I strongly believe that meaningful change can only happen when three things come together

1.    We engage with others and learn from them, recognising that there is so much out there to learn from.

2.    We make habits of small lifestyle changes, instead of restricting ourselves to symbolic, one-off activities.

3.    We are encouraged by others, and our organisations, and we in turn encourage others.

The Ideas Series

…The lockdown period and the many don’ts that we continued to follow subsequently have been an eye-opener, telling us that less is sufficient and that we had merely got used to excess in most things. Imagine, we had even got used to air pollution! Faced with a stay-home-or-risk-your-life situation, many of us fell back on what we had all but forgotten – our creativity and our instinct to find joys in the little things. Sure, there was restlessness, worry and fear, but these happened alongside a different sort of unravelling of our minds which made us see things we had forgotten to notice. Rainbows for example, or rivers and blue skies. The music that happens in nature when the sound of traffic dies out. There were reports of sightings of animals in our otherwise urban jungles.

Maybe these were signs that it wasn’t too late yet. Too late for what, some may be wondering. Well, too late to turn back the clock on an environmental disaster that has been in the making through the decades of decadence and will someday choke us human beings out of existence. Sure, it’s not going to be you and me or even our children, but what about their children and their children’s children? Does the possibility of their existence in a cold world not disturb us, or does it sound dystopian, the stuff of science fiction… Read the full introduction to the series here.

In an effort to understand what leaders at various organisations are doing towards making a sustainable world a reality, CauseBecause reached out to them and asked what they can do to make sustainable living a way of life and how do they see their role as individuals as well as leaders in organisations. The  participants include:

Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra
Gayatri Divecha, Godrej
Rajiv Williams, Jindal Stainless
Ramji Raghavan, Agastya International
Rashmi Soni, Vistara
Shalini Singh, Tata Power
Vijay Sethi, Hero MotoCorp
Vikram Gulati, Toyota Kirloskar Motor

At Godrej, we have an annual day of volunteering which gives us the chance to put all these three into action. Every year, thousands of Godrejites from across the world engage in volunteering activities instead of carrying on with their usual workdays. While this day is celebrated as an event, there are activities that run up to it, and afterwards many of our colleagues sign up for ongoing volunteering initiatives. Last year, the theme was plastic waste management and we held cleanliness drives across all our locations globally. In the run up to this, we encouraged employees to measure their plastic footprint, take pledges to eliminate one or two single-use plastic items from their homes, and reduce their dependence on plastic packaging.

I made a habit of storing my food and vegetables in paper bags or steel containers. Because I was shocked at my own plastic footprint score, I felt like I had to take action, and since others were also making pledges, it was easy to identify other ways in which I could reduce my own use of plastic. Since then the habit has stuck on, and I have greatly minimised my plastic packaging even beyond storage of food.

What will become less going forward? 

Working from home and flexi-working are going to continue for a while. We have learnt that for many roles the work can be done anywhere. We also place a high priority on mental wellness of our employees. We have put in place 1:1 free counselling for all our team members to help them tide over their mental fatigue and anxiety.

Moving forward, I think flexi-work will remain and we will see less meetings and travel, but the challenge will be to recreate meaningful and spontaneous cross-team interaction that otherwise happened organically in the office.

Regarding sustainability-focused decisions for the company, we have started numerous initiatives for sourcing materials locally to help us reduce carbon emissions and our overall carbon footprint. Our FMCG business sources 80% of materials from local suppliers.

We have also set ambitious packaging targets that follow the circular-economy approach whereby we can reuse the waste from our packaging back into our production. Recently we have replaced virgin plastic packaging with recycled plastic for one of our household insecticide products. Going forward, we will be using more recycled plastic packaging without compromising on the quality or product experience.

We consider consumers to be our CSR stakeholders. We recently completed a sustainability materiality study for one of our major businesses and our consumers were a vital part of it. They provided us with useful insights into our work on ground and offered us authentic feedback on our initiatives.

Gayatri Divecha, Godrej Group

Gayatri Divecha is Head – CSR, Godrej Industries and associate companies

All our consumer communications cover the People, Planet and Product aspects. We have aimed to build a third of our product portfolio to be good and green, ‘good’ being products that cater to people at the bottom of the pyramid and ‘green’ being products that are environmentally sustainable.

For Godrej Properties, our marketing material conveys how homes are built around environmental sustainability and how consumers will be using resources more efficiently in their new homes.

All our social media channels connect directly with our end consumers and have a key focus on highlighting the sustainability aspect of our products – one that resonates and connects with them.