Vedanta Resources has pledged to become carbon neutral, set a net-zero target by 2050 and has also made plans to become an ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) leader in the natural resources sector. Priya Agarwal Hebbar, Non-Executive Director, is a key pillar in strengthening ESG and bringing about a more forward-looking cultural shift in Vedanta. In an interview with Rajiv Tikoo of Outlook Business, Hebbar elaborates on how she is laying the building blocks of the transformation in the firm. Edited excerpts from the interview:
As a diversified natural resources company, how much more challenging is it to achieve a net-zero target? What kind of opportunities does a net-zero target offer to address legacy perception about the natural resources sector?
When the world is struggling to keep ecological balance, it is the duty of the large corporations to contribute in achieving sustainable solutions. Our businesses, too, are committed to achieving the best sustainable practices. We have pledged for carbon neutrality and to achieve a net-zero target by 2050. With this, Vedanta plans to be the ESG leader in the natural resources sector.
Vedanta has pledged $5 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate the transition to net-zero operations. As part of the process, Vedanta has a new mission statement—‘Transforming for Good’—to make a meaningful difference in the society at large. Vedanta’s new positioning is backed by three pillars: transforming communities, transforming the planet and transforming the workplace. It reflects Vedanta's commitment towards sustainable growth and development. We aim to strengthen and implement the highest standards of ESG practices in the businesses as a commitment towards nation building and larger good.
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Our energy and carbon policy includes a commitment to substantially decarbonise the business by 2050 in alignment with India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the Paris Agreement, and voluntarily pledged to move towards carbon neutrality.
What kind of competencies are required to pursue the ESG agenda by business leaders?
Right approach, right philosophy and long-term goals, coupled with innovative solutions, are a few things that work as catalysts in pursuing sustainability and ESG agenda for any corporation. The goal for any business is to create long-term value for all stakeholders through research, discovery, acquisition, sustainable development and utilisation of diversified natural resources. To accomplish that, one needs to empower people to drive excellence and innovation.
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We have always tried to bring behavioural change towards sustainability in all our initiatives. Today, Vedanta’s ESG focus has been recognised worldwide. Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) in the metals and mining sector ranked us globally at number 12 in 2020. Besides, Hindustan Zinc has been ranked number 1 and Vedanta is on number 2 in the DJSI rankings for the Asia Pacific region which bear testimony to our best-in-class sustainability practices.
We were the first mining and metal company to release a Climate Change Report in line with the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This report envisages the suite of our other ESG disclosures like the Sustainability Report, Integrated Annual Report, Business Responsibility & Sustainability Report and Tax Transparency Report and brings in greater transparency in our disclosure standards.
There are a lot of women leaders heading the ESG portfolio in their companies. Are women natural leaders who have the required competencies in this space?
Women in leadership bring crucial management competencies and fresh perspectives to the board and are becoming the driving force behind ESG strategies of companies. Hence, companies with a gender-diverse workforce visualise and drive sustainable practices more efficiently.
Vedanta has always believed in encouraging leadership amongst its women workforce. Since the natural resources and mining sector has always been a very male-dominated field, Vedanta places great trust and ownership on our women leaders. Women managers add tremendous value to the business and we are overjoyed to play our role in making this a more equal society for both genders.
But, we should be mindful that ESG, in itself, is a cohesive and constructive concept and it demands equal footing and equal responsibilities from all the stakeholders alike.
How important are technology and digitalisation to further the ESG agenda?
Today, technology and digitalisation are the key to strengthening our ESG footprint and creating a net-zero future. Hindustan Zinc became the first company in the group to become water positive. Our aluminium, being a ‘green metal’, is building the fastest vehicles of today and tomorrow due to it being lightweight and its 100 per cent recyclability. We have also introduced India's first digital smelter in our aluminium operations. Our copper is also playing a crucial role in digital and energy transformation. We plan to invest $1 billion over the next five years to turn our mining operations environment friendly.
These are, of course, small beginnings and we have a long way to go. What is needed is a collective will and a cohesive plan of action for corporations and nations to work together to co-create a better, safer and greener future for all. The time to act is now. Tomorrow will be too late!
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