Riding High On Sustainability

By Shailja Tripathi March 03, 2022

L&T’s recent annual sustainability report proves that it is one of the very few Indian companies that engages with all the 17 SDGs

Riding High On Sustainability

Tanuja Jawale has come a long way in her digital journey. She joined LTFH’s (Larsen & Toubro Finance Holdings Limited) Digital Sakhi Maharashtra program in 2017 and learned the ropes of digital finance. Later, she enrolled in a specialized training program on the usage of government gateways like Aaple Sarkar, different online applications and a three-month state government authorized computer literacy program. Today, she is a full-fledged Digital Sakhi -- the rural woman who can educate, influence, and help their communities on the topic of digital financial literacy -- running her own Digital Sakhi Seva Kendra, which provides digital finance-related services to villages. Till date, the Digital Sakhi Maharashtra program has created a cadre of over 860 ‘Digital Sakhis’ and up-skilled 4,500 women entrepreneurs.  

This is just one of the ways by which Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has achieved its SDG Goal 5 of gender equality. The company is also trying to work with this goal internally and is aiming for higher number of women in its workforce. 

According to the recently released Integrated Report 2020-21, the organization is deeply engaged with not just one but all the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) – adopted in 2015 by the United Nations to achieve a better and sustainable future for all.  

S.N. Subrahmanyan, CEO & MD, L&T explains, “L&T has been at the forefront of actions around nation-building since its inception in 1938. The company’s commitment to developing poverty-free, industrialized, educated, healthy India with its sustainable consumption habits has prompted us to work on the SDGs including Zero Hunger, Clean Water & Sanitation, Climate Action, etc. And today, it is stronger than ever in terms of its actions on SDG goals through sustainable business practices, CSR initiatives, and overall policy alignment with global and national efforts.” 

SDG 1 - no poverty: L&T has undertaken skilling programs for youth and migrant labor to enable higher wage-earning capacity. There are vocational, life-skills training and job placements for skilled youth, women, and differently-abled. It has also been promoting Self Help Groups (SHG) to boost agricultural income and multi-cropping due to water adequacy leading to increased household incomes, formation of farmer groups, and market linkages for better crop prices.  

SDG 2 - End hunger: Families are being encouraged to grow and eat local seasonal and traditional food like millets. Farmers are motivated to practice zero-budget natural farming, drip irrigation, indigenous pesticides, seed treatment, balanced dose of fertilizers and are discouraged to grow water-intensive crops. According to the report, malnutrition is being addressed through nutrition awareness campaigns and counselling for women, pre-school teachers and school children from the community. Multi-vitamins and milk are distributed daily at anganwadis/schools.  

SDG 3 - Good health and well-being: L&T established multi-specialty health centers with a team of professionals equipped to provide outpatient and tertiary health services. It reached out to underprivileged communities, making healthcare accessible and affordable to them. The report states that around 822,967 Individuals were provided better access to information and healthcare facilities in FY21.  

Sharing more details, Subrahmanyan adds, “Keeping people and communities healthy has been one of the company's mottos aligning with similar SDGs. During the pandemic, L&T played a proactive role in setting up ICUs for treating Covid-19 patients, equipping existing government hospitals with ventilators, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, masks to health workers. When the second wave threw up the unexpected challenge of an acute shortage of oxygen, the Group responded by activating our global procurement arms, and commenced delivery of oxygen generators to various hospitals in India amounting to Rs 35 Crore.” 

Another significant intervention that L&T has made over the years is through the implementation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning. During the pandemic, the learning platform was modified to address the sudden disruption caused to education by the pandemic. About 350 teachers were equipped with remote learning strategies and methodologies and conducted online classes for students. About 100 per cent of the Science and Math curriculum was covered through remote learning content and classes. The report notes that 10,628 students participated in the remote learning program; 4,884 students who did not have access to smartphones were reached out to through community visits and worksheets; 6,035 students were able to perform STEM activities.  

Clean water and sanitation -- SDG 6 -- remains a challenge for the country but initiatives like The Integrated Community Development Program (ICDP) started in 2014-15 are doing the helping. Five water-stressed locations in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu have achieved water sufficiency for drinking, sanitation, and agriculture in the last five years because of ICDP. The program has now been implemented in four additional contiguous water-stressed locations in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.  

For SDG Goal 7 which is clean and affordable energy, L&T has boosted renewable energy use within campuses and project sites. Its campuses utilised 21.2 Million units from wind-powered turbines, which constitutes 7.53 per cent of the total grid electricity mix, and 2.6 million units of solar energy were harnessed at its campuses. 

When it comes to SDG 8, job placements, upskilling, workshops have been made available to the young and the differently-abled to help them get decent work and drive economic growth which is SDG Goal 8. Around 979 beneficiaries from rural/urban India got upskilled and within the organization, 1.9 Lakh courses were conducted against 44,000 in FY20, according to the report. 

Among other things, the organization focused on ‘Make in India’ initiatives to create employment opportunities and import substitution for SDG 9 -- industry, innovation, and infrastructure. It worked to reduce inequalities (SDG 10) by offering opportunities to various communities irrespective of gender, age, disability, race, and religion and encouraged the participation of vulnerable groups like women and the deprived, in rural developmental projects. To make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (SDG 11) L&T developed smart technology solutions for critical infrastructure like airports, power plants, metro rails, and IT parks.  

By adopting energy efficiency advancement projects and sustainable production practices, the organization ensured sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12). Due to these efforts, L&T’s cumulative energy conservation over the years has come to be more than 128 mn KWH. It uses fly ash, granular blast furnace slag, crushed sand in construction projects, and recycled steel and zinc wherever permissible.  

There are GHG intensity reduction projects in place, initiatives to reuse and recycle waste materials, rainwater harvesting, carbon footprint mapping, and many other measures that address climate change (SDG 13).  

SDG 15 is taken care of by soil conservation, afforestation, combating desertification, forest clean-up drives. A gamut of practices that L&T has adopted over the years goes on to address SDGs 14, 16, and 17 automatically.  

It’s not easy to undertake this journey to reach sustainability goals. Subrahmanyan expresses, “Walking on the path of sustainability brings unique challenges in a developing economy. With its vast populace to serve, the country needs rapid actions on SDGs at a humongous scale and large investments by all stakeholders led by the government.”