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GCG in conversation with Shalini Singh, Chief-Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Tata Power Limited

Shalini Singh is an integrated Communication Professional with 20 years of experience in the industries such as Power, IT, Telecom & Textiles & Garments. She is the Chief-Corporate Communications and Sustainability at Tata Power. She is a trustee on the board of Tata Power Community Development Trust & a Woman Director & board member on Tata Power’s subsidiaries.

Shalini Singh, Chief-Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Tata Power

Shalini has been heading Corporate Communications at Tata Power since October 2004 with a lead responsibility for External & Internal Communications. Prior to Tata Power, she was leading Marketing and Communications for consulting business of Accenture, India. Before Accenture, she worked with Airtel and was heading Corporate Communications for its Western Region circles. She was also a part of launch team for conceptualizing, planning and implementing Bharti’s entry strategy in the Western Region telecom circles.

Shalini started her career with Arvind Mills in Ahmedabad and moved to Mumbai with Kale Consultants, an IT firm specializing in Airlines, Banking and Projects & Services. She has set up & institutionalized Corporate Communication function in leading organizations of India namely Arvind Mills, Kale Consultants, Airtel & Tata Power.

Shalini is a member of various International & national communication organizations. Chief of them are IABC and IFCC & ABCI, India. She has been an in house Faculty for various training programs at Tata Group, Arvind Mills and external institutes. Shalini has a Master’s degree in Communications & Extension from M.S. University Baroda.

 Current Work Goals and Achievements:

At Tata Power, Shalini has launched and spearheaded several award-winning brand properties to reinforce Tata Power’s commitment to Sustainability & CSR such as Club Enerji, Act for Mahseer, Greenolution & others which are a case study in IIM A. She is a TED speaker & has presented the social brands- Club Enerji & Greenolution at IIMA TEDx.

Puskar Pande from Green Clean Guide talks to Shalini about her role in Corporate Communications and Sustainability domain and Tata Power’s low-carbon transition journey.

Why did you decide to explore the field of sustainability? Tell us what interests you most about this specific role?

When I was asked to lead Tata Power’s sustainability, I had already spent a decade and a half in Tata Group. Being one of the oldest and largest business groups in India and the world that was built on values beyond just the bottom line, it is hard to miss seeing the impact of the work we do as an integral part of the community. In that sense, every Tata Group company is deeply entrenched in the larger welfare of the community.  Further, being a part of the global energy business and as the largest integrated utility in India, Tata Power enjoys a unique opportunity to lead by example. We also live in a time where how we produce and conserve energy is an important part of the global sustainability movement.  So, I think anyone who was presented with an opportunity as I was, would have grabbed it with both hands.  

Tata Power’s sustainability initiatives are rooted in the community we work with. For example, one of the successful models that we have adopted is taking the sustainability message to the next generation through our Club Enerji initiative. Today, Club Enerji has reached out to more than 500 schools across the country and we have empowered children to be the torchbearers of the work we do towards energy and resource conservation. The impact of what we have done with Club Enerji is particularly satisfying, I think.

How does Tata Power contribute to a safe and healthy environment?  As a power generation company, what opportunity do you have to influence the power sector in India towards environmental and social excellence?

Today, two-thirds of the energy we produce in India comes from thermal plants that are fired by coal and gas. Until recently, we had to accept this as a necessity in order to sustain our economic and even social goals like ensuring we create a livelihood for the marginalised sections of our society.  But, over the last few years, a lot has changed and today renewable energy has become a viable alternative. Around two years ago we even managed to hit the long-elusive price parity between thermal and green energy.  At Tata Power, we are now working towards a medium-term goal of building green energy capacity of 45-50% by 2025 from around 32% of our total capacity now. We already have a little over 2000 MW of solar power generating capacity and actively promoting and participating in expanding solar energy footprint in India through rooftop solar and large grid-based capacities.  We also have some big plans to expand the reach of solar power into rural India through solar microgrids, for which we have tied up with the Rockefeller Foundation.  As part of the larger plan within the Tata Group, we have some ambitious plans to build a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

What is Tata Power doing on the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction front?

Our work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is implemented on two fronts.  As an energy utility, the strategic intent is to increase our RE generating capacity to 45-50% of the total generating asset base by 2025. Everything we are doing to get there including our investment in large grid-based solar energy projects, rooftop solar, solar microgrid and EV charging network are all part of this larger plan. That is the business part of the story. Simultaneously, our community outreach projects like Club Enerji is working on the demand side of the climate change challenge. Now if we look at this initiative, between 2007 and today, the number of schools we have included in this project has increased from 12 to more than 500 today, while the number participating school children have gone up from 12,000 to 19 million citizens (which includes school children, parents, teachers, energy consumers at large etc).

In 2018-19, Tata Power ‘Club Enerji’ saved over 4 million units of electricity and sensitised over 23.8 million citizens in India by creating 3.4 lakh Energy Champions along with 3.8 lakh Energy Ambassadors across the country since 2007. During the same year, in Mumbai city alone, this initiative had saved around 3 million units of power by reaching out to 3.2 million citizens.

This national movement has also recently received global recognition with “The Edison Award” for its “Club Enerji #SwitchOff2SwitchOn” campaign in the Social Innovation, Social Energy Solutions category. The Edison Awards, named after Thomas Alva Edison, recognises and honours the world’s best innovations and innovators and is one of the highest accolades a company can receive in the domain of innovation and business success. 

As on 31st March 2019, the Tata Power group of companies had an operational generation capacity of 10,957 MW, of which 2,549 MW is renewable (23%). The company has a target to achieve 40-50% of renewable capacity in its portfolio by 2025? How do you plan to achieve this target in the current policy environment in India?

This is already addressed in the earlier questions.

The company’s standalone CSR spends for FY19 stood at ₹ 12.66 crores against the Act requirement of ₹ 12.65 crores. Can you please tell us how do you prioritise projects under CSR spend? How do you decide to support a specific project?

Tata Power is committed to ensuring the social wellbeing of the communities in the vicinity of its business operations through our CSR initiatives in alignment with Tata Group Focus Initiatives.  Within Tata Power, we have a documented policy to ensure we invest in critical and high-impact areas. To enable this, Tata Power engages with the community by engaging with the community and other key stakeholders for understanding needs and designing initiatives for the social wellbeing of the community. 

Today, our CSR work on focuses on 5 major thrust areas, which include education, health & sanitation, livelihood & skill-building, financial inclusivity and water (drinking and irrigation). Apart from these we also regularly support ad hoc needs such as those that might arise due to natural disasters.

Please tell us more about “Club Enerji” and “I have the power” initiatives?

Earlier this year, Tata Power launched a nation-wide campaign called ‘I Have the Power’ to create awareness on the choices it provides to today’s customers. The campaign promotes the core message of opting for environmentally friendly means of consuming energy and thereby highlights the range of smart and sustainable solutions and services like Solar Rooftop, EV Charging and Solar Micro-grids that Tata Power now offers to its customers. This campaign has already gathered momentum and is supported by Shardul Thakur, a member of the Indian Cricket team.

Tell us about a recent challenge you faced while working on these initiatives? How did you overcome it?

Club Enerji’s aim to reach more and more people nationally and globally. The program currently runs in India and our aim is to reach out globally. To overcome this challenge we have started launching online modules of club enerji which has got fantastic response and also foster global partnerships to increase reach.

Tata Group is a very transparent company in India. Tata Power is communicating about its environmental impacts to its stakeholders via an annual sustainability report and also making voluntary corporate environmental disclosure to CDP (Erstwhile Carbon Disclosure Project). Why do you think environmental disclosure is important for a company like yours?

There are two aspects to the disclosure policy.  As a publicly held corporation with a large investor base, it is necessary that all stakeholders know about the future-readiness of their company.  As I said in an answer to an earlier question, our environmental policy is directly linked to our business. As a leading energy utility, we are part of the solution to the global environmental challenges and that is where our strategic intent of increasing our renewable energy capacity comes from. 

Secondly, as a large business, we share the same responsibility as any other in ensuring that our words and actions follow each other closely. We work within the community and for the community at large. So, voluntary corporate environmental disclosure also helps in internalising our fundamental ethos. This helps everyone within the company also understand and support our work in creating an ecologically sustainable business environment and that even our small and big routine decisions that we take in the course of our business have a larger impact on the environment. So, both for the sake of internal and external stakeholders, such a disclosure policy is invaluable. 

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