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In India, There Is A Stride Happening In ESG: Debadatta Baxi, Mc Cain, Regional Director

"We have our sustainability strategy in place across the entire value chain, which is how we want to contribute as an organisation towards ESG goals"

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In an interaction with Urvi Shrivastav, Editorial Lead, BW ESG, BW Businessworld; Debadatta Baxi, Mc Cain, Regional Director, Sustainability, Communication, HR- India, South East Asia, Taiwan speaks about ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) about the current trends in the sector, initiatives of Mc Cain, and how it impacts the company's decisions. 

What is going on in the ESG space off late?

In India, there is a stride happening in ESG. For us, our focus at Mc Cain has been on planet friendly food. We have our sustainability strategy in place across the entire value chain, which is how we want to contribute as an organisation towards ESG goals.

Can you tell us about recent initiatives Mc Cain has taken in the ESG space?

We have hot our sustainability strategy that guides us around what we should be doing. We have made commitments to influence the society positively, where our first commitment is to reduce the environmental impact through our plants. The second commitment will be how do we enable smart and sustainable farming. The third pillar is how do we improve the nutritional profile for our food by offering healthier choices. The fourth pillar is out support to rural communities wherever we have our operations, and our employees live and work. These are the four spaces where we are broadly committed.

What about Project Shakti and Project Utthan?

Project Shakti is our flagship project and the first CSR project we started in 2017. The objective was clear, we wanted to empower women through livelihoods. There is a baseline we have to do to understand the state of women. We started our journey in a district called Mehsana, in Gujarat. The project has a very strong component around gender equity, without which true empowerment of women is not possible. We started off with one village, today we have expanded to six. We have reached out to 850 women self help groups. Our NGO partner is Cohesion Foundation. Our interventions include farm and non farm activities, including horticulture promotion and skill development, and entrepreneurship development. We are committed to expand to as many villages as possible.

Project Utthan was initiated in 2019, with the objective of helping farmers in Sambarkantha district in Gujarat, via farm and livestock interventions. We partnered with an NGO callee Bayank, and have consequently reached out to 1000 small and marginal farmers, some of who are even landless. Via our intervention to increase their productivity we have had a profound impact on their lives.

While we have these initiatives in place, companies often find it difficult to report these activities. Can you elaborate what are the issues surrounding ESG reporting today and how does Mc Cain report the same?

ESG reporting is difficult due to multiple frameworks available today. You have the GRI, SAWPA, etc. While there are no single global standards that ESG reporting uses, there are many regional and industry specific standards one can choose from. Between 2018-19, we engaged several of our external stakeholders, including customers, clients, farmer groups, agriculture specialists, policy makers, youth representatives, NGOs, thought leaders, and academicians as well. We took their advice on becoming a leader in sustainability, and that is what we integrated into our approach. Our sustainability strategy focuses on social and environmental commitment, that will shape and guide our work. it sets the vision for four key pillars, which is smart and sustainable farming, resource efficient operation, good food, and thriving communities.

How efficiently is Mc Cain utilising the energy resources, which is an important ESG factor?

We have been making great strides in energy efficiency. We continue to explore options for energy efficient technologies in our processes, and we have been able to reduce our scope 1 and 2 emissions by 70 percent, as against 2017. We are conscious about how we use energy, we are exploring multiple options like wind, solar, etc. And that is how we are making strides in the energy efficiency point of view.

Mc Cain has made some acquisitions in the recent past, can you elaborate on that. Also, how important is ESG a factor when we talk about mergers and acquisitions today?

It is driven by the purpose of why Mc Cain exists, and that is how our sustainability strategy is built and this is what we are trying to integrate into our overall business value chain. In fact, last week we announced acquisition of Predictive Crop technology, a company called Resin. This investment is to fortify the future of farming, by improving our decision making on crop production, and agriculture practices while there is a lot happening around climate change. We have all seen the Covid 19 crisis, and investors will increasingly consider ESG as a factor to plug the gap that the pandemic created. The social element that we broadly see in ESG will also move to the forefront as the pandemic continues to reveal the weak points. In our societies. We keep these factors in mind while making acquisitions.

Can you share the key highlights of the sustainability report Mc Cain released recently?

First pillar was resource efficient operations, we have reduced 13 percent of absolute CO2 emissions, compared to 2017. 23 percent of total electricity that we have used in our plants comes from renewable resources, and 100 percent recovery of plastic from business to consumer are some of our key highlights. Our second pillar is smart and sustainable farming. We have over 2000 crore training hours in 2021, which is 70 percent hogher than what it was in 2020. Even in agriculture we work around CO2 emission reduction, whi h is 1.6 percent better than 2020. One of the key aspects we take care of is reduction of water usage, and over 50 percent reduction in water usage happened across all our growing regions, compared to 2017, and drip irrigation is one such initiative that helps us do this. Similarly, we have a water treatment plant in Gujarat, in our plant. 88 percent of the water is reused back in our plant. Fourth pillar would be reduction in pesticide use intensity, which was reduced by 16 percent, compared to 2017. On the third pillar, some of our highlights would be 4 percent reduction in Sodium in some of the Mc Cain branded products. On the fourth pillar, which is thriving communities, we have Project Shakti and Project Utthan. From the food security point if view, I am happy to share we have donated 100,000 meals last year. Whatever we do is purpose driven, for example we have employee volunteering days, where employees are given a voluntary day off for them to contribute back to the society.

To what extent is in house R&D responsible for Mc Cain to make technological advancements and giving back to society?

We have an in house R&D which works continuously to make our products healthier, in terms of reducing sodium reduction or looking at the healthier contents we can use in our products. The idea is to provide healthier products for consumers. We also have a team of agriculturists who work with farmers to train them on good agriculture practices. We also have engineers who work round the clock figuring out how to be more efficient from the energy point of view. There are functional expertise along the business value chain.

Tags assigned to this article:
food industry BW Sustainability ESG initiatives