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31 Dec 2019 -Tata Review Ms. Shalini Singh, Chief Corporate Comm. & Sustainability, Tata Power interaction with Tata Review

Going beyond business to touch the community

Shalini Singh of Tata Power and Madhulika Sharma of Tata Steel have been recognised as Asia's Top Sustainability Superwomen 2019. Tata Review talks to the two sustainability champions to understand their role in driving positive change within and outside their respective organisations and their key learnings in this journey - By Cynthia Rodrigues

In recent times, Tata Power has distinguished itself by adopting cause branding as its focus. It is this focus that has become the raison d'etre of Shalini Singh, chief of Corporate Communications and Sustainability. A passionate advocate of social and green causes, she leads decarbonisation and circular economy initiatives at Tata Power. The social brand properties that she has driven, including Club Enerji, Greenolution, etc, have won several awards.

She says, "I handle multiple portfolios linked to sustainability. I have the opportunity to combine my passion with my work, so it doesn't feel like work." She is also the chief - CSR (corporate social responsibility), CEO and managing trustee of Tata Power Community Development Trust and chief - Tata Power Skill Development Centres.

Chosen out of 126 nominations from 20 countries across Asia, Shalini and Madhulika are among the 27 outstanding women leaders from 11 countries who have received this coveted recognition by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Shalini and her teams work in five thrust areas of education, health and sanitation, financial inclusivity, water and cultivation, and employability and livelihood. Says Shalini, "Last year, we touched the lives of 2.2 million people."

CONSERVING ENERGY

The team's earliest foray into cause branding was Tata Power Club Energy, subsequently renamed Club Enerji. Based on the simple idea that energy saved is energy produced, and that energy could easily be saved if the right action was taken. The programme went on to sensitise 26 million citizens and 15 lakh children in 533 schools in 12 cities with its message of energy conservation. Today Club Enerji is a self-sustaining movement that has taken on a life of its own.

Shalini says, "After driving home the message of energy conservation, we linked the programme to fuel and water consumption, waste management, etc, successfully creating a conservation mindset among children and their families."

PROTECTING THE MAHSEER

The company was just as keen on the conservation of the Mahseer fish. Shalini says, "For the past 40 years, we have been maintaining a hatchery in Lonavala where the fingerlings are grown, before they are released in the lake around the company's own Walwhan dam."

Tata Power invited the masses to convert this programme into a movement. The programme invited people to sign up as fish knights and volunteer to create awareness of the mahseer's role in cleaning the marine ecosystem, as the mahseer is an indicator of the water body's health.

EMPOWERING WOMEN AT THE GRASS-ROOTS LEVEL

A common thread running through these programmes has been that of empowerment. "This brand of inspirational leadership at Tata Power has inspired and encouraged me," says Shalini. She strives to ensure that the sustainability programmes that she steers have two elements: They should make a difference to the future, and they should go beyond business to touch the community.

One of the team's bigger microenterprises, Dhaaga, enables women to showcase their sewing and artistic talents by facilitating skilling for garment and handicraft making. Around 1050 women across 50 locations are part of this initiative. Beginning by supplying to Okhai, the women now have their own label, Dhaaga, which will soon be available on Amazon Saheli, a portal for women entrepreneurs. The other is called Maval Dairy programme, an all-women's dairy, which is run as a business unit and promotes its dairy products through an app that is operated by the women themselves.

To keep all these initiatives going, Shalini depends on four teams - whom she describes as "team players who are empowered". They work in different spheres, but in tandem on the initiatives. "What ties many things together for us is that we are process oriented, focused on effective planning and deployment, and open to feedback, which enables us to handle multiple portfolios with ease."

"I am passionate about all these programmes and feel extremely satisfied every time we cross a milestone," she says.