Inspired by the opportunity to serve larger national priorities, ITC articulated a super-ordinate vision nearly two decades ago to make societal value creation the bedrock of its business strategy.
The focus was on spurring innovative strategies that would enable ITC to make a growing contribution to building economic, environmental and social capital for the nation. It was the Company's aspiration that this Triple Bottom Line approach would manifest not only in sustained wealth creation for all its stakeholders, but also in the simultaneous generation of sustainable livelihoods as well as augmentation of precious natural resources.
A multi-pronged strategy was put into play to enable a new dimension of growth that would be sustainable and inclusive. ITC's Social Investments Programme has identified three important stakeholder groups:
Interventions have been appropriately designed to respond to the unique multi-dimensional development challenges of such communities in order to accomplish the overall goal of creating sustainable livelihoods.
ITC's globally recognised e-Choupal initiative is the world's largest rural digital infrastructure benefiting more than 4 million farmers over 35000 villages.
The ITC e-Choupal initiative is a powerful illustration of a unique and innovative model that delivers significant societal value by co-creating rural markets with local communities. A network of village internet kiosks - e-Choupals - enable even small and marginal farmers in rural India, who are de-linked from the formal market, to access real-time weather and price information, and relevant knowledge and services to enhance farm productivity, quality and command better prices - improving their competitiveness and capacity to manage risk.
Complementing this digital infrastructure is Choupal Pradarshan Khet - customised agri-extension services, demonstration plots and training programmes that promote best practices and assist farmers to diversify crop portfolios.
The ITC e-Choupal initiative has emerged as an efficient two-way channel for a variety of goods and services, raising farm incomes and making farming more profitable. The Company leverages the e-Choupal platform to support holistic development of rural communities in and around e-Choupal catchments through a number of initiatives - dairy management, agarbatti manufacturing and skills development - aimed at stimulating non-farm incomes and creating sustainable livelihood opportunities. This endeavour also includes the Swasthya Choupal initiative that focuses on enhancing awareness on maternal and child care through a network of Village Health Champions.
Launched in 2000, ITC e-Choupal is today the largest initiative among Internet-based interventions in rural India. Its services reach out to more than 4 million farmers in over 35000 villages through 6100 kiosks spread across 10 states. ITC e-Choupal's achievements have been well documented as case studies in premier institutions like the Harvard Business School, references in World Bank reports and in eminent publications like The Economist.
ITC's Social & Farm Forestry Initiative has greened over 705,100 acres of wastelands, creating over 128 million person-days of employment.
A key plank in ITC's natural resource management strategy and a pioneering venture in wasteland development, ITC's Afforestation Programme brings multiple social and environmental benefits. It enables farmers who own wastelands and lands with low levels of productivity to grow commercially viable pulpwood plantations, thereby turning an unproductive asset into a profitable one. To ensure the commercial viability of these plantations, ITC invested in extensive R&D to develop fast-growing clonal saplings that are disease-resistant and have a higher rate of survival in harsh conditions. Under the Social Forestry component of the Programme, tribals and marginal farmers are assisted with loans, subsidised clonal stock and extension services. Farm Forestry targets farmers with investible incomes. On harvest, farmers are free to transact at will and sell to whoever they choose.
Adopting this rather difficult option of mobilising tribal and marginal farmers which required long gestation and substantial investment exposure has not only created a source of sustainable livelihoods for a large number of poor families, but has generated large-scale green cover that contributes significantly to soil conservation and carbon sequestration.
The recently introduced agro-forestry model, which combines tree growing with field crop production, ensures both food and wood security as well as helps in the conservation of precious natural resources. ITC has been conferred the Forest Management certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, which confirms compliance with the highest international benchmarks of plantation management in terms of being environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable.
Today, ITC's Afforestation Programme coupled with the Agro Forestry Programme covers over 705,100 acres and has provided over 128 million person-days of employment. In addition, the plantations have also helped sequester over 5,400 KT of CO2 in 2017-18 and play a major role in maintaining ITC's carbon positive status over the past 13 years.
ITC's Soil and Moisture Conservation Initiative has helped in irrigating over 950,500 acres of moisture-stressed areas.
Recognising the vital role played by water and irrigation in the rural economy, ITC's Soil & Moisture Conservation Programme supports watershed development projects in water-stressed areas, developing precious water resources for agriculture, rural communities and livestock. The focus is on building, reviving and maintaining water harvesting structures as well as implementing other measures which help to reverse land degradation, provide critical irrigation and increase agricultural productivity. Adopting a participatory approach, ITC works with NGOs to mobilise local communities to form water user groups. These groups are trained to carry out the entire spectrum of activities from planning to execution, including monitoring of work and future maintenance of structures. The groups are also trained to formulate regulations and fix water user charges which go towards creating a fund used to maintain existing structures and build new ones.
Initiated in 2001, the programme today covers 14 states across the country. The total watershed area covered under soil & moisture conservation is over 950,500 acres, benefiting over 297,800 households. There are over 13,500 water harvesting structures and over 2,600 functioning Water User Groups. Civil work on structures generated over 5 million person-days of employment, particularly benefiting the landless. Projects under the programme have made a significant contribution in ITC maintaining its water positive footprint for 16 years in a row.
ITC has also entered into public-private-people partnerships with several state governments and NABARD, bringing together government and corporate resources to undertake watershed development projects with considerably greater scale and impact. Currently, these PPP projects are targeting to cover over 509,000 acres in some of India's most drought-prone regions.
ITC's Livestock Development Initiative provides animal husbandry services to over 16,65,000 milch animals.
Animal husbandry plays an important role in the economy of rural India with majority of households owning milch animals. Adopting an integrated animal husbandry services approach, ITC's programme aims to assist cattle-owners to increase the productivity of their animals and improve milk quality. Targeting marginal households, comprehensive services, including artificial insemination, animal feed and healthcare management, are provided right at the doorstep through village Cattle Development Centres managed by trained technicians from the local community.
Milk yields from cross-bred progeny are significantly higher than indigenous stock, generating substantial supplementary incomes from surplus milk sales, paving the way for dairying to emerge as a viable livelihood option. This income also acts as a cushion in times of crop failure.
ITC's initiative covers over 10,500 villages in 7 states and has so far provided animal husbandry services to over 16,65,000 milch animals.
ITC's Women's Empowerment Initiative provides sustainable livelihoods to over 61,200 rural women.
Specifically designed for women from economically weaker sections of rural communities, ITC's Women's Empowerment Programme aims to provide them with sustainable economic livelihood opportunities through financial assistance as well as skills training. Women are motivated to form micro-credit self-help groups so that they can build up small savings, finance self-employment and micro-enterprises.
ITC is also working towards making agriculture more inclusive by enabling marginal women farmers to enhance their knowledge and skills in modern agricultural practices. Farmer field schools exclusively for women agriculturalists cover a wide range of best practices, such as improved seeds and balanced application of fertilisers, as well as techniques for scientific land use and water conservation. Assisted by ITC, women's self-help groups have recently started farm mechanisation equipment hire centres and tree sapling nurseries. Acting collectively, women have also formed solid waste management groups that undertake door-to-door garbage collection, segregation of waste as well as making and selling organic manure. These small ventures have the potential to grow into successful and profitable independent enterprises in the future.
One of ITC's interventions targets ultra-poor women with the objective of mainstreaming them socio-economically over a period of time. ITC assists these women with productive income generating assets, supported with intensive handholding, counseling, on-job assistance, training and local level facilitation with the objective of bringing them into the financial mainstream. Over 20,100 ultra poor women have benefitted till date.
Enabling women to earn independent incomes has a positive impact on their families and communities as it is spent largely on their children's education, health and nutrition and is a powerful catalyst for gender development and supporting social inclusion.
ITC has helped create sustainable livelihoods for over 61,200 rural women either through micro-enterprises or assistance with loans to pursue income generating activities.
ITC's Primary Education Initiative has benefited more than 594,700 children.
ITC's Primary Education Programme addresses the lack of quality primary education in rural communities. Aiming to strengthen the government primary schools' vast network by stemming drop-outs, increasing enrolments and improving learning outcomes, the Programme puts in place mutually reinforcing interventions that are coordinated to support a move towards child friendly schools.
Age-appropriate infrastructural facilities are provided to government schools, ranging from separate toilets for boys and girls, boundary walls, drinking water stations and furniture. Focusing particularly on sanitation and health, students and teachers are trained on WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) principles, and students are motivated to form WATSAN (Water and Sanitation) Committees and Child Cabinets to take ownership of WASH areas in schools, helping to promote behaviourial change among children in their formative years.
The Programme also works to strengthen school management committees and build capacity among teachers to ensure that infrastructure can be sustainably maintained in the long run. Parents' participation is actively encouraged to develop collaborative partnerships that ensure that more and more children are able to complete their schooling.
The 'Read India Plus' initiative, in partnership with the NGO, Pratham, was introduced in 2013. Utilising an innovative pedagogy, it is geared towards helping children between the ages of 6-14 to achieve all five competencies - Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing and Doing.
ITC's Primary Education programme has covered over 594,700 students to date. In addition, more than 1,600 government primary schools have been provided infrastructural support.
ITC's Skilling and Vocational Training Initiative has provided training to nearly 61,000 youth.
ITC’s skilling initiative for boys and girls focuses on employability and employment linkages with the larger purpose of empowering rural communities and creating sustainable livelihood opportunities. The initiative aims to build market relevant skills so as to make potential job seekers industry-ready and employable in the manufacturing and services sectors. It focuses on the most marginalised sections of communities. As part of ITC’s affirmative action plan, it also targets Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – among the most socially and economically marginalised.
The initiative offers training in market-linked skills for the hospitality, automotive, electrical, computer and construction sectors as well as in a range of trades – tailoring, beautician and bedside nursing. Courses run for 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the skill. On completion, placement camps are organised to facilitate employment opportunities.
Nearly 61,000 youth have been trained, of whom 40% are girls and 37% belong to the SC/ST community.
ITC's Health & Sanitation Programme covered construction of more than 33,100 low-cost sanitary units.
Open defecation remains a persistent and pervasive problem across the country. It is particularly acute in rural areas where there is a lack of awareness regarding the causality between open defecation and health related issues, especially of diarrhoeal diseases which are a major cause of child mortality in India. ITC’s Health & Sanitation Programme seeks to address this serious issue by supporting the building and usage of low-cost family-owned toilets in the catchments of its manufacturing units, the majority of which are located in rural areas.
ITC’s strategy is centred on galvanising a people’s movement and mobilising empowered grassroots institutions that take the lead in building family-owned toilets. Intensive awareness generation programmes customised to target men, women and children combined with a mandatory financial contribution from participating families help to ensure high and sustained usage levels of the constructed toilets. Wherever possible, the initiative works in active collaboration with government sanitation schemes. More than 33,100 toilets have been built of which 51% were constructed during the last two years.
ITC's WOW programme aims to create awareness among general public about the "Reduce-Reuse-Recycle" approach. The programme seeks to inculcate the habit of source segregation prior to collection of post-consumer waste.
ITC’s Well-being Out of Waste (WOW) programme is a flagship initiative that seeks to address the crucial issue of post-consumer waste management in line with the Government’s `Swachh Bharat’ programme, ensuring the proper segregation and recycling of waste in a manner that protects and restores the environment, ensures the cleanliness and hygiene of neighbourhoods and in the process creates sustainable livelihoods for a whole host of participants in the waste management process.
ITC’s WOW programme aims to create awareness among general public about the “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” approach. The programme seeks to inculcate the habit of source segregation prior to collection of post-consumer waste.
The ecosystem of participants involved in the collection and recycling of segregated waste include waste handlers who derive sustainable livelihood from this activity, recycling units who benefit from a steady source of identified and relevant waste, NGOs who train waste handlers and increase awareness about segregating waste among communities, and social entrepreneurs who avail of the opportunity to develop a sustainable business model out of waste collection and supply to recyclers.
This programme is today being actively propagated and is receiving widespread support across 8 cities in South India, including Bengaluru, Chennai and Coimbatore and 5 cities in Telengana with plans to extend it to other towns and cities as well. The WOW programme started with a collection of just 10 MT of recyclables in 2007 has now swelled to collections of over 20000 MT. Over 2100 waste handlers have gained sustainable livelihoods through this activity. Additionally, similar waste collection and recycling programmes along with composting of organic waste in Munger in Bihar, Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Tribeni in West Bengal provide gainful livelihood to 300 people.These initiatives has played a major role in sustaining ITC’s ‘Solid Waste Recycling Positive’ status for 11 consecutive years.
Renewable energy investments to progressively move towards meeting at least 50% of its total energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.
As a responsible corporate citizen, ITC has made a commitment to reduce dependence on energy from fossil fuels. Substantial progress has been made in enhancing the renewable energy portfolio and during 2014-15 over 43% of ITC's total energy requirements was met from carbon neutral fuels such as biomass, and wind and solar. ITC has developed a strategic approach and drawn up action plans based on a feasible balance of energy conservation and renewable energy investments to progressively move towards meeting at least 50% of its total energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.
ITC continues to focus on integrated water management including water conservation and harvesting initiatives at its units.
With water scarcity increasingly becoming an area of serious concern, ITC continues to focus on integrated water management including water conservation and harvesting initiatives at its units - while also working towards meeting the water security needs of all stakeholders at the local watershed level. These include adopting latest technologies to reduce fresh water intake and increase reuse and recycling practices, best practices to achieve zero effluent discharges, rainwater harvesting, etc. These initiatives, along with ITC's CSR interventions in the area of integrated watershed management, have resulted in the creation of rainwater harvesting potential that is over twice the net water consumption of the Company's operations.
In order to continually reduce ITC's energy footprint, green features are integrated in all new constructions and are also being incorporated in existing hotels, manufacturing units, warehouses and office complexes during retrofits.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of ITC for the year 2016-17 compiled as per the ISO 14064 standard, has been assured, as in the earlier years, at the highest 'Reasonable Level' by a third party assurance provider. During the same period, ITC was determined as having achieved 'Leadership' position in the Climate Change disclosure of CDP. The CDP Global Climate Change Report 'Out of the Starting Blocks', has commended the Company for decoupling emission growth with financial growth (having reduced 10% or more GHG emission over five years while simultaneously growing revenue by 10%).
Reaffirming ITC's commitment to the ethos of 'Responsible Luxury', all luxury hotels of ITC are LEED® Platinum certified, making it the 'greenest luxury hotel chain' in the world. In order to continually reduce ITC's energy footprint, green features are integrated in all new constructions and also incorporated in existing hotels, manufacturing units, warehouses and office complexes. ITC's Social and Farm Forestry initiatives enabled sequestration of over twice the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted by its operations. Besides mitigating the impact of increasing levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere, these initiatives help greening degraded wasteland, prevent soil erosion, enhance organic matter content in soil and enable ground water recharge.
ITC has made significant progress in reducing specific waste generation through constant monitoring and improvement of efficiencies in material utilisation and also in achieving almost total recycling of waste generated in operations.
ITC has made significant progress in reducing specific waste generation through constant monitoring and improvement of efficiencies in material utilisation and also in achieving almost total recycling of waste generated in operations. In this way, ITC has prevented waste reaching landfills and associated problems such as soil and groundwater contamination and GHG emissions, all of which can impact public health. ITC has achieved over 99% waste recycling of the total waste generated by its operations. During 2016-17, this Business also recycled around 1,15,000 tonnes of externally sourced post-consumer waste paper, thereby creating yet another positive environmental footprint.
ITC's approach is to institutionalise safety as a value-led concept with focus on inculcating a sense of ownership at all levels and driving behavioural change leading to the creation of a safety culture.
ITC's commitment to provide a safe and healthy workplace to all has been reaffirmed by the significant reduction in the number of accidents and several national and international awards and certifications received by various units. The Company's approach is to institutionalise safety as a value-led concept with focus on inculcating a sense of ownership at all levels and driving behavioural change leading to the creation of a safety culture.
In line with this approach, several behavioural based safety initiatives and custom-made risk based training programmes were rolled out at ITC's operating units, resulting in a noticeable improvement in safety performance. ITC incorporates established engineering standards in the design and project execution phase itself for all investments in the built environment, with a view to ensuring the highest levels of safety besides optimising costs. Environment, Health & Safety audits before commissioning and during the operation of units are carried out to verify compliance with standards. 2014-15 was a zero fatal accident year and there was also a 56% drop in Loss Time Accidents, over the previous year. These statistics cover all categories of employees working on-site at ITC premises, including employees of service providers.
In consonance with ITC's belief and the need to promote greater awareness and acceptance of sustainability amongst corporates, ITC together with the Confederation of Indian Industry, launched the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development in 2006. The Centre seeks to address the institutional void in developing the requisite capability among Indian industry to pursue sustainability goals. The Centre is steered by its Advisory Council, led by Shri Y C Deveshwar, Chairman, ITC Limited, and comprises members from industry, government, civil society and institutions, which provides strategic direction to the organisation. The Centre has already taken various initiatives to help transform Indian businesses by providing thought leadership, promoting awareness and building capacity.More about CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development