Shefali Suri is the Group CHRO of Greaves Cotton since February 2020. She has an invaluable experience of 22 years, which includes being a leading HR for 15 years across the FMCG, Manufacturing & Financial Services industries. Across her extensive career, she has gained immense corporate exposure and a plethora of skills by working at numerous reputed organizations such as Tata Autocomp & Boyden, SBI Funds Management, Lehman Brothers, Kellogg Company, Mirae Asset Global Investment Management Pvt Ltd, LIC Nomura, and Raheja Qbe before her current appointment at Greaves Cotton. Her chief areas of expertise are Change Management, Business Transformation, LTIs, Expansion, Planning & Strategy, and Start-Ups.
In conversation with People Matters, Shefali shares the incredible work carried out at Greaves Cotton, and the importance of leading ESG frameworks and building connections with stakeholders.
As companies are expected to strengthen their stance on ESG, how can businesses become a force of good and lead initiatives geared towards making a difference at the ground level?
As a company with over 160 years of stellar legacy steeped in the ethos of doing well by doing good, ESG has always found a place of prominence in the Greaves’ scheme of things. Our existence and growth have been underpinned by robust community relations surrounding our manufacturing units and by undertaking multiple skilling and re-skilling initiatives for inclusive growth. Thus, our initiatives such as DEEP (Development, Education, Empowerment, Progress), a CSR initiative on skilling underprivileged youth run in conjunction with National Employability Enhancement Mission have seen the local communities around our manufacturing plants flourish. As the operational environment becomes more dynamic, climate and sustainability will become an important consideration not just in setting standards of CSR but also in formulating business strategies. Hence, any business aspiring to do well has to look at ESG as a model of operation and look beyond just compliance.
Along with strengthening CSR initiatives, how can leadership today drive the right values at an organisational level?
Four principles of diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) can improve team dynamics, productivity, and innovation. As articulated in the previous question, aspects of doing good be it ESG or DEIB will become increasingly central to business success. Consumers, and even employees, today are discerning and feel obligated to make the right choices in patronizing the brands that they see as socially responsible, environmentally conscious and financially sustainable. At our Electric mobility manufacturing plant in Ranipet, we have truly lived the values of diversity and inclusion with over 70% women workforce. We recently rolled out our 50,000th e-scooter from the said plant within a short span of commencing operations. What a testament to the skills and abilities of women working day in and day out to break the myth surrounding manufacturing and women!
Given that manufacturing plants have relationships with several stakeholders, how can we incorporate ESG frameworks and values in building those connections?
Our success for over 160 years is built on robust community relations that are in turn built on our ability to positively impact the local communities surrounding our manufacturing plants. Reskilling and making people job-ready, especially from the underprivileged communities has always been the key focus for Greaves Cotton. Ushering in such initiatives is incumbent upon the company first fulfilling all requisite regulatory compliance, undertaking environmentally friendly business decisions and putting in place effective processes to ensure high standards of governance. It is important for us to understand that without community support and involvement, manufacturing plants seldom survive. It is in the best interest of the businesses to cultivate this relationship basis mutual trust and mutual respect.
How can organisations stop themselves from falling into the trap of tokenism when leading environmentally and socially conscious practices at the level of employees and the level of business operations?
A simple mantra to avoid this trap is to see Doing Good as a strategic priority for the continued success of an organization. There has to be a minimum gap between what the organization says about itself and what the world at large perceives it to be. When this happens, trust in the brand soars high and companies thrive. Again, this is dependent on companies doing the right things be it in the domain of ethical business practices or environmentally sustainable practices.