Amol Kotwal, Encouraging Sustainability with Frost and Sullivan Sustainability 4.0 Awards 2020 And Teri Initiative

Companies that anticipate and manage current and future economic, environmental, and social opportunities and risks are more likely to create a competitive advantage and long-term stakeholder value. Some forward-looking companies are already working towards it while many others are slowly catching up. Frost & Sullivan believes there is a need to recognize the efforts of these forward-looking organizations and to motivate others to imbibe the approach.

Frost & Sullivan and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Sustainability 4.0 Awards Framework is designed to recognise companies that are well equipped to respond to the emerging opportunities and risks resulting from the sustainability trends. The framework looks for a structured approach to identify critical sustainability risks and opportunities, and a defined formal program in place to mitigate these risks and capitalize on available opportunities. It is built around four major parameters, i.e. purpose, partnership, planet, and people.

In an exclusive conversation with The CEO Magazine, Amol Kotwal, Vice President, Industrial Practice, Frost & Sullivan, shared his key insights on different aspects of sustainability, a strategic action plan to achieve the same, and a few words of wisdom for our readers:

TCM: Why sustainability should be advocated as a crucial factor for success?

Amol: Sustainability is increasingly gaining prominence among manufacturing companies and is now being viewed as a key differentiator across the industry. For a manufacturing company, the scope of sustainability has expanded from the traditional focus on economic, environmental, and social issues. The recent inclusion of supply chain risks, operating in resource stressed areas, reliable and cost-efficient energy supplies, product stewardship initiatives, etc., have made sustainability even more strategically important than ever before. 

Unlike manufacturing companies, service industries don’t produce goods or products but still form the backbone of a country’s economic development. Sustainability is gaining prominence in the service industry as well, with a focus on eco-friendly practices, innovation, human capital management, IT security and data privacy, and sustainable procurement practices.

TCM: How would you define sustainability? What role does it play in business reports today? 

Amol: “Sustainability” in general can be referred to as – the ability of a system of any kind to endure and be healthy over the long-term. Although this statement implies that the concept of sustainability has many applications, its use has become popularized only recently. 

In the journey towards sustained growth, businesses across the globe play a critical part, given the fact that they are the main driving force of the world economy and global development. Sustainability for companies can be viewed as an approach that creates long-term shareholder value and business continuity by embracing the opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental, and social developments. 

TCM: Kindly share with us about the recent Sustainability 4.0 virtual event 2020 and TERI initiative by Frost and Sullivan? 

Amol: The 2020 India Sustainability Leadership Summit and the 11th edition of the Sustainability 4.0 Awards were hosted on a virtual platform by Frost & Sullivan and TERI. The Awards recognized excellence in sustainable development practices among corporates that provide a measurable and verifiable framework for sustainability, while the Summit drew business leaders and industry thought leaders to discuss how to jumpstart the Decade of Action despite the COVID-19 setback. 

This year, 21 awards were presented to companies in five major categories: Super Achievers, Leaders, Challengers, Jury Special Mention, and Safety Excellence. 

TCM: In India, what are your thoughts on the current sustainable practices in manufacturing today? 

Amol: Amidst the rising awareness of Frost & Sullivan environmental sustainability, companies of every size and type have begun looking for their business’ impact on the environment. Today, companies have found that adopting sustainable practices gives them better access to a large market, where a positive environmental track record is becoming more important in selecting a product or a service. There are wide ranges of initiatives taken by businesses to eliminate or minimize the environmental harm caused by their product or service. This includes resource conservation, minimizing waste and emissions, green supply chain management, and biodiversity conservation.

TCM: What do you believe are the challenges associated with adopting sustainability? 

Amol: The success of an organization’s sustainability efforts depends critically on the support and participation of its stakeholders. The importance of various stakeholder groups is largely influenced by the company size. Smaller companies, with limited resources and reach, are more concerned with satisfying regulatory requirements and obtaining the necessary financing to grow.

While larger companies, which are more established, have greater resources, operate in multiple locations, and have greater social and environmental impacts, are relatively concerned about their employees, supply chain and the communities in which they operate. Corporates while adopting sustainability practices have to balance their impact on the triple bottom line, i.e. people, planet, and profit. A few of the biggest business challenges could be:

  • Making sustainability as a business case: There is a general perception that adopting sustainable development practices leads to increased costs to business, which have no other option than passing it on to their customers. Organizations often find it difficult to quantify the financial benefits derived from adopting sustainability initiatives. This challenge could be addressed through a data-driven approach.
  • Developing performance metrics to assess the implementation of initiatives: The next challenge lies in defining the right set of metrics and an organization level dashboard to monitor the progress of key sustainability initiatives. The dashboard brings clear visibility among the company executives, leadership team, and the finance department illustrating the importance of sustainability initiatives and its benefits.
  • Leadership commitment and employee engagement: This could be the biggest challenge to drive the change in the organization. The senior leadership team needs to set the example and lead from the front. Employees could be engaged periodically through awareness/ communication/ training sessions. Incentivizing/ rewarding employee contributions can encourage participation from a larger employee base.

TCM: Why operational efficiency is crucial towards meeting sustainable development goals? 

Amol: Increased efficiency, whether in energy usage, operational resources, or supply chain, can often result in decreased costs while creating a more environmentally responsible organization. 

Companies need to prepare a roadmap to achieve a higher value footprint by becoming more efficient. Year-on-year targets in the areas of energy, water, material, and waste management can be aligned with long-term sustainability goals. 

TCM: Enlighten us on the strategic action plan to achieve sustainability? 

Amol: It is recommended to adopt a structured sustainability approach with the following step by step activities: 

  • Building on the business requirement for sustainability
  • Capacity building/training on sustainability
  • Stakeholders engagement and prioritization
  • Identifying focus areas (Materiality Assessment)
  • Setting S.M.A.R.T objectives
  • Sustainability goals – short, medium, and long term
  • Identify sustainability metrics (qualitative and quantitative)
  • Prioritizing material issues
  • Establishing the measuring and monitoring systems
  • Data capture and analysis
  • Arrive at sustainability roadmap
  • Aligning to external reporting frameworks on sustainability

TCM: What would you like to advise the business leaders on sustainable leadership across the country? 

Amol: It is my robust belief that, for an organization to become a leader in sustainability, one needs to articulate what sustainability is. They need to develop processes to promote sustainability throughout the organization, measure performance, and ultimately link this measurement to organizational economic growth. This begins with the commitment of the highest governance body of an organization. 

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