambuja Cement is 4 times water positive. Every site is either neutral or water positive. We aim to continue working in this area to direct our efforts in becoming 5 times water positive by 2017.

– Increase productivity in company’s workforce by utilizing resources in skill development, trained through SEDI courses and trainers.

– Scale up our sanitation drive and expand programme outreach. We will continue working in this area till we attain the goal of making every village free from open defecation.

– In 2014 our thermal substitution rate in kilns was 5.7%. We aim to make it 10% by 2017 with the use of more alternative fuels.

– Reduce our carbon intensity to less than 550 Kg carbon/ton of cement by 2017.

– Improve health and safety of our employees, contractors and community.

– Bettering our supply chain by covering high risk suppliers (Tier 1 and Tier 2).

In conversation with Ms. Pearl Tiwari, President (CSR and Sustainability), Ambuja Cements Limited (ACL). (Original Post)