t was 12:40 p.m. on the clock on the 10th of November, 2005 in Hall no. 5 of Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. After the initial speeches Mr. Vijay Crishna, Master of Ceremony, announced the winner of the BNHS Green Governance Award:2005 for the Category–Conservation & Restoration of Habitat. Mr. Jamshyd Godrej received the award on behalf of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., from the hands of the honorable Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh.
It was indeed a proud moment for every Godrejite as this Award is not restricted only to the mangrove project but it also recognized the efforts shown by the entire team in keeping our environment safe. It was a salute by a 122 year old research oriented institute to a 108 year old (or rather young) commercial organisation. Moreover, it was a recognition of scientific efforts in striking a balance between an industry and nature and demonstration of cleaner and safer practices. I am sure every member of the “Godrej Parivaar?is as happy as the Godrej Family is, on receiving of this award.
For the Bombay Natural History Society, Green Governance Programme is a small step of advocacy with corporates, financial institutes and government agencies towards biodiversity conservation. This programme started in the year 2003 and there were series of workshops and programmes conducted to bring all the stakeholders on a common platform to share their vision and efforts regarding the environmental safety in general and biodiversity in particular.
The ICICI Bank sponsored the Green Governance Programme and the Awards. For the banking sector, environmental risk is now identified as a major risk factor for financing projects. Even in India, many projects are either being stalled or scrapped due to environmental reasons or opposition on environmental grounds. Large dam projects, mining projects, infrastructure projects, ports, etc., are common examples. A delay in such projects escalates the cost of the projects bringing down the profitability. The banks identified that lack of knowledge has been the key issue in such matters and many a times the promoters try to cover up their shortcomings rather than finding acceptable solutions. Therefore, to create a common platform for the industries, developers and the government to discuss environmental issues in an open atmosphere and find logical, acceptable and practical solutions, ICICI Bank took an initiative called the Green Governance Programme. The bank is looking forward to this programme and the awards as an inspiration to all the commercial and infrastructure sectors in the country.
The awards itself was a long process. We received a letter from BNHS on 27th June 2005 to participate in the Awards. As a Vice President of Bombay Natural History Society, Pherozaben was quite keen that we participate in the awards process. When I discussed the matter with Mr. J.N. Godrej, he rightly pointed out that he does not want to project only the mangrove project but would like to cover all the efforts we are taking in striking a balance between the industry and nature. That gave us a major boost and the initial questionnaire was prepared and submitted to the BNHS. Among the several applications, the judges short listed some of the industries for on site evaluation. Dr. Rachel Reuben, Hon. Secretary of BNHS came for the first round of evaluation and she visited all the facilities and evaluated all our environmental processes. She also interviwed Mr. Rumi Engineer from E&E Services, Ms. Tejashree Joshi from Envirotech Group (Construction) and Mr. P. L. Panchal, M.R. of out Township Environment Management System.
After the first round of scrutiny, 6 companies were invited for the final presentation. Before the final presentation, Dr. Shyam Asolekar, a professor from IIT Powai came for the second round of scrutiny to check with compliance with the existing legislation and critically examine the institutionalisation of efforts across the organisation. Prof. Asolekar was keen to know how efficiently the environmental processes are followed, how quickly and frequently the reporting takes place and whether there is sufficient empowerment and ability in taking the decisions in case of hazardous or potential hazardous situations.
I presented the final presentation paper on 4th October at BNHS office along with the 5 other finalists. After a careful scrutiny, BNHS announced the three winners of the awards for the following categories:
At this juncture, I take the opportunity to thank Dr. K.A. Palia, Mr. Maneck Engineer, Mr. Anup Mathew, Mr. Rumi Engineer (E&E), Mrs. Binaifer Chhoga (Principal, UPS), Ms. Tejashree Joshi & Mr. Parvez Billimoria (Envirotech), Mr. P. L. Panchal (Township EMS), Mrs. Joan D’Souza, Mr. R. Majoo (Godrej Bhavan), Falguni, Perveen and Dahlia (CMD’s Office) and my colleagues from the Garden Department ( Amar Deshpande, Aarti Kishore and Neelkanth Ambaye) for their major contribution in realizing this prestigious award. I would also like to express my gratitude to Mr. J.N. Godrej, Mrs. P.J. Godrej (who kept herself away from any discussions or processes of the BNHS committee for an unbiased judgement), Mrs. Smita Crishna and Mr. Rishad Naorojii for their support and guidance in establishing green governance in the company.
As the CMD of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Ltd., how do you foresee the role of the Company’s Environment Cell in promoting mangrove conservation, not only amongst the Godrej industries, but also at a national level?
Mangrove conservation has been the key focus of the Environment Cell. The Environment Cell has a broad mandate to mentor and monitor all our activities so as to ensure high standards. Our residential township and community around is also a focus of our Environment Cell.
I believe that environment, safety and health are important components of any well-run business and I would like every member of the Godrej ‘parivar? and the extended family, to inculcate these values.
As far as mangrove conservation is concerned, we can only be a model for others to emulate.
For the past many decades, we have been focusing on environmental education and, over the years, we have successfully oriented thousands of school, college and graduate students, across the country, through our Mangrove Awareness Programs.
We offer researchers and naturalists every facility to conduct studies on this most important, but long neglected eco-system.
What are the institutional mechanisms that you are trying to put in place for coherent reporting and experience sharing system for the environmental issues addressed by your Group of Companies?
All our business heads are more than adequately equipped and empowered to make decisions in business as well as on safety, health and environment. I firmly believe in delegation and empowerment.
We have formed specialist groups, for example the Envirotech Group ?for pollution-reduction and related matters; the Encon Group ?for energy conservation and our Garden Deparment, which looks after the natural environment of numerous areas in Mumbai and in other cities where we have establishments. All these groups report to their divisional heads who have direct access to me.
Most of our businesses have the ISO 14000 certification, along with strong Environment Management Systems. According to the System’s requirement, most environmental matters are resolved at the business level.
These important issues are addressed at weekly meetings of business heads and matters of urgency are immediately discussed with me.
Are there any specific areas related to biodiversity identified by the Godrej & Boyce Group, where you would want to do focused research and conservation action?
As far as biodiversity is concerned, the Mangrove Ecosystem has already been identified as our focus.
Simultaneously, we are engaged in the propagation of various species of orchids, medicinal plants and rare endemic species, amongst others.
Do you feel that the protection of mangroves has added value to the brand image of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. and, if so, how?
For the Godrej family Nature has always formed an important part of our upbringing and our garden township at Vikhroli bears witness to this. My father, Naoroji P. Godrej and Uncle, Sohrab P. Godrej took enormous pride in developing and nurturing greenery within both, the industrial and residential complexes. Our mangrove areas have been nurtured, protected and allowed to grow naturally in a protected environment.
All this started much, much before “environment?became the buzzword that it is today. In a way, if today we have a green image, the credit goes to our founders ?they sowed the seeds, the fruit of which we are reaping today.
Until 1995 we had not publicized our efforts. We were doing things for the joy it gave us. It was in 1996 that we adopted the System’s approach and then the entire business was involved in changing processes and setting procedures to give due consideration to the mangroves. As a matter of fact, some of the businesses found that the conservation of mangroves actually helped them in strengthening business relationships with clients, government and customers.
Are there any plans to integrate mangrove conservation as a part of non-formal education among school students?
In our Godrej Udayachal Schools we have been doing this for many years. Right from the preprimary level our children are exposed to the mangrove area, where they are introduced to plant and animal life, flora and fauna. Many of them are likely to become naturalists of a high order. Our High School students have a special mangrove club and the Soonabai Pirojsha Ecological Mangrove Project runs a programme in Mumbai city for school and college students. Every year thousands of students visit the mangrove area. They are guided on specially organised tours, which are interesting and educative.
Does mangrove conservation form a part of the CSR policy?
Very much so. The Corporate Environment Policy has identified biodiversity enhancement as a focal point.
The preservation of open spaces and specially green open spaces such as mangroves has been a priority for us. Our entire campus, known as Pirojshanagar, is an industrial garden township. We strongly believe that this green environment enhances productivity and quality. It has been greatly appreciated by all our employees and visitors. Corporate Social Responsibility in Godrej covers many aspects and areas, the greenery and mangroves are just one of them.
What does the BNHS Green Governance Award mean to you and your Company?
The BNHS has done well in instituting an Award of this nature. Coming from a premiere scientific organization that the Society is, any corporate would be elated to receive such a recognition. The award places a much greater sense of responsibility on us. As a role model, for Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, people will expect much more from industry. Like everything else, corporates too need to be alert and upgrade themselves constantly. While ‘Godrej?has faced the challenge, we are also keen, proactively, to help others in the greening of the environment by sharing our experiences.
Interview by Mr. Deepak Apte,