Sustainable Business Conference 2017

Sustainability: Taking the lead forward

The third-edition of Aditya Birla Group Sustainable Business Conference celebrated the success in building sustainable businesses while riveting the focus on urgent need to imagine the future to de-risk the Group’s businesses.

How can businesses succeed in an uncertain and risky operating environment of the future? How can businesses successfully meet the challenges of climate change, increasing urbanisation, etc. and continue to grow?

This was the context for the 3rd Aditya Birla Group (ABG) Sustainable Business Conference which began on September 19. 'Megatrends 2025' was the theme for the conference.

While considerable ground has been covered since the Aditya Birla Group Sustainable Business Framework was launched in 2012, "it was imperative for ABG to factor in the challenges of the future and find solutions," Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said in his message.

"Sustainable business in every sense of the term – encompassing environmental propriety, responsible growth in revenues and earnings, safety and societal sensitivity – is and must always be on our radar," he added.

The Chairman also listed the exemplary achievements of ABG companies on the sustainability front. Tony Henshaw, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABG, read out the Chairman's message.

The Group was adjudged the Most Sustainable Business by Enablon for its sustained and consistent progress in driving the sustainability agenda forward. ABG was chosen from 1,000 of Enablon's clients. The award was received by Dr Santrupt Mishra on behalf of ABG. Enablon's Relationship Manager Ian Murdoch logged in via Skype to give away the award.

Indian Rayon - Veraval was lauded for being the first site for meeting international standard for waste management. HS Dagur, Unit Head, received the certificate.

In his address, Mr. Henshaw said, "By following the sustainable business model focusing first on demonstrating positive legal compliance, then implementing business management systems that meet international standards and the ABG Framework, the Group had noticeably increased its level of performance."

Mr. Henshaw published the Group League Tables – collated through the Self-Assessment Questionnaires which cover topics in the Sustainable Business Framework – for benchmarking purposes.

The Group had also made considerable progress in meeting the needs of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's WASH pledge. The Group's score had risen to 90 percent from 70 percent when the pledge was signed.

Srikanth, Head Operations, Koira Iron Ore Mines, Chetan Jadhav and Vijay Laxmi Korwan, Facility Managers, One India Bulls Centre, Aditya Birla Capital Ltd, and Rakesh Paliwal, EMIL, were given a special mention for achieving 100 percent compliance with WASH pledge.

Dr Santrupt Mishra, in his address said, the world is facing several problems and increasing awareness about sustainable practices was the only way to solve many of them – be it ways to enhance productivity, listening to alternate opinions or altering the pattern of development.

The CEO panel discussion, a regular feature of the annual conference, on megatrends that would shape businesses was next. Moderated by Joe Phelan, Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, India; the panel included Banmali Agarwala, President and CEO, GE South Asia; Tuhin K Mukherjee, Business Head, Mining and International Trading, Sector Head – Mineral Resources Development and MD, Essel Mining & Industries Ltd; and A. Dhananjaya, Chief Compliance and Risk Officer, Aditya Birla Capital Ltd.

An interactive debate on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which could impact businesses followed. The participants were enlightened about the 17 SDGs and the importance of tackling them.

Leonardo Bonanni, Founder and CEO, Sourcemap, enlightened the audience about the benefits of transparency in supply chain management. Bonanni cited instances of companies across the globe which had de-risked and optimised their supply chains.

An interesting discourse by Dr Ajit Ranade, Chief Economist, ABG; on megatrends shaping the global economy and climate brought the first day of the conference to an end.

The Day 2 of the 3rd Aditya Birla Group Sustainable Business Conference began with a panel discussion on 'Accelerated digitisation and its impact on business'.

The panel comprised Atul Jayawant, Group Executive President Group IT and Group Chief Information Officer, ABG; Sriram Raghavan, Director, IBM Research in India & CTO, IBM India/South Asia (centre); and Anant Bhagwati, Partner, Bain & Company, Inc.

The discussion helped in enlightening the audience about the potential of emerging technologies in deriving significant efficiencies in supply chain and manufacturing. The panel deliberated various topics such as leveraging big data, blockchain and bitcoin.

An interconnected and integrated world has not only increased opportunities but also increased risks for businesses. The dynamic business environment has heightened the need for effective enterprise risk management (ERM) strategies – the highlight of the next panel discussion. Moderated by Birendra Verma, Head, Group Safety, ABG, it included Nils Steinbrecher, Strategic Account Director - Asia, Dupont; and Arvind Govindarajan, Partner, McKinsey, Boston.

A discussion on 'Radical Decarbonisation: Transitioning energy sources' comprising Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy & Research Institute; Karthik Ganeshan, Council on Energy, Environment and Water; JC Laddha, CEO, Copper Business, Hindalco; and Surya Valluri, Joint President, UltraTech. The discussion was moderated by Deeksha Vats, Joint President, Sustainability, ABG.

Setting the context for the discussion, Dr Mathur offered a peek into the urgent need to decarbonise and the kinds of intervention required to meet the challenges. Mr. Ganesan, in his address, highlighted the need for states to reduce emissions. While India had committed to reduce its emissions, the states had witnessed unmitigated growth, he said citing the example of Gujarat which had considerably high industrial emissions.

Mr. Laddha and Mr. Valluri shared the constraints and challenges faced by their respective businesses. Due to adverse weather conditions in Mumbai, both Dr Mathur and Mr. Ganesan joined the conference through Skype.

The last session of the day saw a roundup of the highlights and key takeaways of the two-day conference. The discussion was moderated by Anna Warrington, Director, Forum for the Future, India. Tony Henshaw, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABG; Karthik Krishnamurthy, Textiles Business, ABG; and Leonardo Bonanni, CEO and Founder, Sourcemap; participated.

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