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Published on: Oct. 7, 2022, 6:21 p.m.
How Godrej & Boyce creates sustainable initiatives
  • Godrej & Boyce has provided paddling boats and fishing nets to Shirwal’s fishermen community

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co, the flagship company of the Godrej group with presence across multiple industries -- from home appliances, security solutions to aerospace & defence -- is also known for meticulously pursuing its strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects aimed at achieving Good & Green goals.  Over the years, it has emerged as one of the most socially and environmentally responsible companies in the country. 

“At Godrej & Boyce, we take a scalable approach to sustainability initiatives ensuring that we create sustained value for our business, the communities, and the planet. From helping design and build over 600 resource-efficient buildings, doubling our energy productivity, being water positive to conserving several thousand acres of mangrove ecosystems around Mumbai and empowering over 1.6 lakh youth with employable skills, we have been making significant strides in our environment and sustainability initiatives as well as to India’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030,” says Nyrika Holkar, Executive Director, Godrej & Boyce.

G&B has been quite active in carrying out its Good & Green goals in and around its manufacturing facilities spread across several locations in the country.  One such location is Shirwal in Satara district of Maharashtra, where the company has multiple facilities across its three verticals i.e. Godrej Appliances; Godrej Interio and   Godrej Lawkim Motors.

Though G&B has been engaged in implementing various impact projects for many years, it is since 2016 when it has been pursuing these programmes in a more structured manner with curated interventions to strengthen and develop village communities in the region. 

The company is carrying out integrated rural development programmes in villages (covered over 10 villages; also covered over 1,400 farmers in the last two years) to improve women livelihood, agriculture output, education, health, water management and sanitation infrastructure.

“Despite the industrialisation in the area in the past two decades, Shirwal remained under-developed in terms of socio-economic development. Prior to launching CSR initiatives in the area, we at Godrej & Boyce, conducted a landscape study at Shirwal. Indications of inadequate educational and skill development infrastructure, lack of healthcare facilities, and water and sanitation issues were amongst the major issues faced by the people here. We recognised that tackling these issues would require a holistic approach, rather than isolating problems. With this approach, we have launched a host of initiatives in Shirwal. These initiatives are intended at strengthening and developing entire village communities,” says Ashwini Deodeshmukh, Head CSR & Sustainability, Godrej & Boyce.

Majority of the people in the region are engaged in farm-based employment. They either own farms or are agricultural labourers. While most people in Shirwal are employed for more than six months in a year, there is a small percentage of people who only have access to livelihood activities for less than six months, something which negatively impacts their livelihood.

Being an industrial area, there are various avenues of employment in Shirwal. However, the dependence on agriculture and traditional approach to women’s roles in society prove to be obstacles for them to utilize employment opportunities. 

Godrej & Boyce has focused on empowering women through providing them with self-employment opportunities which can be leveraged by individual women as well as women’s self-help groups (SHGs). For instance, one of the initiatives where women have been able to increase their incomes was through the formation of a women’s SHG called Krushi Jivala Women Farmer Group, located in Palashi village for running a shade-net floriculture enterprise.

The land for the shed-net has been provided by one of the SHG member’s husbands. Taking a multi-collaborative route, the company partnered with local, grassroots NGOs which has facilitated the process of setting up and formalising the SHG.

  • Agarbatti unit empowers women

A member of AWARD, the NGO which facilitated the formation of the SHG says, “Our job was to handhold the Krushi Jivala and ensure that they got the right kind of support. For this, we helped them open bank accounts. The next step was to build awareness and link them with existing government schemes of the agriculture department and NABARD. These linkages with government schemes are beneficial for obtaining subsidies, loans, and access to markets. In addition to this Godrej & Boyce has supported capacity building training for the SHG member for 3 years.”

One of the SHG members says, “Covid was a difficult time for us as we could not access the external markets for sales. We were incurring losses. It was then that the members of the village Panchayat helped us to set up a local market during the Covid lockdown when inter-city travel was prohibited. This significantly helped us to cut our losses and sustain during the pandemic.” 

Today, the SHG cultivates 4 kinds of flowers and generates an annual income of Rs1.25-1.5 lakh.

Similarly, women from the villages are also trained in making Agarbattis as an income enhancement venture. G&B supports the women by bearing half of the equipment cost. The additional income earned through these ventures has been Rs10,000 per annum per group. 

The entire Tondal Village had to migrate due to the construction of Veer Dam on River Neera. Post migration, 12-15 families had to take up fishing in the backwater of the dam for their livelihoods. Using a highly risky method where tubes from bus and truck tires would be used for floatation, the fishermen  were exposed to accidents, injury, parasites, and diseases. Moreover, they could only capture 3-5 kg of fish per day which would fetch them around Rs300-400 per day. 

Godrej & Boyce has provided these families with paddling boats, fishing nets, which enable them to catch 10-15 Kg of fish in a day and earn between Rs800- 1,000 per day. This intervention has not only increased the productivity of the fishing community, but the lifejackets have also provided them with an additional layer of safety while fishing.

Additionally, for post fishing, the catch fetches better prices if it is dried before selling. To facilitate this in an eco-friendly manner, the company has provided the community with solar dryers which can be used for the purpose and help them get a better price for the catch. 

One of the fishermen says, “We sell this fish for Rs40 per kg. We get double the price for it when it is dried. The solar dryer which was provided by Godrej & Boyce can be operated without electricity and we can easily use it. After drying, we can get between Rs80-100 per kg.” 

The Fort near Bajarwadi in Shirwal is a popular tourist destination and attracts trekkers, especially on weekends. The fort has the potential to become a livelihood generation option for the village by giving rise to hospitality generation services. The idea was to encourage tourists to stay back in the village and experience the rural life rather than immediately leaving.

  • Shirwal gets pipe water supply for irrigation

Godrej & Boyce supported the training of several households in hospitality services and crafting rural tourism packages. Bullock rides, guided tours for explaining the history of the region, explaining about agricultural equipment are some of the highlights of the village tours. These initiatives have seen rise in tourism in the region.

The NGO partner working on ground for this project estimates that the income of people engaged in tourism related activities has increased by 15-20 per cent. Moreover, there is still scope for development of homestays and engaging activities for tourists once they have completed the trek to the fort. 

Moreover, the farmers in the Bajarwadi village have been also supported through organic farming and farm mechanization. Rice planters have been provided to facilitate sowing of rice. 

A spokesperson from AWARD explains, “During the need assessment phase, it was found that there was shortage of manpower for agricultural work including sowing, harvesting and bedding. Many agricultural activities require intense physical labour, and some activities can take a long time to complete. Farmers end up spending more money on these activities. Equipment such as rice planters were provided to the village farming community to be used as per need. With this they were able to facilitate the tedious process of sowing rice and save on working hours. Three villages have started this activity on group basis and used rice trans-planter for cultivation.”

Working with the shared value approach, rather than creating a parallel infrastructure for education, Godrej & Boyce has provided infrastructure development for the government schools in Shirwal. The company supported one of the schools in Bajarwadi village to obtain an ISO 9001 certification. This certification not only helps improve the processes and management of the school but also emphasizes on the role of teachers and the quality of learning. This creates an environment conducive to learning. 

Prior to the intervention by Godrej & Boyce, villages in Shirwal had issues in access to potable water. Due to water contamination in one of the villages, there were high incidences of kidney related problems amongst village residents. With Godrej & Boyce’s support, a water-filtration unit has been set up in the village. The unit has been running for 6-7 years now.  Besides, a water ATM installed at Bajarwadi village provides water to the residents. Up to 5 litres of water can be withdrawn in a single turn. For tourists, the price is Re1 per litre of water. 

(The author visited Shirwal on invitation of the company) 

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