-By Rajeev Dubey, Group President (HR & Corporate Services) & CEO (After-Market Sector), Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd
Corporations today have a historic choice to make: Reboot the old models of doing business and create the transition to a more sustainable world, or risk their survival.
In the last two decades, a profound change has taken place in business, from maximizing value just for shareholders to including society as a whole. Noting the positive impact that business can have, government and society now expect business to participate in solving society’s greatest challenges.
In this scenario of new expectations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for corporations to re-align the way they do business by including the interests of society at large. Aligning with the SDGs has quickly become an imperative; it is no longer a “nice to have” option. Companies that do not acknowledge society’s issues will eventually fall by the wayside.
Today, more and more companies recognize the SDGs as levers for innovation, growth and better competitive performance. As this newfound SDG awareness has spread to industry sectors, exciting new green business ideas have emerged.
The SDGs present a USD 12 trillion market in opportunities only in food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. These four areas represent 60 percent of the global economy and are critical to delivering the SDGs. This could create 380 million jobs, of which 90 percent will be in developing countries.
Governments worldwide have already agreed to these goals. Given its size and population, India is crucial to the world achieving the SDGs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself noted in his speech at the United Nations Summit in 2015 that “Much of India’s development agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals”. This has led the government to aggressively use the SDGs as a roadmap for formulating national policies at both central and state levels.
Not only that, the government is proactively offering schemes and policies to help businesses adopt the SDGs into their corporate goals. But with only 11 years to go, it is crucial to move beyond pilots or piecemeal solutions and start implementing financially viable and scalable models.
We recognize this opportunity at Mahindra, and that it fits well into our sustainability mantra: Building enduring businesses by rejuvenating the environment and enabling stakeholders to Rise.
Shared value is at the centre of our core purpose and hence is the major driver of business strategy and culture. The Mahindra Group’s green revenue portfolio of USD 500 million includes electric vehicles, solar energy, automotive recycling, biogas, green buildings, and micro irrigation.
The creation of new technologies and leveraging them to create new businesses presents a huge opportunity. Mahindra’s farm business has a multi-pronged approach to make available agricultural technologies based on advances in artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, the internet of things, drones, and autonomous machinery. These technologies could go a long way in resolving some of the challenges that plague Indian agriculture, such as stagnating productivity, water shortage, deteriorating soil health, labor scarcity and reduces production costs.
Mahindra Finance serves the needs of the bottom of the pyramid traders, unemployed youth and farmers, most of whom find it difficult to obtain loans from banks – leaving the village money lender as the only alternative. Mahindra Finance has a unique “earn and pay” business model, which provides loans not for consumption but for income generation, and which assesses credit worthiness not from credit history, since there often isn’t any, but by assessing the potential income that the borrower can generate in future through the assets financed. Over the past 25 years, through this scheme, we have created six million small entrepreneurs across 3.6 lakh villages.
Effecting change in today’s globalized technology-driven society requires a cultural shift. This goes beyond a single organization or government. The transition from last century’s shareholder-centric model to one that is society-focused is happening as we speak. Our job is to accelerate it.
So, what will enable more corporations to implement the SDGs? Perhaps the answer lies in “alternativism”.
Evidence confirms that the biggest barrier to a sustainable existence is not consumer awareness or attitudes. It the absence of environmentally friendly and affordable alternatives. Such alternatives are not going to be the result of conventional thinking. For a real societal and environmental shift, businesses will have to move beyond orthodox models and respond by providing out-of-the-box solutions.