1. Which are the main pillars of your CSR and Sustainability strategy?
The main pillars of CSR and sustainability practice at Finolex Industries are Philanthropy, Environmental Responsibility, Inclusive Growth and Effective Collaboration. We believe that what we take from the environment must be replenished in multiples. We are committed to achieving the highest standards of environmental excellence and have adopted environmentally sustainable and effective operating systems and processes in our plants. Also, as part of our Inclusive Growth and Collaboration framework we have worked with local communities over the past several years.
There are many belts in Maharashtra which are severely water parched in the summer months. We have implemented drinking water supply schemes and rebuilt piping infrastructure which has now considerably reduced the problems faced by the residents of these villages. Working in and around the villages of Ratnagiri, Finolex saw a desperate need for rural upliftment in education. This gave birth to the idea of the Mukul Madhav Vidyalaya, a school we built in 2008. These students are the first generation of farmers’ and fishermen’s from within the region to get English education. With each year, the school is seeing an increase in the number of admissions.
Finolex Industries Limited carries out its CSR activities with active assistance from its CSR partner, Mukul Madhav Foundation. Mukul Madhav Foundation provides financial assistance and equipment to hospitals and institutions, such as orphanages and homes for the destitute and handicapped children, awards scholarships and assistance to deserving students for the pursuit of studies. In the healthcare domain, we arrange free health camps for children, women, and diabetes patients and have associations with hospitals and medical institutes to make quality health care services affordable to weaker sections of society. This year we did free health check-ups for 4600 people.
2. What have been some of the greatest challenges in realising your CSR goals in the past year, and how has your company overcome them?
Corporates sometimes run into roadblocks with local authorities regarding CSR projects and we are facing a similar battle with some of our CSR initiatives. There is a lack of consensus amongst local agencies and lack of interest by the local municipal bodies in participating and contributing. This is a common scenario which results either in duplication of activities by corporate houses or ends up being a competition between the parties involved rather than a fruitful collaboration. We intend to overcome these obstacles by educating all the stakeholders about the benefits of the proposed programmes and seeking their involvement right through the process.
For example, one of our biggest challenges has been to convince the rural community in Ratnagiri on the sanctity and intentions behind the education program we initiated in the region. The school is run on a no profit/ no loss basis and the fees are considerably subsidized. Initially the school was run free of cost but there was a huge absentee rate. In order to make it sustainable, we levied a basic fee which saw a drastic decrease in drop outs and absentees. While this made the education program successful, we had to battle resistance from parents and local leaders on this fee being levied.
We have realised that implementing a self-sustainable project is difficult as compared to philanthropic projects or infrastructure projects like roads, schools, healthcare, etc., as they involve a change of mindset and attitudes. It takes time and effective collaboration from stakeholders beyond the company’s premises for a project to be successful. The government’s role in shaping attitude can help companies realise common goals.
3. Keeping in mind the targets set in the Paris accord what do you see on the horizon for corporate sustainability initiatives?
With the adoption of the path breaking Paris agreement on climate change there will be increased focus on sustainability measures. It is quite likely that new legislations will be in place to ensure that corporates fall in line with the more stringent regulations on sustainability. It goes without saying corporates and governments have to work together to achieve the ambitious goals announced in Paris. It has to be taken as a collaborative responsibility and obligation to future generations and not as an individual target. Corporates will need to be ready to publish data about the initiatives taken by them in controlling emissions.
At Ratnagiri, we have adopted an internationally acclaimed Environment Management System that not only complies with all applicable environmental regulations in respect of air, water, noise, hazardous waste, e-waste etc but also successfully manages the waste produce internally in the plant reducing any detrimental effect to the ecosystem. Finolex Industries plants have robust Effluent treatment plants which enables proper treatment of the aqueous effluent generated during the process of manufacturing. But sustainability is an ongoing process and we are committed to making positive efforts to tackle environmental challenges.
4. What are your goals for 2016 and your priorities for the year?
In addition to our ongoing sustainability initiatives we would like to focus on three key areas of health, water and livelihoods.
a. Health – In 2016 we would want to start health and education programs in Gujarat. We have a factory in Masar and we want to replicate the Ratnagiri and Pune model of development in this region. We plan to increase the spread of our health awareness campaigns by screening more people in the coming year through our health camps, breast cancer awareness drives and more.
b. – Water – We have accelerated our work on the development of products related to water harvesting. Though it will be part of our extended business portfolio, we feel that it is imperative that all industries in India are more conscious about the necessity and application of this. We will start education and awareness programs on this issue this year.
c. – Livelihoods – Over the next few years, we are planning gradual steps towards identifying and implementing new self-sustaining initiatives, which would typically include livelihood projects. One of our very ambitious project in this field is the Skill Development Program we have kick started. Lack of skilled labour is an issue that is becoming a rising concern in the construction and manufacturing industry. The absence of proper training programmes has kept many plumbers from progressing in their field and the lack of a defined career path has thwarted their aspirations. As per industry estimates, about 90 % of the plumbing industry in India lacks professional training. We have partnered with Kushal [a partnership project between Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI)] Pune Metro and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)) to improve the skills of the building services workforce by imparting training in the area of plumbing. Kushal aims at upgrading the skills of 100,000 construction workers in the next ten years. This training programme will help these plumbers to learn technical skills faster which in turn will help them gain personal growth and higher income.
In conversation with Mr. Saurabh S. Dhanorkar, Managing Director of Finolex Industries. (Original Post)