Hindustan Unilever's sustainability initiative is helping drive business while, at the same time, reducing costs and risks.
Speaking exclusively to HT in Delhi on Thursday, Nitin Paranjpe, CEO of HUL, said: "At current levels of consumption, we will need the resources of three earth-like planets if India consume like the UK and five such planets if it consumes like the US."
The short point he was making was this: we need to develop a new model that decouples growth from resources.
But it isn't about altruism. The new model, he added, is leading to a virtuous cycle of growth at HUL in India and across Unilever globally by lowering units costs, increasing savings and generating higher sales. "This is not CSR. A hundred per cent of our business plan is geared towards this initiative," he said.
"Our sustainable initiative enabled us to save €300 million (about Rs 2,200 crore) globally over the last 3-4 years by reducing waste, use of less energy and less water. So, you see, it makes good business sense," he added.
The company has taken the initiative to reduce diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases by encouracing hand washing. Millions of children die every year because of diarrhoea. HUL's Lifebuoy handwashing programme reached 17 million people in 2012.
Providing safe drinking water, improving health and well being by reducing saturated fats, removing trans fats and cutting down on calories in its food products are other initiatives that HUL has taken as part of its sustainable living plan.
"We're partnering with the governments in various states, NGOs and other stakeholders to help us meet our sustainability goals in the environmental, social and financial spheres," the HUL CEO said, adding: "A lot more needs to be done. But we believe we have the leadership commitment and the organisational discipline to do well while doing good."