Interview of Dr. Vikas Goswami

Interview of Dr. Vikas Goswami

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Dr. Vikas Goswami

Head Sustainability, Godrej Industries Limited and Associated Companies

Dr. Vikas Goswami heads the Sustainability function at Godrej Industries Limited and Associated companies.

In her current role, Vikas drives the Group’s ‘Good & Green’ vision of creating a more employable workforce, building a Greener India and innovating for good and green products. Under her leadership, the team is laying down processes to evaluate the impact of the Group’s Good & Green initiatives.

Vikas has over 25 years of experience in working with both the corporate and development sector. Prior to joining the Godrej Group, Vikas was group head of community relations for Vedanta Resources Plc., leading company’s strategy on issues of corporate social responsibility and environment. She has experience of working with Microsoft and Indus Towers on issues of CSR and volunteering.

She was also a member of the team responsible for crafting the Business Responsibility Report framework for SEBI and the National Voluntary Guidelines for the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. Vikas was a leading member of the Task Force, instituted by Planning Commission of India, on Business Responsibility in June 2011. Vikas completed her Ph.D in Anthropology from Delhi University and her M.Sc in Development Management from University of Wales where she has conducted research and presented thesis on Rise of CSR in India. She is an outstanding communicator and facilitator and has been a spokesperson on CSR and sustainability issues for various organizations. She enjoys mentoring NGO’s on organization management and helping them build their strategic visions and plans.

Q. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the CSR domain.

A. Prior to joining the Godrej Group, I have worked with other companies to strategise on issues of Corporate Social Responsibility and Environment. I have over 25 years of experience in working with both, the corporate and development sector.

As Head of Godrej’s Good & Green initiative, I work towards driving the group’s vision of creating a more employable workforce, building a greener India and innovating for good and green products.

Q. Before CSR assignment, were you working in any other professional domain, if so, please describe?

A. Back in 1996, when the very concept of CSR was in a nascent stage, I had the opportunity to work with international organisations and development agencies that moulded my career as a CSR professional.

While working on a project officer with ActionAid, I got exposure in the funding-side of development work. Those were early days when CSR was considered just a charity, adding to it was a stint with British-bilateral DFID, when I was associated with a research on ‘Rise of CSR in India’ while studying at The University of Wales, to get an academic insight into the field.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with leading organisations, NGOs and agencies, which honed me with practical knowledge and theoretical underpinnings.

Around 2010, the government had started focusing on the potential of CSR in bringing about a social transformation. I was fortunate to be among the 17 select experts appointed by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to write the guidelines for a CSR framework.

Q. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the CSR domain.

A. As CSR Head of Godrej Industries, I am responsible to drive the company towards achievement of its CSR goals. Godrej has a robust set of publicly-declared CSR goals. From the commitment to train one million unemployed and under-employed youth in skills that will enhance their earning potential, to making environmental sustainability a key part of the manufacturing process and value chain across the businesses, the Greener India Goal 2020 is clearly defined.

On the green initiatives, my responsibilities are to bring in processes that can help company become carbon neutral, have a positive water balance, send zero waste to landfills, reduce specific energy consumption by 30% and increase renewable energy sources by 30%.

Q. How has the CSR & Sustainability program evolved at your company?

A. Sustainability and meaningful impact are at the core of the group’s approach to CSR. From conserving mangroves that are the lungs of Mumbai to promoting education, health and environmental initiatives, the group is committed to driving sustainability programs.

Be it a programme to combat malaria in nine districts of Madhya Pradesh in partnership with NGO partner Family Health International and State Government or an initiative to drought-proof semi-arid regions, the focus in always on mitigation and not just surface-level activity. For instance, our programme for drought-prone regions has a 5-7 year framework that aims to create multiple sources of income for rural families. If a farmer’s crop fails, he can earn from poultry, piggery or rearing goats, which are considered as cash on hooves.

Similarly, the skilling programmes for women to be trained as beauticians is expanded into making them Beautypreneurs, having three sources of incomes the salon services, selling beauty products, and as training school for aspiring beauticians. The programmes are linked to our businesses be it the consumer products division or the agrovet division, but the focus of CSR is clearly etched.

Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?

A. Integrate sustainability and CSR to the core work of the business, and deliver on the business promise. That will provide long term engagement and long term benefit for all. CSR is not about how you spend your profit, it is about how you make your profit.

Q. Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of in your CSR & Sustainability role?

A. Our strong progress on each of the goals is indicative of our seriousness and dedication as a group. On the training front, we have already trained almost 270,000 people through multiple programmes and 200+ centres across the country. and 51 % of all energy we consume today comes from renewable sources.

Q. If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

A. From an industry perspective I think the moment CSR becomes one of the strategies of doing business, it will deliver on the promise of its potential.

Q. What is the relation between CSR and Sustainability?

A. CSR and Corporate Sustainability is the way companies achieve enhanced ethical standards and a balance of social economic and environmental imperatives addressing the concerns and expectations of the stakeholders. I have always believed that Corporate Social Responsibility should be part of a company’s ethos and embedded in its business processes, instead of being reduced to just a mandatory expense or a compliance factor that involves only shelling out funds. Also, the business growth is tied with not just financial sustainability, but also social and environmental sustainability.

Q. What is the level of involvement of CSR Head in India in CSR strategic formulation?

A. Since India was one of the first countries across the world to mandate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), there is a growing interest among various stakeholders to see how the scenario is progressing.

Besides complying with regulatory requirements, a CSR head has to demonstrate the commitment towards organisational transparency. This is used as a communication tool to engage with different stakeholders including shareholders, regulators, communities, customers and the larger society. Therefore, drafting CSR strategies that can support the companies’ overall strategic direction and resolve any challenges that may occur while implementing the CSR policy of the company is an important area of involvement for a CSR Head.

Q. Describe your perfect day.

A. I always say I have the best job in the company. Every day is a perfect day, because each day I build on previous days efforts to create more shared value more CSR buy across business functions and help to deliver a win for all stakeholders. Each negotiation, each person converted to this thinking, each program out come is win for that day !!

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.