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Driving Sustainability at Mahindra University and Mahindra Group

Identifying the Core Sustainability Challenge

In the pursuit of sustainability, it is essential to pinpoint the fundamental challenge and its significance. Often, discussions encompass a range of topics without delving into the root problem. “While many perceive rising global temperatures as the main issue, it is crucial to recognize that this is an outcome of the broader predicament – egregious pollution”, says Anirban Ghosh, Head of the Centre for Sustainability of Mahindra University & former Chief Sustainability Officer of Mahindra Group. This pollution leads to temperature increases and ice caps melting, posing a severe threat to our environment.

In parallel, it is vital to address material scarcity concerns stemming from consumption patterns, promote social equity and equality, and shift from shareholder to stakeholder governance. However, excelling in these areas doesn’t guarantee sustainability. Additionally, assessing vulnerability to industry-specific technological shifts and building a green revenue portfolio is vital for effective action in ESG domains. Regardless of personal preferences in approaching sustainability, the ultimate goal is the same: navigating a world filled with multifaceted challenges to achieve a sustainable future.

Pursuing Sustainable Goals and Monitoring Progress

Within their sustainability framework, the organization has outlined a set of ten commitments aimed at addressing critical issues. These commitments are tailored to combat the overarching problem of egregious pollution. To tackle emissions, a key objective is achieving net-zero emissions by the year 2040. Climate change, often manifesting through extreme weather events like heavy rainfall and flooding, is a direct consequence of global warming. Simultaneously, the relentless pollution of water bodies further exacerbates the environmental challenge. Hence, the organization has set a goal to become water-positive, ensuring they harness more water than they consume. Additionally, they have taken a pioneering step in striving for zero waste to landfill, initiating an entire industry in the process.

Despite concerted efforts to reduce emissions, achieving a complete transition to zero emissions remains elusive. In response, the organization has implemented an aggressive tree plantation program for over 15 years, planting over a million trees annually, with plans to escalate this to five million trees yearly in the near future. Nested within these commitments are initiatives like doubling energy productivity and transitioning to 100% renewable energy across the organization. To fund these efforts, they employ an internal carbon price of $10 per ton of carbon emitted, facilitating progress towards enhanced energy efficiency.

Mahindra Group’s Involvement in the First Movers Coalition for Green Steel

The Mahindra Group recently joined the First Movers Coalition (FMC), demonstrating their commitment to the adoption of environmentally friendly steel production methods. This involvement serves as a signal to steel producers, indicating that a shift toward decarbonizing steel is not only encouraged but also supported by willing buyers. It is crucial, however, to ensure that this transition does not result in exorbitant costs, as this could render buyers uncompetitive in the market. Mahindra Group, along with other FMC members, aims to provide a collective signal as the steel industry undergoes its transformation towards green steel production.

Within the FMC, there are eight distinct segments and users within this coalition express their willingness to assist producers in finding feasible solutions for their green steel initiatives. This collaborative effort signifies a strong commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly practices within the steel industry.

Regenerative Agriculture Initiative

Mahindra’s farm business is committed to promoting regenerative agriculture, recognizing that natural farming practices inherently support regeneration. The primary goal of this program is to encourage the transition to regenerative farming methods whenever possible. This approach aims to strike a balance between maintaining productivity without jeopardizing food security and allowing the soil to rejuvenate. It also ensures the preservation of water tables and the possibility of increasing productivity through these sustainable practices. Mahindra’s significant farm machinery business is closely aligned with the success and prosperity of farmers in this regenerative agricultural journey.

The University’s Sustainable Contributions and Guidance

Curriculum Integration: The university prioritizes preparing graduates for sustainability roles. They have incorporated sustainability basics into a foundation course for all students. Sustainability topics are embedded in more than 50% of courses across disciplines, including law, management, and engineering. Students can also delve deeper into sustainability through elective courses, ensuring they receive a well-rounded education.

Stakeholder Collaboration: The university collaborates extensively with stakeholders, including consultants, NGOs, and not-for-profit professionals, to develop market-ready sustainability programs. By curating courses and educational materials in consultation with experts, they aim to equip graduates with practical skills from day one.

Advanced Programs: Plans are underway to introduce a master’s program for those pursuing careers in sustainability. Executive education programs for professionals and board members of companies are also in development to enhance sustainability understanding among key stakeholders.

Campus Sustainability: The university has implemented eco-friendly practices on campus, such as eliminating plastic bottles and promoting the use of reusable water bottles. Despite ongoing construction, efforts are made to preserve biodiversity, and green spaces are thoughtfully integrated.

Student Engagement: In a large-scale sustainability program, 250 students from the School of Management have undertaken diverse projects across the university, demonstrating active student involvement.

In terms of advice for companies and individuals, the university recommends taking the first step toward sustainability. Companies are urged to select a program aligned with their objectives, emphasizing that sustainability initiatives can benefit both the business and the environment. Individuals are encouraged to make eco-conscious choices in their daily lives, such as energy conservation, waste segregation, and reduced plastic use.

Empowering Employees for Sustainable Practices Within the Organization

Individuals are encouraged to make sustainable choices both in their personal lives and within the organization. This autonomy allows them to drive positive changes related to sustainability.

The “Make Sustainability Prosper” initiative assigns team members the role of sustainability advocates. They assist colleagues in acquiring energy-efficient products such as LED lamps, aerators for taps, energy-efficient fans, and air conditioners. This program has engaged around 10,000 people annually within the group, resulting in 30,000 participants purchasing these products for their homes in the first year.

Workers were challenged to reduce their energy consumption at home during a comparable six-month period (November to March). The top ten individuals who achieved the most significant reduction had their electricity bills covered by the company for the next six months. This initiative sparked a chain reaction, motivating many employees to actively conserve energy.

The understanding that resource conservation is crucial, particularly among those who are less affluent, is well-recognized. However, as affluence increases, the quest for convenience often leads to excessive resource consumption. This challenge is not unique to India but extends to many developing nations that are becoming more prosperous. It underscores the importance of finding sustainable paths to prosperity without replicating the resource-intensive patterns of developed countries.

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