Setting a new mark in ‘green' corporate governance

Preeti Mehra New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

When companies upscale their green quotient and corporate governance goes paper-free, it's time to sit up and take notice.

Going green has been part of corporate-speak for several years, but never before has it occupied as much mind-space of shareholders at AGMs. But, then, nor has the Ministry of Corporate Affairs introduced a ‘Green Initiative in Corporate Governance' before, allowing companies paperless compliance through electronic mode.

‘Environment all the way'

“It was about environment all the way,” said a shareholder who recently listened to the ITC Chairman, Mr Y.C. Deveshwar, at the 100th Annual General Meeting. It was the same a day earlier when Chairman Mr Harish Manwani spoke at the Hindustan Unilever Ltd AGM. While ITC's highest earner — tobacco or cigarettes — did not get a single mention, Mr Deveshwar's impassioned plea for sustainability in business towards a green GDP received a good response. The Chairman waxed eloquent about the company being ‘water positive' for nine years in a row, ‘carbon positive' for six years, and ‘solid waste recycling positive' for four years.

He suggested a slew of government interventions to take industry down the green path, including making ‘Sustainability Reporting' and third party verification an integral part of a company's annual disclosures, and for ratings to be given to companies based on their triple bottom line performance.

Mr Manwani had a different message. He informed stakeholders of rising consumption patterns in the country and the need for responsible growth. He spelt out HUL's new strategy, ‘Unilever Sustainable Living Plan' that sets three goals — to halve the environment footprint of HUL products across the value chain, to fetch 100 per cent of agricultural raw material from sustainable sources, and help the population improve its health.

He pointed out that though all Unilever's factories had reduced greenhouse emissions by half, the India story would include doubling the use of renewable energy to 40 per cent, using lower emission vehicles for distribution, using palm oil from certified sustainable sources and by 2020 including over 500,000 smallholder farmers and small-scale distributors in the supply chain. This is apart from innovation in laundry products that saves 30 per cent of water usage.

Green innovation is JK Tyres' hallmark as well. To address the environmental and public impact of discarded tyres, it has initiated a tyre recycling venture. Christened ‘Soles with Souls', it has tied up with the Footwear Design and Development Institute to create footwear and accessories from old and recycled tyres and tubes.

But it's not just a handful of companies that comprise the green brigade. MCA's national voluntary guidelines and paperless initiative have found shareholders receiving paper mail perhaps, for the last time. A host of companies, including IDBI Bank, Heritage Foods, Parsvnath Developers and NMDC, has requested stakeholders for their e-mail ids, marking a new era in corporate governance.

Published on August 08, 2011

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