Vinita Bhatia
Jun 05, 2024

Himalaya’s Ragini Hariharan suggests how gaps between sustainability goals and execution in organisations can be bridged

On World Environment Day 2024, she reveals how Himalaya Wellness Company has incorporated its sustainability ethos into every function, process, product and customer communication initiative.

Ragini Hariharan, marketing director for personal care and hygiene, Himalaya Wellness Company.
Ragini Hariharan, marketing director for personal care and hygiene, Himalaya Wellness Company.

Himalaya Wellness Company is shouldering a huge onus and one that it is more than willing to take on. This is the primary duty of ensuring that sustainability is not a buzzword whispered in its corporate corridors, but is an enduring endeavor internally and externally.

World Environment Day 2024 focuses on ‘Land restoration, desertification and drought resilience’, and the Bengaluru-based personal care and pharmaceutical company's ongoing efforts demonstrably contribute to these goals. It believes that brands have a dual responsibility and opportunity when it comes to sustainability and it all starts with taking responsibility within.

Ragini Hariharan, marketing director for personal care and hygiene at Himalaya Wellness Company explains how the company does not believe in doing lip service to sustainability. Instead, it integrates this approach into everything it does, from sourcing its natural ingredients to manufacturing and packaging as well as remaining committed to transparency.

Acknowledging the occasional disparity between sustainability objectives and their implementation within various enterprises, she outlines the proactive approach Himalaya undertakes to diminish this divide through interdepartmental teamwork. After all, well begun is half the job done!

Edited excerpts:

How is Himalaya adhering to this year’s theme for World Environment Day?

We are on a mission to plant millions of trees across India by 2030. Over nine lakh trees have been planted across the Western Ghats, Karnataka, and Meghalaya in a bid to restore the quality of our planet and uplift the lives of the local communities.

The renewed landscape now attracts diverse flora and fauna besides restoring an ecological balance. Vegetable and fruit-bearing saplings have given locals autonomy over the crops and aided towards their economic sustenance. These diverse ecosystems not only improve soil quality and prevent wind erosion, but also create a natural defense against desertification by restoring degraded lands.

Since you work closely with the farming community, how are you educating them about deforestation and adopting the regenerative agricultural practices?

Since our inception, Himalaya has been working with farmer communities in the cultivation of herbs using organic composting, without chemical fertilisers. These practices keep our soil healthy by conserving water resources, natural vegetation, and local land productivity.

We keep track of the farms we source from, in each stage, ensuring high compliance. All these practices help improve the lives of farmers and build healthier communities through reduced costs, improved crop yield, and greater resilience to market volatility. 

Finally, understanding the importance of water management in combating desertification and drought, Himalaya has implemented a comprehensive water conservation strategy. We have been harvesting rainwater since 2009. Our recycling plants help reduce the reliance on freshwater sources, and water recycling plants have been installed to treat industrial waste water and reuse the water in gardening and utilities.
 
In the pervasive culture of overconsumption, how is your company educating customers about mindful buying and recycling?  

We openly communicate our sustainability goals and regularly update consumers on our progress. This allows customers to make informed choices and feel good about the brands they support.

From our consumer standpoint, we’re constantly working hard to develop products that are not only effective but also formulated with sustainability in mind. Our focus on natural ingredients, vegan options, and paraben-free formulations empowers consumers to make eco-friendly choices without compromising on quality.

In addition to exploring a viable replacement for plastic packaging, we have implemented a process to collect, recycle, process, and responsibly dispose of the plastic waste generated from post-consumer use. Customers return the product containers to the store and redeem the discount against a product they buy. Himalaya stores across India collected 736,195 units of containers.

How can companies harness marketing to drive and amplify sustainable behaviours?

Sustainability is a cornerstone of Himalaya's Consumer Products Division, influencing everything we do. This commitment extends far beyond product formulation, encompassing ethical sourcing, responsible manufacturing practices, and community engagement. This dedication to environmental and social well-being is not only reflected in our actions as a company but also strategically communicated through our marketing efforts.

We understand that consumers today are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their choices.  This understanding shapes our product development strategy.

With a strong focus on natural, vegan, and paraben-free formulations, we cater directly to this growing market segment. By highlighting these qualities throughout our marketing materials, we also strive to educate consumers about the environmental benefits when choosing our products thereby empowering them to make sustainable choices.

Himalaya Wellness sources its herbs from farms that use regenerative agriculture practices.

Transparency is another key element of Himalaya's approach. We openly communicate our sustainability goals and regularly update consumers on their progress. Sharing details like the number of trees planted or the amount of plastic reduced in packaging allows consumers to see the tangible impact of their choices. This transparency builds trust and strengthens the connection between Himalaya and our environmentally conscious customer base.

Promoting these efforts through marketing materials educates consumers about the importance of recyclable packaging and its environmental benefits. This not only reinforces Himalaya's own commitment to sustainability but also empowers consumers to participate in a circular economy.

Amidst their role as agents of generational change, do marketers get caught in the quandary of how business sustainability goals are crafted and how they are finally executed?

We agree that sometimes there can be a gap between sustainability goals and execution across companies. Here at Himalaya, we bridge this gap via cross-functional collaboration.

Our marketing team collaborates with experts across the company to ensure sustainability is considered at every step of the product journey. We also invest in training to equip our marketing team with the skills they need to make sustainability a reality.

Are marketing teams adequately equipped with the necessary skills and tools to drive and assess sustainability initiatives? Furthermore, do they possess the authority to spearhead a company's sustainability journey effectively?

While many marketers are passionate about sustainability, they might not always have the specific expertise needed for areas like sustainable sourcing or lifecycle assessments. Marketing typically focuses on brand messaging and communication.  Leading a company-wide sustainability initiative might require broader collaboration and the right kind of tools to equip them with the appropriate knowledge and guidance.

 

By partnering with over 600 farmers from 70 villages and NGOs, Himalaya Wellness empowers local communities to become stewards of the environment.

How does Himalaya align its product innovations with the company’s overarching ESG goals?

Himalaya integrates sustainability into the physical design of our products. Our commitment to 100% recyclable packaging and the ongoing transition to eco-friendly materials showcases our dedication to minimising waste throughout the product lifecycle.

Himalaya's dedication to sustainability extends beyond marketing and product development. We’ve implemented several innovative practices throughout their supply chain that directly align with our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) objectives. 

For instance, our commitment to sourcing herbs from farms utilising regenerative agriculture ensures healthy soil conditions and reduces the environmental impact of cultivation.  This practice not only benefits the environment but also improves the quality and consistency of the raw materials used in their products.

Finally, Himalaya recognises the importance of community engagement in achieving lasting environmental change. Our tree plantation programs, which have seen over 974,000 trees planted across India since 2012, are a testament to this commitment. 

These initiatives not only contribute to reforestation efforts but also enhance the collaboration with local communities.  By partnering with over 600 farmers from 70 villages and NGOs, we empower local communities to become stewards of the environment.

Source:
Campaign India

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