Marico Limited is one of India’s leading consumer products companies operating in the beauty and wellness space. Agricultural commodities form the base of all Marico products ranging from coconut oil, flax seeds, rice bran oil and many more. One out of every 10 coconut grown in India is used by Marico. It is therefore no surprise that sustainable procurement has become a critical area for the business. Additionally, reduction in waste, water and energy management are also important areas. The business responsibility program covers climate change, product responsibility and community development. The business sustainability program has also been aligned to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
MD and CEO Saugata Gupta, says, “Our journey towards sustainability is driven by innovation at its core. In 2003, the Marico Innovation Foundation was formed to support innovative products and techniques from entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Over time, innovation became part and parcel for everyday activities. This culture also became embedded in our sustainability approach and we drive all our efforts with a single-minded focus where we ensure value for all stakeholders while we grow responsibly.”
The company buys coconuts directly from farmers so that they receive the best price for their produce. This was an uphill task in the initial days, as the coconut trade was largely controlled by intermediaries. However, the company persevered and built direct relationships with the farmers. Today, an important part of the business responsibility program is “Kalpavriksha” or The Wishing Tree. This program partners with coconut farmers in enhancing farm productivity, giving inputs regarding better farming techniques and overall helping them achieve higher income. Marico deploys agronomists who reach out to farmers in close by areas. To scale up these interventions, the company has also deployed a mobile app and a toll free line so that more farmers can benefit from this knowledge base. Since its inception, two years ago, the program has reached over 1.3 lakh farmers through direct and digital interventions.
While the initial numbers were good and so was the uptake from farmers, the company realised that the agriculture sector needed innovation and scale to improve quality and productivity. While traditional methods of farming were quite popular, farmers were slowly realising the need for innovation to increase yield and productivity. New-age farmers wanted solutions to augment traditional methods but there was a gap between innovation in labs and cultivation practices on ground. This gap arose because of various factors including lack of awareness of innovative practices, archaic farming practices, and rigid mindsets. Marico Innovation Foundation stepped in at this juncture. Their agriculture focussed program has a cohort of 37 start-ups with unique solutions to farmer issues; of these the Foundation will be taking 12 solutions to farms for testing over the next few months. The aim is to nurture innovation in agriculture to eventually impact the framer’s income by reducing inputs and/or improving productivity or yield. Marico Innovation Foundation thus plays a catalytic role to bridge the gaps in the agriculture ecosystem to benefit all stakeholders.
Marico has prioritised the creation of a sustainable supply chain across all its product categories. Various centre of excellence and partnerships have been created to facilitate a seamless exchange of ideas. Suppliers and energy conservation platforms, skill development and warehouse programs have been set up.
Says Saugata Gupta, “Sustainability is a journey, but we are committed to being responsible corporate citizens and staying true to our corporate purpose of making a difference in everything we do, every day. Our aim is to impact 20 lakh coconut farmers and make a difference in their lives by enhancing their income.”
Based on a conversation with Marico MD and CEO Saugata Gupta