The first day of the conference began with Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla's message, which was read out by Shrijeet Mishra, Chief Innovation Officer and Head Group Services, ABG. The Chairman lauded the Group's efforts in its sustainability journey so far and chalked out what was required going ahead, "The global landscape is undergoing a phenomenal change with tremendous implications for business. These range from the depletion of natural resources from sinking water tables, rising sea levels, land deterioration and increasing global temperature. Our businesses will need to build in all these risks and strategise for future proofing. At the same time take their environmental conservation processes to best-in-class global status."
In his address, Mr Mishra explained how innovation at ABG and sustainability are closely linked and how the Group could play a larger role. "There is an opportunity to play a much larger role. ABG could be the one-stop innovation hub for start-ups, academia and government."
Mr Mishra also launched the ABG Sustainable Business app – a one-stop portal for all information and documents about the Group's sustainability efforts. The mobile application also features discussion forums and helps users get their queries answered.
Tony Henshaw, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABG, then took the stage to share the group's progress, "ABG's Sustainable Business Framework has been certified to 14 different international standards by Lloyd's Register, including the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI)." He explained how the various units had contributed to implementing the Sustainable Business Framework (SBF) to meet the requirements of international standards. Three units were also felicitated for their contribution: Epoxy Division – Aditya Birla Chemicals Thailand Limited (for completing the maximum number of self assessment questionnaires), Indo Gulf Fertilizers (for demonstrating good level of conformance to the SBF), and Aditya Cement Works (for leading occupational management practice).
Mr Henshaw then launched ABG's first Sustainable Business Report, which includes write-ups from the Group's Chief Economist Dr Ajit Ranade; Ashish Dikshit, Business Head and Managing Director, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited; and Phil Tesler, Co-founder and CEO of Enablon North America. "The report focuses on how we can transform the Group to be ready for 2030," said Mr Henshaw. Next was the keynote address by D. Shivakumar, Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development, Aditya Birla Group. He explained how sustainability impacts businesses' profit and market cap, "Between 2006 and 2010, sustainability focused companies have had higher ROA, PBT, better cash flows, better employee morale and delivered $650 million more in market cap." He ended his talk with what ABG needs to do to cope with the 2 degree change: responsible stewardship of its products and operations, strategic stakeholder management, and future proof the Group's business model and strategy.
The CEO panel discussion was on 'Success in a 2 degree world' by Satish Pai, Managing Director, Hindalco Industries; Kalyan Ram Madabhushi, CEO, Global Chemicals, ABG; Rajat Gupta, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company; and Dr Vinod Nowal, Deputy Managing Director, JSW Steel Limited. The discussion was moderated by Sir Jonathon Porritt, Co-founder, Forum for the Future. Sir Porritt set the tone for the discussion with his view on why climate change was such a pressing issue. "Climate change is not an environmental issue. It is an economic and governance issue. It is an existential challenge that has never been seen before," he said. Mr Pai pointed out that, "Industry has to take the consequences of cleaning up the past and not invest in new projects until environmental issues have been solved. We are following this at our plant in Dahej." Mr Madabhushi stressed on the importance of planning ahead, "We need to plan future investments and future proof current investments. Whoever does this will be the best player in the industry."
After the lunch break, Anna Warrington, Director, India at Forum for the Future, and her associates took the audience through what the 2 degree future would look like in 2040. "We can avoid climate change from getting worse. We have the tools but it will require bold action. The future offers many opportunities for innovation," she said. The first day of the conference ended with a panel discussion on 'The great energy transition and no place for oil products.' The participants included A K Saxena, Director, Electricity and Fuels Division, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI); Dr Suneel Pandey, Director, Environment and Waste Management, TERI; Anil Matthew, Vice President Corporate Finance, Hindalco Industries; and Thomas Spencer, Co-coordinator, Energy Transitions Commission India.
The second day began a little early with full house attendance.
It began with a panel discussion on the government levers driving the transition. Vivek Adhia, Head, Business Engagement, World Resources Institute (WRI) India; Damandeep Singh, Director, CDP, India; Rajesh Kumar Miglani, Senior Climate Business Specialist, International Finance Corporation (IFC); Saunak Saha, Associate Partner, Ernst & Young; and Vishal Bhavsar, Head, Corporate Sustainability, UltraTech Cement; participated in the discussion. Mr Bhavsar pointed out that despite cement being a hard-to-abate sector, UltraTech is committed to reduce carbon intensity by 25% by 2021 as compared to 2005 emission rates.
Next was a discussion on 'The Water Energy Land Use Nexus' by Professor Chad Staddon, Director, International Water Security Network; Samrat Basak, Director, WRI India's Urban Water Programme; Bibhu Mishra, President and Head of Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (MCOE), Hindalco Industries. The discussion was moderated by Sir Porritt. "Land-energy-water nexus bottlenecks could lead to a drop in India's GDP by 2060," said Professor Staddon. He also highlighted an advantage that ABG has, "As a global conglomerate, ABG has a huge footprint to the opportunity to interact with and educate regulators across the globe."
Business opportunities and the response was the topic of the next conversation between ER Rajnarayanan, Group Executive President and SBU Head, Grasim Industries Limited's Chemical Business; Dr Martijn Gipmans, Director, Chemical and Life Science Sector, Thinkstep AG; Ravi Khanna, CEO and Business Head, Aditya Birla Solar Power Business; and Manohar Samuel, Senior President, Marketing and Business Development, Grasim Pulp and Fibre Business. Mr Khanna listed the key growth drivers for solar power in India, but emphasised that a planned approach to land was a must for its success.
The last discussion was on supply chain risk management. Dr Leonardo Bonanni, Founder and CEO, Sourcemap; Charmi Doshi, Finance Leadership Associate, Aditya Birla Group Leadership Programmes; Manish Agarwal, Head, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Category, Aditya Birla Retail Limited; and Joslyn Chittilappally, Sustainability Manager, Aditya Birla Capital; spoke at length about strategies to make supply chain management sustainable. An interesting insight on how Dow Chemicals is taking steps to making the supply chain sustainable and details of their sustainability goals was provided by Alok Gautam, Country Logistics Leader for the Indian Sub-continent.
The Aditya Birla Group Sustainable Business Conference drew to an end with Mr Henshaw summarising the highlights and key takeaways of the two-day event.