Products need to evolve if we are to win the climate game: Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra & Mahindra

The diversified business conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra realises that with new technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Big Data and Analytics, the world of tomorrow will be radically different from today. It is therefore getting future-ready by building intellectual capital and promoting innovation. In addition to pioneering efforts in the electric vehicle space, the focus is now on initiatives such as autonomous technology for tractors, a digital model allowing farmers to rent tractors and digital platform for farmers aimed at creating an integrated network in the agri-community.

But the biggest transformation in the group is being brought upon by the challenges of sustainability and climate change. The Executive Chairman Mr. Anand G. Mahindra is a big proponent of de-carbonisation and establishment of universal reduction targets. Twenty Mahindra group companies have already adopted Science Based Targets to restrict carbon in alignment with the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The group has committed to carbon neutrality by 2040.

Sustainability focussed transformation is not easy. While most sustainability teams think of maximizing improvements within the existing financial constraints, at Mahindra, the focus is more strategic. According to Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, “We look at what will drive business growth and what kind of sustainable systems the company can create to bring about this?” Sustainability then gets embedded into business strategy and becomes an important pillar for transformation. A strong component of the strategy creation process is risk assessment since Climate Change Risk and Opportunity is emerging as a key issue across global organisations. Every year the company conducts a structured process under the TEMPLES framework (Technology-Economic-Media-Political- Legal-Environment-Societal) to identify risks and opportunities. This is not just led by the Chief Risk Officer as in most companies, but the Chief Sustainability Officer too.

Anirban says, “Climate change is a reality. We constantly ask ourselves, are we doing enough? Because sustainability is not a short term project but a long term intent of radical transformation.” The Mahindra Sustainability council works with several companies within the group to evangelise sustainability, establish targets with disparate businesses and then constantly measures the gap between intent and action. Sustainability champions have been appointed at all plants and offices to locally drive initiatives and collect data for reporting. A framework has been created to ensure a common language for sustainability across the group. Under the three pillars of People, Planet and Profit various actions have been identified for implementation. Many of these actions are already underway as demonstrated by the fact that the company uses 63% less energy to produce a vehicle than what was done eight years ago. In 2016, it became the first Indian company to announce its internal carbon price of $10 per tonne of carbon emissions. The move was in line with its business commitment to reduce its GHG emissions by 25% over the next three years. It is the 1st company globally to sign the EP-100 program which is committed to doubling energy productivity by 2030.

Mahindra, looks at sustainability not as a responsibility, but as an opportunity to drive positive change for all stakeholders including its employees. The Mahindra Leadership University has been created as a strategic initiative to groom and develop talent that can transform the company into a low carbon, high innovation, circular organization. As Anirban says, “Products need to evolve if we are to win the climate game. It’s no longer a question of innovation and need, but the ability to change while maintaining agility. We have an obligation to ourselves, our employees and customers to show that we can drive transformation through innovation, strategic thinking and rigour. This is just the beginning. The goal is to be among the top 50 most admired global brands by 2021.”

Based on a conversation with Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mahindra & Mahindra

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