The Mahindra Group is a well-known Indian conglomerate and its brand name is ubiquitous in the country and abroad. One of its most recognisable companies is Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd (MHRIL), or Mahindra Holidays, which is part of the leisure and hospitality sector of the Group. Launched in 1996, Mahindra Holidays offers family holidays through vacation ownership memberships with access to 100+ resorts in India and abroad. The company’s flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’ has over 250,000 members, making it one of the largest holiday clubs.
Mahindra Holidays’ CSR policy is aligned with the Mahindra Group’s ‘Rise for Good’ philosophy, with a focus on driving positive change to enable communities around it to Rise. The company’s key CSR areas are education, health, skill building and environment, focusing on the well-being of communities around its resorts. Sustainability is another key area, with the company ensuring that its many operating locations implement ecofriendly business practices and activities such as measurement of carbon footprint, conservation of biodiversity, energy conservation, use of renewable sources, water conservation, and waste recycling, as part of its larger initiative of ‘Good Living, Happy Families’.
The CSR initiatives of Mahindra Holidays Company are primarily implemented through multiple agencies such as the KC Mahindra Education Trust (KCMET), which works on girl child education through the Nanhi Kali programme and other reputed NGOs. It also takes up projects through its employee volunteering initiative, Employee Social Options Program, where employees can volunteer for social and environmental causes, in areas close to the company’s resorts and locations.
As per the company’s annual report, the company’s core CSR areas are:
- Environmental sustainability
- Education and skill development
- Protection of national heritage, art and culture
- Rural development
- Disaster relief
Mahindra Holidays undertakes the implementation of various environmental projects with its NGO partners, in areas such as rainwater harvesting, providing clean drinking water, rejuvenating water bodies, and awareness drives. For instance, multiple water-conservation initiatives were rolled out in 2020 in Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala under the Jal Jivan campaign. The initiative focused on implementing water-conservation projects in communities identified as water-stressed. This involved rejuvenation of water bodies, rainwater harvesting, water access, and chlorination and installation of RO water purifiers.
The company also conducts cleanliness drives as part of Swachh Bharat and tree planting under Mahindra Hariyali. In FY 2018, 34,150 trees were planted across 35 resort locations; over 40,000 trees were planted in 30 plus resorts in 2019-20. In total, 384,966 have been planted since the beginning of the project in 2010–11 till FY 2020.
The company supports KCMET and the Naandi Foundation’s flagship programme, Nanhi Kali, which works to promote girl-child education. This well-known programme is focused on education of the girl child from underprivileged backgrounds. Mahindra Holidays has been regular donors to it, allocating nearly 50 per cent of its CSR budget to this project. Nanhi Kali is a nationwide programme that provides academic and material support to young girls from poor and marginalised communities through multiple interventions such as extra study class, financial support, providing essential kits (bags, stationery, books, notebooks, hygiene materials etc.), and awareness sessions. Many of these classes are conducted by ‘community associates’ who are selected from within the community as a local resource to provide mentorship to the children and help forge local engagement to promote quality education. In 2017–18, 4,670 girls were supported by the company under this programme.
The company also provides funding to build and upgrade infrastructure and services at government schools, such as renovating classrooms and buildings and providing books and stationery. Project Gyandeep is another initiative wherein a mobile bus delivers education programmes for children living on construction sites, said to be reaching an average of 50 children every month.
The company collaborated with SEWA Bharat on a three-year partnership and started the SEWA Mahindra National Resource Centre at Mussoorie to enhance employability through skill development and career counselling to women and young people. The centre provides vocational courses in hospitality and housekeeping, beauty and wellness, and garment making. To date, over 1,500 youth have been mobilised and training given to 157 youth in Mussoorie.
The programme for rural development, Gram Vikas, focuses on people living in rural areas, through initiatives for promoting health, providing access to quality sanitation facilities, building infrastructure, and educating people on good hygiene practice. For example, the company collaborated with the Swades Foundation to build household sanitation units for 30 families in Raigad District, Maharashtra.
The company has also taken up constructing new homes for low-income families in Raigad, Maharashtra, and Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Through its partnership with Habitat for Humanity India Trust, it has built new houses as well as repaired and rehabilitated old ones. Under livelihood enhancement, Mahindra Holidays supports rural livelihoods by providing apiculture support to families of Surlabi, Mutlu and Hammiyala villages in Kodagu, Karnataka. In the honeybee farming project, 100 villagers were given pots to initiate beekeeping enterprises to produce wild honey. In 2017–18, the company’s rural development projects were implemented in various locations around the country such as Naldehra in Himachal Pradesh, Binsar in Uttarakhand, and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
The company operates mobile medical units, takes up projects on nutritional support, and improves hospital infrastructure in multiple locations. Much of this is done though implementing partners.
Mahindra Holidays’ ESOP programme spans various initiatives such as Covid-19-related community-relief efforts where its employees distributed dry ration and essential hygiene kits to vulnerable communities, helping over 13,000 individuals as well as supporting frontline health workers and medical staff by providing sanitisers and PPE kits.
As part of Mission S.M.I.L.E.S. (Social Movement to Improve Life Experiences), employees dedicate time and skills towards various initiatives on education, health and environment. For instance, 180 employees and Club Mahindra members devoted a full working day to help improve the infrastructure at Shree Ganesh Vidya Mandir School in Dharavi, Mumbai. Employees participated in activities like wall painting, beautifying the school premises, bench refurbishing, and making creative visual learning charts.
In 2017–18, nearly 5,000 employees volunteered over 17,000 man hours, benefiting over 36,600 people, as per the company’s estimates. According to the company, it engages with all relevant stakeholders for successful implementation of its programmes. Direct involvement at the project location also enables constant assessment and monitoring. Tracking and assessments are done through the in-house team and the implementing agency. The typical duration of CSR projects is less than three years.
Mahindra Holidays’ green initiatives are aligned with its larger mission of ‘Good Living, Happy Families’ and aims to reduce the environment footprint caused by its products, processes and people. On the sustainability front, Mahindra Holidays has committed to becoming carbon-neutral. It is India’s first hospitality company to sign both RE100 (Renewable Energy) and EP100 (Energy Productivity), a global campaign led by The Climate Group. One of its main climate commitments is to run on 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 and to double energy productivity by 2030. The company has also committed to the Science Based Target Initiative, which requires it to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with targets necessary to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 °C.
Mahindra Holidays aims for zero environmental impact in its operations and has set clear targets such as using renewable resources and achieving zero waste for disposal as well as implementing green practices such as measurement of carbon footprint, conservation of biodiversity, energy conservation through steps like solar installation, water conservation, and waste recycling. The company has committed to reducing Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 GHG emissions by 88.3 percent per room night booked by 2031, with 2016 as the base year. It has installed solar panels, heat pumps for hot and cold water, biogas plants and organic waste convertors, and uses electric vehicles to conserve energy, resulting in a reduction of energy consumption by 8–10 per cent compared to the previous year.
The company’s Virajpet resort in Coorg, Karnataka, is India’s first Zero Waste to Landfill resort – the resort recycles and reuses 99.32 per cent of its waste, thus preventing it from going into landfills. The company is targeting 10 more of its resorts to be certified under this initiative. It is also planning to expand the EV100 (Electric Vehicles 100) initiative where only electric vehicles will be used within resort premises.
Club Mahindra members are encouraged to participate in green efforts through initiatives such as tree planting, reducing water consumption by reusing towels or by avoiding changing their bed linen, and so on. Other steps taken are reducing plastic usage by providing drinking water in glass bottles, offering ecofriendly toiletries, and including in-house organic food in the menu.
Sustainability plans are approached in a structured manner with a 15 to 20 years roadmap that is broken down into smaller 4 to 5 years plan. The company reviews and measures its performance and annual reports are issued that adheres to GRI standards.
Mahindra Holidays’ commitments and initiatives on sustainability are laudable. By committing to specific, time-bound environmental targets, it is truly putting its money where its mouth is. Its Zero Waste to Landfill initiative is especially remarkable – projects like this are scalable and replicable across locations and industries. Climate change is here and will impact communities and companies—big and small—around the world. It is imperative that more corporations follow its lead, work towards reducing their carbon footprint, and invest in green practices with measurable goals. As Mahindra Holidays has stated and shown, science-based targets help keep companies on track since they know what needs to be done in the short and medium term to meet the long-term vision.
However, as the company recognises, sustainability targets face plenty of challenges such as capital cost, space for generating solar power, and identifying suppliers that match business needs and sustainable values. This is where collaborations and knowledge sharing across companies and sectors can help mitigate some of these issues. One of the company’s key learnings is to work towards more scientific solutions for efficiency and efficacy.
Some of Mahindra Holidays’ CSR projects tend to be one-off and limited to funding, such as microfinancing support for a sanitary napkin-making enterprise in 2017–18. Part of this is attributable to the fact that the company focuses on communities around its operations and takes up ad hoc projects for their welfare. However, a more medium- to long-term approach may result in better returns on its CSR investments. Additionally, since the beneficiaries live near its operating areas, it is logistically easier for the company to track and assess impact and make quick course corrections when needed. Thus, it makes sense to pursue long-term CSR commitments. Other projects like adopting a music school in Jaisalmer to train children in local folk music and revive local art and culture are noteworthy efforts. The company provides financial aid to the organisation and supports the day-to-day functioning of the school. Such sustained commitments should become the norm. The next step could be sponsoring gifted students to pursue a career in music.
As Priyanka Gidwani, chief human resource officer, MHRIL, says, ‘Our purpose is to be a good corporate citizen and live up to our mission of “Good Living and Happy Families” by keeping CSR and sustainability at the core of our business processes. Through CSR interventions, our vision is to be a responsible business by enriching lives and protecting nature. Our endeavour will be to make the most impact and drive positive change in the communities around the areas we operate in.’
Mahindra Holidays is already setting an example for corporate India on the environment front. It would be equally impressive to see some of that good work and sound strategy being imported to its CSR initiatives.