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The business of sustainability and the sustainability of business are symbiotic in nature: Mahindra & Mahindra

Jan 09, 2013

A US $15.9 billion conglomerate, Mahindra & Mahindra are many companies united by a common purpose—to enable people to rise and prosper. The Mumbai- based company operates in many key industries, operating with the belief that it exists not just to run business and generate profits but also to fulfil its duties as a responsible corporate citizen. Beroz Rumie Gazdar, Senior Vice President – Group Sustainability, talks about all this to Rakesh Sood of OneWorld South Asia.

Beroz Gazdar

OneWorld South Asia (OWSA): What is the mandate for CSR and sustainable development at Mahindra & Mahindra?

Beroz Rumie Gazdar: At Mahindra, we strongly believe that the business of sustainability and the sustainability of business are symbiotic in nature. The long-term viability of business depends on the resources of healthy ecosystems - freshwater, clean air, robust biodiversity, productive land - and on the stability of just societies. Over the years, we have made significant progress in our sustainability journey - from optimising operations which consisted largely of defensive efforts to reduce companies' environmental footprints and cut waste, to igniting innovations in existing businesses, to diversifying into new businesses. We are currently in the process of introducing initiatives to encompass entire value chains. This can be witnessed from our zero water waste automobile factory at Chakan to our LEED-certified Mahindra Life spaces residences. Quality of life and environmental health are two sides of the same coin.

Besides, leading new green business endeavours, we are systematically transforming old practices. We believe big change can arise from small actions, from increasing recycling, reducing waste,and conserving energy in our offices to restricting usage of hazardous substances in our manufacturing activities. In 2008, we developed comprehensive sustainability roadmaps within each of our sectors including aerospace, defense, energy logistics, real estate, retail and two-wheelers having presence in over 100 countries.

OWSA: What are the areas of focus for the company for implementation of its CSR programmes?

BRG: Beyond conducting business consciously and responsibly, we support our communities through many environmental and social initiatives. We build schools and support educational programmes for students of all ages. Our environmental initiatives include building greener facilities and planting one million trees across India. For instance, when people in need require medical help, we provide health and disaster relief. And we also embrace culture and sport through our festivals and youth sports leagues.

For implementation of all these initiatives, we believe that education is the single most powerful intervention for transforming lives. Knowledge and skills impact not only earnings, but self-esteem; not only the standard of living, but how the life is lived. By bringing quality education to more people, we help build a more tolerant, healthy, just, and connected society.For example. the Chairman of the group, Anand Mahindra founded Nanhi Kali in 1996 out of the conviction that empowering women through education would have a tremendous positive impact on the nation in the long run. Girls’ education correlates with a reduction in child and maternal mortality, improvements in child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates, better economic production, and female empowerment. Through Nanhi Kali, Mahindra hopes to play a small but significant role in shaping India’s future by empowering girls through education. Jointly managed in partnership with the Naandi Foundation, Nanhi Kali is the flagship programme of the KC Mahindra Education Trust. We select students based on multiple criteria, then create a comprehensive sponsorship to address both learning and financial challenges. Individual or corporate donors sponsor each girl and receive regular progress reports in return, helping to promote understanding and empathy. Sponsorship is only US $60 for a student in standard 1 to 5 and US $90 for a student in grades 6 to10.

The Mahindra Group independently supports the education of 29,100 of the 75,000 underprivileged girls who participate in Project Nanhi Kali. Within the period of one year, third party assessments have indicated an improvement in learning outcomes ranging from 40 per cent in tribal Chhattisgarh to 78 per cent in Mumbai. By March 2013, Nanhi Kali aims to provide educational support to 100,000 girls from poor urban, remote rural, and conflict-afflicted tribal communities across nine states.

OWSA: What was the budgetary provision for these activities during the last fiscal year and what is the proposed allocation for the current year?

BRG: During 2011-12, the organisation made an investment of Rs 720 million on CSR initiatives which is an increase of 42 per cent over the last fiscal. As per the company’s policy, it would contribute one per cent of the profit after tax (PAT) to CSR programmes.

OWSA: Is the organisation involved in areas such as healthcare and disaster relief management?

BRG: Good health is the foundation on which we build happy, prosperous, and meaningful lives. Our efforts enable people to live healthier through education and medical services. We organise workshops on HIV/AIDS, dental care, and hygiene and run medical camps providing free care. Our disaster relief response to the 2008 Bihar floods touched 10,000 lives. In 2005, Mahindra Satyam partnered with the Emergency Management and Research Institute to provide comprehensive emergency response services through a toll-free number—108. We provide all technical support, putting our cutting-edge communications technology to work to deliver the quickest response possible to any distress call, be it a medical, police, or fire related emergency. More than 2,600 ambulances are now on call in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Assam, Meghalaya,and Madhya Pradesh. As of 2009, we’ve reached about 147 million people, saved 40,000 lives, and employed 8,500 people. By 2011, we plan to cover the entire nation—more than 1.1 billion people—with 10,000 ambulances and employ 100,000 people. Using our world-class technical expertise, we help reduce response time, save lives, and ease suffering.

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