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BW Businessworld

Creation of Shared Value is the Way Forward: Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico

Marico has a history of being cautious about sustainability, both globally and in India. Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico, talks to BW Businessworld’s Editor-in-Chief, Anurag Batra on sustainability, lessons learned post lockdown and much more

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How do you see Marico as a leader in sustainability?
Enlighten us with few milestones. Having begun the journey in 2013, when we were first provided with a sustainable taskforce, at that time we looked at four or five: climate change, water, circular economy and sustainable ‘coconut programme,’ which we call ‘Kalpavriksha’, responsible for sourcing and producing a sustainable index. ‘Zero Discharge’ too has been one of our aims, along with social value creation.

Till FY19-20, we had managed to reduce 32 per cent in energy intensity. In the long run, we hope to become carbon-neutral operationally.

Currently, our renewable energy usage is 68 per cent, which can be easily moved to 90 per cent. We have also done significant work on water and our long-term mission is to ensure 100 per cent water conservation.

We are also working with coconut farmers in Tamil Nadu and expect 16 per cent increase in productivity over next four to five years. It’s also in line with the government’s ambition of doubling farmer’s income. Alongside, we have also started an initiative on sustainable sourcing from our value chain partners. In terms of ‘Zero Discharge,’ I believe we should be having 100 per cent treated water to be recycled over the next four to five years.

When you benchmark yourself against other companies, what kind of role models within or outside the industry and within or outside India, inspire you?
I wouldn’t like to specify names but I would not shy away from accepting that we have benchmarked and learned a number of things from many people and companies. Our efforts have always been to focus on fewer things, where we can do sustainable long-term impact.

While sustainability as a mission has started top down, we have tried to make sustainability a movement. We are in sync with best- in- class practices and also ensure that a proper framework be followed, adhering to all our missions and initiatives.

What are some of the sustainability goals for 2021?
Firstly, we supported the community around in times of pandemic. We helped a lot of frontline workers with items of daily necessities.

We also made a steady progress in terms of upskilling our lot. We have also continued supporting the ‘Kalpavriksha’ foundation, an initiative we are doing in partnership with the farmers.

Alongside, we have also accomplished the mission of having one factory completely ‘carbon neutral.’ Broadly, we are in place for 2021.

Under the plastic waste producer responsibility request, we have a commitment to collect and recover a significant portion of our 100 per cent non-recyclable waste.

How can sustainability lead to overall wellness of the communities and all the stakeholders you serve? What is your advice to young businesses and brands who have registered for sustainability initiatives?
If you do good to society, it will do good to you. Looking back at history, those who believe in conscious capitalism, believe in doing good to society for the long-term as they tend to deliver long-term shareholder returns.

Then increasingly the entire community of consumers are becoming conscious about organisations who are responsible. Therefore, whether it’s responsible packaging, or the responsible practices you do, becomes critical for them.

It’s also critical for all big or small companies to start off sustainability, along with a footprint of what you are doing; as it does definitely pays off in the long run.

Shed some light on top lockdown lessons as the CEO of a company.
Broadly, there were four lessons learned from the lockdown. ‘People first, Business Next, Profit comes at the end’. We have been optimising everything by putting people first. People not only means employees, it also consists of the entire third party system inclusive of distributors and all.

Then, continuous communication, empowerment, agility and collaboration were some of the other key learnings. Lastly, I believe what you could learn as a leader in two or three years, got compressed in the last six months, which indeed has been a next level learning experience for everyone.

When do you see the economy coming back to level, from the time you are in now?
I believe it totally varies from sector to sector. The way we are looking at it is that if the curve begins to flatten and there is no second surge (unlike the one we have experienced post Diwali) and if the economic recovery and flattening of curve happens at the same rate (the economy will be back on even keel). Then we can hope that sometime in the next calendar year (February-March) the vaccine will roll out, which in itself will be a significant booster.

In Q3 and Q4 of 2021, there won’t be much of a surge or surprises, I feel. But the execution of some government schemes such as significant investment in manufacturing and job creation, will certainly help a great deal.

One silver lining is that the economy will come back on track much faster if the rural economy does well. Also, a combination of monsoon and good harvest would add to the recovery.

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marico saugata gupta Magazine 21 Nov 2020