Recognizing the urgent need to combat the threats of climate change, multi-business conglomerate ITC Limited under its ‘Sustainability 2.0’ vision, has been scaling up its afforestation initiatives. These initiatives are aligned to India’s target of creating additional carbon sinks of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through an increased forest and tree cover by 2030.
Besides contributing meaningfully to the nation’s effort to address climate risks, ITC’s initiatives have greened degraded wastelands, prevented soil erosion, increased groundwater recharge and supported farmer incomes. ITC’s large-scale afforestation initiative is particularly relevant with respect to this year’s theme on the Mother Earth Day 2023 – “Invest in our Planet”. Forest conservation and development improve the well-being of humans by providing clean water, food and capture carbon to fight climate change – all goals that ITC’s afforestation programmes aim to achieve.
ITC’s pioneering afforestation initiative has recently achieved the milestone of cumulatively greening more than 10 lakh acres, whilst generating over 185 million person-days of employment for rural households, including women, poor tribal communities and marginal farmers. In the financial year 2021-22, the program greened over 30,700 acres. The programme is currently active across 12 states and has impacted over 2 lakh households. This includes key states such as Telangana and Andhra Pradesh as well as ITC’s recent expansion in the backward rural areas of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
ITC, with the help of its R&D centre Life Sciences and Technology Centre, has developed superior clones and saplings of tree species such as eucalyptus, subabul and casurina that are fast-growing, high-yielding, and disease-resistant, resulting in significantly higher productivity. These trees can grow in various ecological conditions and in addition to providing additional carbon sinks, increases the income for farming communities.
Given the need to enhance farmer incomes, ITC’s Social Forestry initiative has focused on providing training to farmers on productivity improvement. Data from wood supplied by Mutually Aided Co-operative Society (MACS) shows improvement in yield by over 12%, primarily enabled through improved focus on promoting inter-crop practices in agro-forestry and farmer training on productivity improvement.
Building on this initiative further, ITC has also adopted the agro-forestry model, which combines tree growing with field crop production, ensuring food, fodder and fuel-wood security as well as helping in the conservation of precious natural resources like soil. ITC’s unique agro-forestry initiative involves a multi-cropping model with field crops planted in between rows of trees that are aligned in the East-West direction to minimise the shadows of trees falling on ground crops. Nearly 75% of the available land is used for field crops while the rest is used for growing trees.
ITC’s Paperboards and Specialty Paper Business as well as the Company’s leading notebooks brands Classmate and Paperkraft anchor sustainable fibre value chain. The entire sustainable and inclusive wood-based value chain is mapped using mobile application to ensure traceability. Till date, ITC’s Paper Business received Forest Stewardship Council® – Forest Management (FSC®-FM) certification for nearly 1.25 lakh acres of plantations involving over 30,000 farmers. All four manufacturing units of ITC’s Paperboards and Specialty Papers Division (PSPD) have obtained FSC® Chain of Custody certification and complied with all requirements in 2021-22, reaffirming ITC’s position as the leading supplier of FSC®-certified paper and paperboards in India.
ITC’s forestry program is in line with the company’s mission of pursuing a low-carbon growth strategy through extensive decarbonisation initiatives across its value chain. ITC’s long-standing work on afforestation has contributed to the UN SDGs such as sustainable management of forests, increase in access of small-scale enterprises, integration into value chains and halting the loss of biodiversity.
ITC has been an exemplar in sustainability. It is the only Company in the world of comparable dimensions to be water positive for 20 years, carbon positive for 17 years and solid waste recycling positive for 15 years. ITC’s large-scale water stewardship initiatives cover over 1.3 million acres. A pioneer in the Green Building movement, ITC has over 40 Platinum certified green buildings. Currently, over 42% of its energy requirements are fulfilled from renewable sources. As many as 12 ITC’s hotels recently became the first set of hotels in the world to achieve LEED Net Zero carbon status.
Going forward, ITC’s bold and ambitious Sustainability 2.0 vision envisages to strengthen the Company’s multi-dimensional efforts to combat climate change, enable the transition to a net zero economy, work towards ensuring water security for all, restore biodiversity through adoption of nature-based solutions, create an effective circular economy for post-consumer packaging waste and scale up programmes that support sustainable livelihoods.