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Interview with Mr Kailash Jhanwar, Managing Director, UltraTech Cement Limited on the occasion of World Environment Day, 5th June 2020

Our MD, Mr Kailash Jhanwar shares his views on the importance of sustainable business and sustainable living habits, especially in a post COVID-19 world.

According to you, how will sustainability shape the building materials sector and especially UltraTech as a company going forward?

Over the last decade, the word “sustainability” has taken center stage. It has not only become a corporate philosophy of doing business but also its core ‘purpose’. For UltraTech Cement, sustainability is a business approach to create long-term value by taking into consideration how we as an organization operate in the ecological, social, and economic environment. There is a trend of increased expectations and being absolutely transparent from companies that recognizes the need to act on sustainability.

Building material sector is resource intensive, having footprints across the value chain. The performance on climate change and circular economy will define the path of growth for the sector and this remains true for UltraTech as well.

There is a coherent view that COVID-19 has given society and private companies a dress rehearsal of what is lined up in the future if sustainability challenges like climate change are not addressed? How COVID-19 reset can help firms build a sustainable future?

The pandemic has demonstrated that an issue like climate change can have deep impact on lives and economy if unaddressed. COVID-19 pandemic has shown how virtual working and social distancing has become the new normal. Similarly, companies will find out the new normal like making investments in sustainable/clean technologies and products. I firmly believe COVID-19 experience will make companies’ resolve of building a sustainable business even stronger.

Is the COVID-19 crisis making sustainability harder in the short term? Is the situation opening more doors? After COVID-19, what are the five actions UltraTech needs to pursue for a sustainable and resilient recovery?

The five key actions we as a company need to pursue:

  1. Build sustainable cash flow
  2. Adopt innovation and digitization that accelerates response towards climate change, circular economy etc.
  3. Build sustainable value chain: engage with customers and partners
  4. Create safe and healthy workplaces
  5. Build sustainability culture amongst employees

How has been UltraTech’s progress on the sustainability agenda? Can you highlight the significant achievements?

Climate change has been an important issue, and UltraTech Cement has adopted several carbon reduction levers like low clinker cement, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, WHRS, and renewable energy resulting into reduction of our direct COintensity by 18.7% from 2005-06 levels.

I would like to highlight few of our significant achievements:

  1. 2.7 times water positive
  2. 2 times plastic positive
  3.  Ranked amongst top 10 companies in construction material sector on Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI)
  4. Achieved 60% of target on the #EP100 commitment of doubling energy productivity
  5. Product stewardship: GreenPro certification and Life Cycle Assessment for all our products

 

One of your convictions is that sustainability can be driven as a culture in an organization? What are the efforts been undertaken towards sustainability culture building and what more needs to be done? Describe how can the company infuse this way of thinking?

As organizations embark on the path of mainstreaming sustainability, there is a clear recognition that organizational culture plays a fundamental role in the shift towards sustainability. Organizations with strong culture of sustainability strive to support a healthy environment and improve the lives of others while continuing to operate successfully over the long term.

I firmly believe, sustainability should become ingrained in the very culture of UltraTech. With this belief we launched Project ‘Jagruti’ – an ambitious attempt to train the employees of our manufacturing units on the significance and importance of sustainability. The project has successfully completed its first phase, covering over 700 employees from all our 23 integrated units. In the second phase of the project, we will conduct ‘train the trainers’ programme to help cover more and more employees across our units through these internal trainers.

Sustainability is not all about companies taking actions. Individual actions can lead to transformative changes. What message you would like to give to your employees that infuses sustainable thinking and actions in their lives?

Inculcating sustainable living habits both in work and personal lives can contribute in a big way by creating positive impact on society. Small individual actions matter. Sustainable habits will also influence the decision we take in our business. It will make every employee look at every decision through the sustainability lens. The approach of ‘doing more with less’ becomes imperative in the post COVID-19 world. It is important that we adopt this mantra both in your work life and personal life.

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