for profits, for purpose, for people

March 25, 2016 0 comments

How would you interpret the relevance of sustainability as a growing imperative for businesses?

We believe we belong to an interdependent ecosystem comprising shareholders, consumers, associates, employees, environment, and society. Sustainable profitable growth goes hand in hand with the sustainable progress of the entire ecosystem. The pursuit of profits is not at odds with the pursuit of purpose as it helps realize the true potential of all participants of the ecosystem. Marico endeavors to be a purpose-focused organization, which achieves sustainable profitable growth by making a difference to the other members of its environment by enabling them to realize their

605-1true potential.

We, at Marico, are at a point of inflection today, poised to enter the next orbit of growth. Seizing this opportunity also requires us to renew our commitment towards all our stakeholders who have been an integral part of Marico’s journey so far and will continue to be our reason for success. A win-win partnership with all stakeholders is the biggest catalyst for long-term sustainable growth. It can even become a competitive advantage as it seeks to promote the interests of all key stakeholders.

Sustainability is often confused with CSR. Your views.

Sustainability, to me, is a way of life or a way of doing business that impacts each stakeholder in the ecosystem including the environment. In CSR, there is an objective of giving back, of sharing wealth for the larger good of the society. In sustainability, there is an element of improving the lives of all stakeholders within the context of the business and its own pursuit of profitable growth. To that extent, their domains are different. However, since both aim for a more holistic development of the society that we live in, they are not at crossroads.

Businesses seeking to embrace sustainability are rethinking and innovating their operations, products, and business models. Given this, how does sustainability goals in drive innovation?

Doing more with less or making an impact with something unique is at the center of both the concepts of sustainability and innovation. As the core theme is ‘and’ and not ‘or’, the theme of sustainability has an immense potential for driving innovation. For example, environmental sustainability will drive innovative natural resource consumption or packaging solutions.

How difficult is it to align the ‘long-term focus’ of sustainability goals with business growth?

I strongly believe that economic, environmental, and social values are interlinked. A firm creates economic value by creating social value—by playing a role in making a difference to the lives of people. Furthermore, as I said earlier, a company cannot do this in isolation; it needs the support and participation of other constituents of the ecosystem. Sustainability comes from win-win partnerships in the ecosystem. As they say, the business of business is more than just business. Our long-term focus is at the

center of both business growth and sustainability initiatives. Both need investments and therefore the businesses need to take a long-term view while investing in sustainability projects.

We seek new and compelling value propositions to each stakeholder and bring them together in unique ways that unlock value for the whole as well as its parts. This has fuelled our journey of growth and evolution since its inception. Any business which neglects a stakeholder or concentrates more on a particular stakeholder runs the risk of an imbalance that would eventually lead to a backlash. We have been able to achieve this balance that drives business profits in a responsible fashion by aligning the organization’s goals with those of all the stakeholders. And that is in the long-term interest of all.

 

 

Does pursuing sustainability offer businesses a competitive edge?

90% of the brands in Marico’s portfolio occupy leadership positions and enjoy a strong competitive advantage. The barriers to entry for competition are tough too—a large part of our portfolio consists of products which operate in categories with a strong habit and loyalty. Over the past two decades, we have demonstrated strong immunity to MNC competition as well as to business cycles, making it a durable value creator.

Pursuing sustainability goals certainly provide an extra sheen to the core assets of a company—its corporate brand and its product brands. There is a conscious effort to work on sustainability aspects throughout the product life cycle—procurement, manufacturing, supply chain, sales and usage. They improve its relative attractiveness for customers, employees, associates etc.

 

How can sustainability goals boost the triple bottom line?

Marico is strongly driven by its stated purpose—‘make a difference’ which defines its reason to exist. We have always believed that we exist to benefit the entire ecosystem of which we are integral part. We believe we have the responsibility of creating and distributing value to all our stakeholders—be it our consumers, shareholders, associates, employees or community at large. There are numerous initiatives within Marico which lives this purpose and touches all stakeholders in positive and productive ways.

Triple bottom line goals pertain to economic, societal, and environmental progress. These are at the core of the concept of sustainability. Any growth which promotes one pillar at the cost of the other will weaken the tailwinds of long-term growth. In Marico, I can quote various examples:

 While ensuring supply assurance for us, we have created an ecosystem which benefits the coconut and edible oil growers in the country.

       The initiative of using solid fuel for energy requirement is environmentally friendly and simultaneously has also proven economically viable.

 

As told to Anitha Moosath

 

 

BOX1

brands with a cause

Most of Marico’s brands are not just market leaders but thought leaders as well and they have purpose embedded in their equity. For instance Saffolalife, has been playing a pioneering role in leading the cause of generating heart health awareness and motivation for lifestyle changes. This is among the most critical health concerns in India. Saffola’s mission is to reduce the statistic of heart ailments in the country. Over the years, it has reached out to millions across the country via large scale mass media awareness programs, helped over 100,000 people over 90 cities with diagnostic checkups, dietician services, and the ‘Heart Age Finder’ tool in India.

Nihar Shanti Amla has established education as a purpose of the brand and contributes 5% of its sales towards children’s education. Its initiatives have been able to make a difference to the lives of over 1,13,294 children across
15 states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and others, touching around 25 to 30 villages within these geographies.

 

BOX2

being more

At Marico, our associates are an extension of our self.

India is the third largest producer of copra in the world
with more than 7.5 lakh farmers engaged in coconut farming. Copra Collection centres was initiated by Marico in 2003 to procure copra directly from Farmers and Converters in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. These centres not only provide supply assurance to the Company but also a number of benefits to the farmers such as: fair pricing and buying assurance irrespective of market conditions.

In order to develop long term sustainable farming source, we endeavor to train farmers on best farming practices. We organize training programs with industry experts, educating farmers on quality standards, inspection methods, storage of copra and latest developments in farming/conversion process, and enabling them to get a good price for their produce. We have trained approximately 1200 farmers towards model farm practices; it also helps them adopt best practices as well as help avail themselves of benefits under central government assistance towards yield improvement such as free fertilizers and intercrops. Marico has entered into a PPP arrangement with Government of Maharashtra wherein the Company has covered1,250 acres of safflower area and 575 small and marginal farmers. In this arrangement, farmers are given all inputs—ie, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides free of cost and also given buying assurance for their produce.

At Marico, our long-term philosophy of transforming the lives of all stakeholders by helping them maximize their true potential guides us to be more, everyday.

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