Although millions of people are in lockdown due to COVID-19 and concerns about the impact on the global economy continues to grow, business leaders and sustainability champions in India are addressing local issues head on, starting with the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector in India.
Late last month, the Centre for Responsible Business in collaboration with RSPO and WWF-India co-hosted a webinar, “Businesses with Purpose: Future-Proofing Businesses in a Post COVID-19 World”, participated by business leaders, journalists, and writers working in the sustainability domain.
Industry leaders who have adopted sustainable palm oil shared their experience and highlighted the urgent need to make the switch to sustainable palm oil, emphasising the requirement for systemic changes in the way businesses work.
Prakash Chawla, Board Member and Ex-CEO of AAK Kamani Industries highlighted his company’s long-term commitment to sustainability. “Businesses have to go back and relook at the end-to-end supply chain and ask themselves if they are in a position to move the entire chain in a short time, especially during a crisis. While COVID-19 is an unfortunate and urgent crisis, it also opens many fronts of learning. From my perspective, the commodities world is highly competitive, and hence, the use of sustainable commodities is viewed differently from different businesses. The youngsters will be driving the change and leading from the front.” said Prakash Chawla.
Business leaders who believe in end-to-end sustainability, like Ashish Saraf, President of Manorama Industries Limited, stressed on the importance of sustainable practices in defining an impactful business approach on communities closest to nature.
“Our vision for business is deeply intertwined with the welfare of the communities, especially those around India’s forest areas. We believe in value creation in a responsible way, and work with a community development approach, focusing on empowering millions of women in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and several other states, where we collect mango kernels, salseeds, mahawa seeds and other forest products in a manner that improves the livelihood of millions of tribal and indigenous communities,” said Ashish Saraf.
Virtual Meeting of I-SPOC
As a founding member of the Sustainable Palm Oil Coalition for India (I-SPOC), RSPO also co-hosted a virtual meeting for its steering committee, working groups, members and observers. More than 20 companies and not-for-profit organisations actively participated in the meeting and discussed their shared responsibility for transforming the market in India, despite the ongoing challenges due to COVID-19.
The meeting was led by RSPO’s India Representative, Kamal Prakash Seth, who updated the group that the uptake of sustainable palm oil in India has increased by 25 to 30 times since 2017/2018. RSPO also chaired the End Users Working Group of I-SPOC, which focuses on the FMCG and retail sectors. Critical points were raised and discussed on a holistic and inclusive approach to sustainable palm oil.
The coalition’s working groups presented their annual working plans and expressed that the roadmap should include everyone in the stakeholders’ group, including actively engaging government. There were also several points discussed to make the strategy more accessible and inclusive of smallholders, including oil palm smallholder farmers in India.
During the meeting, several RSPO and I-SPOC members, such as AAK Kamani, Manorama Industries and Hindustan Unilever, expressed their full commitment to incentivise and support the local independent smallholders and were hopeful that this will lead to the production of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil in India for the first time.
Mitesh Thakker from Hindustan Unilever (HUL) emphasised that the current stage can be very transformative for the industry. COVID-19 is a challenge that can be turned into an opportunity. He updated the group that HUL has met it’s 100% CSPO commitment in India. Besides this, Bunge has also got its first facility certified as per the RSPO Supply Chain Standard.
The meeting concluded with the consensus that I-SPOC needs to onboard and engage more members to expand its influence and find new ways and steps to widen its stakeholder base. If you are interested in joining I-SPOC, please contact Kamal Prakash Seth at [email protected]