In his AGM address Sanjiv Puri, Chairman, ITC Limited shared his Vision on the organisation’s top strategic priorities in preparing for the ‘Next Normal’ and Reimagining the Future for ITC during the unprecedented times, its resolve to support an Atmanirbhar Bharat as well as the Company’s superordinate national purpose to create larger value for the country and its stakeholders. Select excerpt from the speech is below:
The untamed spread of the COVID-19 virus, over the past few months, has caused unimaginable crisis across the globe. Never before, in recent history, have we encountered a challenge of this dimension that has so profoundly impacted almost every human on this planet.
The Government, led by the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, played an admirable role in dealing with the health crisis, extending timely relief to the vulnerable and in announcing the Rs 20 lakh crores special package. The wide ranging reforms, accelerated infrastructural development and policy interventions to shape competitive “Make in India” supply chains, will augur well for the economy and is expected to spur growth over time.
The transformative reforms announced in the agricultural sector have also been pathbreaking. They hold the promise to foster a new era of growth for farmers and rural India, that comprise nearly half of the country’s workforce, besides triggering a virtuous cycle of consumption, investment and employment.
It is today even more imperative that business and industry, as large economic organs of society, act with compassion and embed societal value creation and particularly livelihood generation in their strategies to rebuild the future. At ITC, that is indeed the spirit which has guided our philosophy of Responsible Competitiveness embodied in our credo of Nation First – Sab Saath Badhein.
ITC’s presence across agriculture, manufacturing and services enables it to make a larger contribution to the Nation. ITC is today one of the top 3 Indian corporates in the private sector in terms of Contribution to the Exchequer. I am sure you will also take pride that ITC is the only enterprise in the world of comparable dimensions to be carbon positive, water positive and solid waste recycling positive for more than a decade now.
ITC has been ranked No.1 globally amongst its peers and No.3 overall on ESG performance in the Food Products industry by Sustainalytics, a renowned global ESG rating company. This year, ITC’s Paperboards unit at Kovai became the 1st facility in India and the 2nd in the world to be awarded the Alliance for Water Stewardship Platinum-level certification – the highest recognition for water stewardship in the world. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that ITC today supports over 6 million livelihoods.
ITC’s Response to the Pandemic – Social Initiatives
As the pandemic unfolded, ITC responded with agility, resilience and compassion to adapt to the new normal. A COVID Contingency Fund of Rs 215 crores was set up to address the needs of the distressed. Together with local authorities, a combination of cooked meals, food and hygiene products were also distributed across 25 States and Union Territories. To ensure liquidity in the hands of farmers, ITC’s procurement of agri produce was intensified. ITC has worked with the Government’s MGNREGA programme to create 7.6 lakh person days of work in just 45 days. ITC also extended financial support to its supply chain partners for obtaining a COVID-19 Insurance Cover for their associates, covering hospitalisation and diagnostic expenses.
Even before the outbreak, the world was in the throes of a sustainability crisis with increasing frequency of extreme weather events, climate change induced vulnerabilities, poverty and hunger challenges as well as the crying need to create gainful livelihood for millions of youth. The pandemic aggravated this situation by causing havoc to livelihoods across nations, making it the most critical sustainability issue today.
According to recent studies, the number of people in extreme poverty globally may rise to over 1 billion due to the pandemic, with the lockdown phases impacting almost 2.7 billion workers, or four in five of the world’s workforce. India will mirror this global trend with the crisis severely impacting livelihoods across many sectors.
Compounding this is the threat of climate change, which can no longer be ignored given that it leads the top 5 long-term risks in the Global Risk Report 2020 of the World Economic Forum. As I have often emphasized, it is imperative that businesses, as an integral part of society, embed sustainability in its core strategy and play a transformative role in securing the future of generations to come.
ITC’s vision to serve a larger national purpose has inspired unique business models that build substantial economic, environmental and social capital for the Nation. Over the years, competitive and inclusive value chains have been built which are anchored by ITC’s world-class brands. ITC’s Social Investment initiatives build capacities for tomorrow through extensive vocational training, women empowerment programmes and supplementary education.
In addition, the Company’s extensive interventions in agriculture help in empowering millions of farmers. ITC’s superior environmental benchmarks in all its operations, creation of large forestry and water resources as also a renewable energy portfolio accounting for over 41% of total energy consumption makes ITC an icon of environmental stewardship.
Several innovations, backed by R&D, have led to path breaking initiatives. For example, ITC’s Paperboards as well as Packaging businesses have introduced several innovative sustainable packaging solutions. These include the recyclable barrier board ‘Filo’ series as an innovative substitute for single-use plastics in the food service segment and the biodegradable ‘Omega Series’ as an alternative to plastic coated containers and cups, and so on.
ITC has also pioneered a replicable Multi-layered Plastic waste management model in Pune, providing an end-to-end solution for converting such waste into commercial products based on technical knowhow of the ITC Life Sciences & Technology Centre.
ITC has set ambitious sustainability goals for the future. ITC aspires to meet 50% of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030. ITC intends to sequester over four times the CO2 emissions from its operations as well as create rainwater harvesting potential equivalent to over five times its net water consumption over the next decade. As part of its waste management programme, the Company aims to ensure that 100% of its packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable in the next decade. ITC’s leadership in sustainability reinforces its aspirations to be a future-ready enterprise, responsive to the needs of society.
ITC: In Support of Atmanirbhar Bharat
ITC’s superordinate goal to serve larger national priorities is enshrined in its credo of Nation First – Sab Saath Badhein. The vision to create multiple drivers of future-ready businesses, competitive and inclusive value chains that retain larger value in India, is deeply aligned to the Prime Minister’s clarion call for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
ITC is recognised as a pioneer in enabling agricultural transformation. Following the success of ITC’s ‘Baareh Mahine Hariyali’ programme aligned to the Government’s ‘Doubling Farmers’ Income vision, we are now ready to implement e-Choupal 4.0 at scale and bring the benefits of the digital revolution to empower farmers even more effectively. This digital platform, designed as a crop agnostic integrated solution framework will synergistically aggregate technologies like remote sensing, precision farming, drone-based services, quality assaying, e-marketplace and many others. It is now ITC’s vision to empower 10 million farmers in India multiplying livelihoods that will benefit over 50 million people.
ITC’s large afforestation initiative covering over 8,00,000 acres not only enables competitive fibre sourcing for its Paperboards Business, but has also generated 147 million person days of employment for marginal farmers. ITC has also invested in an indigenous agarbatti bamboo value chain to contribute to import substitution and retain larger value in the country, whilst sourcing bamboo for its agarbatti brand Mangaldeep. It is estimated that domestic cultivation of bamboo for agarbattis, by substituting imports, can generate over 22 million person days of employment per year.
Over 77 public-private-people partnerships have been forged with State Governments and public institutions to bring complementary skills and resources together to benefit rural communities. ITC in collaboration with NITI Aayog has trained 15 lakh farmers in 27 backward districts of 8 states under the Aspirational Districts programme covering 15 crops.
In line with its abiding vision to make a meaningful contribution to inclusive growth, ITC’s portfolio of world-class Indian brands enables retention of larger value within the country, in alignment to the call for ‘Vocal for Local’. Supporting the manufacture of these high quality products, are the ‘Make in India’ investments in state-of-the-art ICMLs, and in India’s largest Paperboards facilities that contribute to the Nation’s modern industrial infrastructure creating livelihoods across the value chain. The Company also promotes local entrepreneurship across states in manufacturing ITC’s diverse products. ITC has also created some of the most iconic properties to enrich India’s tourism landscape.
ITC’s endeavour to create winning Indian trademarks aims to build such intellectual capital and larger value for the country.