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Sustainable Evolution: Balancing Progress with Planetary Purpose 

Creating a more sustainable future with a realistic rejigging of how we interact with the world around us is possible. But it relies on swift action. 

Words by Kalyan Ram Madabhushi 

Purpose, Planet, Climate change, Circularity, and Sustainability have been the buzz words that were considered important to quote, whenever an organisation or any of its senior leaders had to explain their robust growth or strong financials or excellent performance. This is either out of sincerity or because of the strong values that organisations/individuals carry, or out of guilt or out of necessity to defend against environmental activism or a need for the visibility! 

I have been through three different experiences, whether with Shell, where Energy and Petrochemicals industry has always been under radar, or at Aditya Birla Chemicals predominantly in Inorganic chemicals & Advanced polymers (often asked about environmental impact & recyclability) and recently with Birla Cellulose with Forestry, Cellulose Pulp and textile fibre operations (hot topic being Circularity, conservation of natural resources and keeping environment clean). 

These industries exist because there is a need for products that originate from them, that form a part of our day to day lives, from transportation/aviation to recent life savers like hand sanitizers or textile clothing that we can’t do without! 

Having said that, it’s the society (our emerging Gen Z /smart phone generation users, NGOs & shareholder activism) that has brought a sense to urgency, highlighting the need for organisations to demonstrate responsible, sustainable and circular behaviours. What morally and ethically the right thing to do, will be, a societal expectation and becomes  a regulation thereafter. “It’s not how much value you have created that defines how great an organisation/corporation/entity you are, but how responsibly you have created that value.”  

India has pledged to become a ‘net zero’ carbon emitter by 2070 and the industries are expected to reach there, before 2050. For India to fast track to be the fastest growing economy in a sustainable manner, individuals and the small/medium/large organisations have to first accept that they have the responsibility to create Value embedding sustainability, circularity and ESG. Not because it’s mandated by regulation or compliance but because that is the right thing to do, and if smartly approached, it becomes at differentiated value proposition and a competitive advantage.  

In the last 75 years, at Birla Cellulose of Aditya Birla Group, we have seen the evolution of Viscose Fibre to Fashion sector, through the lenses of forestry operations in Canada, Pulp operations in Canada/Sweden/India, Cellulose Fibre operations in SE Asia/India/China, and closely interacting/working with several global brands. 

We realise that, as a global leader, we carry the responsibility to go beyond compliance and go to the heart of what the consumers and society is expecting from us.  Hence our transparency and openness to external parties, be it through Supply Chain traceability, Closed loop manufacturing, recycling technology development, supporting start-ups with their innovation and working closely with NGOs like Forest Stewardship Council or Canopy and demonstrate our commitment through our willingness to get audited. 

Sustainable evolution is only possible when the planet’s purpose is integral part of profitable group for companies. And I am pleased to say, ABG is doing its part, in our own small way, though we have still much to accomplish. We feel the sense of urgency and hence our intense focus, do you? 

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer    

Kalyan Ram Madabhushi joined the Aditya Birla Group in early 2018 as CEO/Business Head,  to lead its global chemicals business together with its fertilisers and insulators business.  Recently, he also led global Pulp and textile fibre operations. He is currently on several Boards as Director in both executive and non-executive capacity. Before joining the Group, he worked with Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands and Singapore for more than two decades and he last worked as Global General Manager in Shell Downstream Chemicals Business. He also held board director roles in Europe, as a member as well as chairman/president of the boards.   

Mr. Madabhushi holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from NIT Warangal and Masters’ degree from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. He continued his executive leadership learning at IMD Switzerland and University of Oxford, and is today playing a key role in making the Aditya Birla Group a trusted raw material partner for the global textile and non-woven value chain, representing a perfect melange of nature and science. 

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