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ITC environment programme aims for global standards

Mohan Padmanabhan

The environment, health and safety programme is on the corporate environment, occupational health and safety in all of ITC's manufacturing units and owned hotel properties.

Kolkata , Aug. 11

THE Rs 12,000-crore ITC Ltd is now evolving new standards in corporate social responsibility, in terms of environment, health and safety (EHS) - going well beyond the statutory compliance levels, to emerge as water and carbon positive.

The company has launched a major EHS exercise to sensitise all its employees, including the rank and file, to understand the requirements of the voluntary "Global Reporting Initiatives" (GRI) in keeping with the goal of "enhancing the quality, rigour and utility of sustainability reporting.

The EHS programme is on the corporate environment, occupational health and safety in all of ITC's manufacturing units and owned hotel properties.

Talking to Business Line here recently on the new "Triple bottomline" concept adopted by the company, Mr Subhash Rustagi, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) of the company, said the GRI guidelines are for voluntary use by global companies for reporting on the economic, environmental and social dimensions of their activities, products and services.

Such reporting is vital for Indian companies, which hope to spread their wings abroad, or even for enhancing exports on a sustained basis, he added.

He said ITC is now making efforts to go beyond the compliance levels mandated by the various statutes governing environment and corporate safety, and has already emerged as water positive.

The company has now commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct the periodic social audit in the required GRI format.

The company has cigarette factories at four locations of Kolkata, Saharanpur, Munger and Bangalore, besides hotels and major paper and paperboard manufacturing and printing/packaging facilities spread across Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal.

Explaining the ideals behind the new EHS policy, which supports the triple bottomline concept, Mr Rustagi said the company's 2003 and 2004 directors' reports now start with social and EHS performance, and the reports in GRI format are verified by PwC.

The EHS training, he informed, in terms of person-days, has been extended to some 10,586 employees during 2003-04 from 9,964 in 2000-01. ITC has a total employee strength of 15,000.

On the Green House Gases (GHG) balance in ITC during 2003-04, Mr Rustagi said ITC would be a GHG positive company in the near future with one lakh hectares of plantations.

Experts in corporate affairs now opine that support for creating a new generally accepted disclosure framework for "Sustainability Reporting" continues to grow among business, civil society, governments and labour stakeholders.

It is pointed out that GRI now enjoys the active support and engagement of representatives from business, non-profit advocacy groups, accounting bodies, investor organizations, trade unions and many more.

Mr Rustagi said ITC on average now spends around Rs 2 crore annually on EHS capital projects.

On the energy consumption in ITC businesses, Mr Rustagi said only 3.4 per cent comes from the grid, while the rest was from its own generation. Going by Bhadrachalam Paperboard's total energy bill of nearly Rs 25 crore, the savings since 98-99, according to him, have been to the extent of 27.47 per cent, resulting in annual savings of more than Rs 6 crore.

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