Perfetti Van Melle India (PVMI) has adopted schools around its plants in Chennai, Rudrapur and Manesar. Apart from adding basic infrastructure to these schools, we also help recruit teaching staff and developmental amenities to support educational and extra-curricular development of children.
In an interview with Apresh Mishra, Rajesh Ramakrishnan, MD, Perfetti Van Melle India discusses company’s CSR philosophy, agenda and impact. Exerpts:
Please tell us about your CSR activities.
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary of operations in India, we are obliged to the love we have received from our consumers. From the beginning, Perfetti has worked consciously to be a responsible company in our operations with the same emphasis as we give to the quality of our products. But speaking from a CSR perspective, education and water management are our two prime focus areas.
Education is an integral part of our CSR. Perfetti Van Melle India has adopted schools around its plants in Chennai, Rudrapur and Manesar. We work with the local communities to contribute meaningfully towards development of these institutions.
Apart from adding basic infrastructure like blackboards, furniture, lights, fans, and proper toilets to these schools, we also help recruit teaching staff and developmental amenities to support educational and extra-curricular development of children. This school helps the children from local populace in accessing quality education and resources in these largely rural areas.
In fact, we have now expanded the ambit of our work in these schools by working consistently with NGOs to bring focus on English. The objective is to help these children augment their basic knowledge of English language and computer operating skills.
At our school in Rudrapur, we are also in discussion with another school for setting up a full-fledged computer lab for the students. We are also planning to start mentoring, counselling and scholarship programmes for our schools. These initiatives would help children think big in terms of contributing to society by deploying their knowledge and skills. Our scholarship programmes would ensure that meritorious children’s educational pursuits are not impeded for want of money.
A large part of our work in these communities is to ensure that the children are sent to school. Our employees stationed at these local plants are so involved in the school operations that they go on door-to-door awareness drives in the neighbouring villages to raise awareness of benefits of sending children to schools.
Our employees even visit these schools on a regular basis to keep them motivated and encourage them through rewards and gifts.
How many students do you serve at these locations?
We support two schools in Karanaipuducherry Village (primary and High school) in Chennai, where currently we have about 532 students. On account of continued interventions, there have been no drop outs in the past few years.
In Rudrapur, we support a school in Dhimri since 2017. Currently the strength of the school is 110 students, whereas in 2018 it was only 88, thereby demonstrating actual positive results from our awareness drives. We also noticed that in this area, students have transferred themselves from other neighboring schools (private and government). Besides, there have been no drop outs either.
In Manesar, we have recently adopted two schools, one in Tatarpur and the other in Sikanderpur Bada. Tatarpur currently has only 15 kids, being a fairly new facility. This has been taken as a challenge and we target increasing student strength from 15 to at least 50 very soon. Our secondary school in Sikanderpur Bada, Manesar has 242 students.
Earlier these children did not have access to basic infrastructure in these schools. With better infrastructure and educational resources, the number of student registrations has gone up and upon consistent monitoring have seen zero drop outs on a consistent basis since we began our interventions.
Simple measures like clean, safe and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls have contributed to increasing attendance ratios. Focus on nurturing extra-curriculars like dancing, painting, sports and talent competitions have led to a lot of inter-school competitions taking place in these areas giving rise to spirited interactions between children, often giving them avenues to channelize their creativity.
What about interventions in water management?
Access to water, providing clean drinking water and water conservation & management comes under the second pillar of our CSR umbrella after education. Through our efforts, we have endeavoured to provide access to water to a small village, where we service the needs of close to 500 families by providing them clean drinking water.
As far as water conservation/management is concerned—our focus is on reducing water usage in plants, reusing waste water and rainwater harvesting to increase sustainability at our manufacturing units. Some of our interventions in this area are technology-driven while others are behaviourally-driven.
When we talk about water reuse or reduction in water usage, we do implement technology that enables our manufacturing processes to be aligned to this goal. For example, a large percentage of the water, we use in our cooling systems are treated and re-circulated in the cooling cycles. The water is treated for use in the garden or for purposes that do not involve human consumption.
We are conscious of ensuring that all water generated from the plant is effluent and toxin free. We currently recycle/reuse more than 80 percent of wastewater in all our plants with an aim to continue improving in the coming year(s).
In your sustainability report, you have used a term—responsible marketing. Can you explain?
When we talk about responsible marketing, we mean ensuring that we empower our consumers with choices. While health consciousness is an important concern in this day and age, we do not try to portray our products as something they are not.
Our advertising and marketing campaigns always communicate our products as ‘treats’ and not meal replacements. Our products come in small sizes to encourage portion control, and our packaging and advertising communicate that these products are meant to be enjoyed in moderation.
Apart from promoting responsible consumption, we innovate to introduce healthier options as well. For instance, Happydent comes in a sugar-free variant, so does Mentos. Alpenliebe Juzt Jelly has 25% fruit pulp incorporated in the candy composition. We will continue to develop such options for consumers.
Besides, our advertisements never feature children below seven years of age. And when they do, it is always in the context of a family or an environment where they have adult supervision. This helps promote the culture of supervised consumption of our products for smaller children.
Sugar Consumption is bad for Children. Your take?
It is all about the consumer choices. We have both sugar-based products as well as sugar-free products. Consumers choose what they want to eat. But it is imperative that they know how much to eat. As mentioned earlier, our products are not meal replacement but meant to be treats given to children under parental supervision. We do not encourage anything otherwise.
Your interventions on Environment issues
PVMI has been long committed to fulfilling its obligations towards environment protection. Across all our manufacturing units, the company does undertake planting of trees and saplings in public and private areas. This will be pursued with rigor in the coming years.
Secondly, the company has also put focus in creating awareness towards recycling of plastic waste. Through this initiative, we seek to educate and train unemployed masses and create opportunities for them to make a livelihood by utilising pre-consumed/post consumed plastics.
We have partnered with other industry majors, civil society organisations, NGOs and government agencies to monitor, reuse and recycle plastic waste. We also work with the central, state and local governments on policy advocacy to help build a clearer, evolved and actionable waste management programme that can be the industry benchmark.
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