Dr. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer of ABFRL is a man with a purpose. He has been in charge of the company’s green initiatives since before the term ‘sustainability’ was even used. From those nascent beginnings till today when ABFRL is a powerful leader in the sustainable fashion space, Dr Tyagi, as he is affectionately known, has seen the company evolve and grow in the 12 years that he has been part of ABFRL. From joining as the head of the Product Development and Quality Assurance portfolio to becoming the face of ABFRL’s sustainability roadmap, the journey has been long and eventful, and the future promises to be just as exciting.
As often happens, much of his learning comes from adversity. Dr Tyagi joined the company in 2008 at a time when there was a recession. But he is not a man to be daunted by hard times. “Joining at such a time meant that it was the best time to do something unique,” he says. “There was great focus on innovation within our company. Several of the sustainable practices that we adopted at the time meant that we came out of the recession relatively unscathed.”
From those beginnings to till today, the one thing that has not changed is Dr Tyagi’s love of learning. After having recently completed his Advance Management Program from UCB – Berkeley (BEPM), his next step is to master social media to which he is a new entrant. “I am trying to learn from my son,” he says with a smile. Knowing him, we think it is only a matter of time.
Here is an excerpt from a freewheeling conversation that we had with Dr Tyagi about his journey at ABFRL, the start and evolution of sustainability in the company and green habits that he practices.
How has ABFRL’s sustainability vision evolved over the years?
Until the years 2012 or 2013, our sustainability initiatives were carried out under the Product Development department. There were some good practices but it was ad hoc.
In 2012- 2013, Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla came out with the Sustainability Vision for the Aditya Birla Group. Based on that, in 2013 ABFRL created the Vision and the Mission for ABFRL’s sustainability initiative and branded it as ReEarth. At that time, we had only seven missions and the programme extended till 2017. In 2017, the post of the Chief Sustainability officer was created. By then we had 10 missions and we had a short-term and long-term sustainability roadmap for several years ahead. The core tenant of our sustainability is that we must constantly ask ourselves the question – Is it sustainable? What is the impact that it has on society and the environment at a business level as well as at an organizational level?
Over all these years of thinking and working with sustainability, what have been your learnings?
As I was growing up, the concepts of minimal wastage and optimum use of resources was an integral part of our life. We never threw out clothes after a few uses. Whether they were party clothes or regular clothes, they were reused, often by multiple persons and frequently repurposed. Of course, we never realized that this was ‘sustainability’. We didn’t know this term and had no reference framework.
Across society, these fragmented attempts and practices have existed and can still be observed. My biggest learning is that these dots need to be joined and a framework needs to be set up around the, for the effort to be more substantial.
How have you adopted sustainable practices in your day to day life?
At my residence, we practice waste segregation very diligently. Earlier, we mixed up all the waste. Now we separate wet and dry waste and even within that, bio degradable waste and waste that can be recycles or repurposed.
The area that I live in Bengaluru was water positive until a few years ago. Now the water tables have all gone down. So we have attached nozzles in all the taps so that we can control the flow of water and thereby reduce usage.
What are the sustainable habits that you have adopted as a consumer?
Over the years, I have begun to look for a sustainable way to consume. I buy better quality products that last longer. So I don’t need to buy and throw away anything very frequently.
My buying behavior has changed to become more mindful. I buy things that have a longer shelf life. I look for products that use less resources; for instance, clothes that use less detergent and less water. I like to keep things simple. I don’t overbuy. I focus on optimal use of materials and of all products. I pay attention to the lifecycle of the product and to what happens to the product after I discard it. For instance, if I buy a piece of furniture, I used to never give any thought to what happens to it when I am finished with it. Now, I ensure that it is used by someone else for its next lifecycle. There are even companies that buy used furniture and refurbish it and sell it. These are good ideas.
Who is your role model in the field of sustainability?
Late Yogesh Chander Deveshwar of ITC. He is my role model in the field of sustainability because despite heading a tobacco company, he took great strides in sustainability. He had passionately championed the cause for sustainable and inclusive growth and the transformative role businesses could play in creating larger societal value.
What is your message for the next generation?
There are two important things that the new generation needs to bear in mind.
1 – Natural resources are not unlimited. So they have to be used wisely and without wastage.
2 – There has to be a purpose to everything. The way we live and use resources, and also to life. And the purpose of life must be to leave a positive impact when we are gone.
ABRFL Merit List
• CII – IGBC Platinum Rating for Green Building – 1st Apparel warehouse in India to achieve this milestone.
• Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited received a Social Impact Award from the Indian Chamber of Commerce(ICC) for Empowering the Rural Population, in the Mega Enterprise Category.
• ABFRL has been conferred a Silver Rating by IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) for its manufacturing unit, Crafted Clothing Limited.
• Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd is the recipient of the CSR Project of the Year Award for its Village Development Project at the Corporate Social Responsibility Summit and Awards 2019.
• ABFRL has been unanimously chosen as a winner of the 6th Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) Green Champion Award under the category of ‘Pioneer in large scale adoption of green buildings in Industrial sector’.
• ABFRL received Sustainable Corporate of the Year Award, 2019 and a Certificate of Merit in Micro Manufacturing and in the Leaders Category at the Sustainability 4.0 Awards by Frost & Sullivan and TERI.
• DJSI – Secured 8th position globally and 1st in Emerging market segment for SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment in Textile, Apparel and Luxury Goods Sector. The SAM CSA methodology is used, among others, to select the companies for the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).
• UNEP – PE Earth Chino case study selected for product guidelines and standards globally in apparel retail.
• Awarded with Golden Globe Tigers Awards-2019 for ‘Best Sustainability Report’ & ‘Excellence in CSR Leadership’