M&S’s Plan A broke-even long before its projected date, and by 2009-10 had added £50m worth of net benefit to the company. Smart companies have expanded their CSR and sustainability on many diverse levels, looking towards the horizons they operate within. With their green message driven home through media saturation the consumer is preached to daily. However, beyond the process of promotion and sales of goods or services, businesses generally remain disconnected from the communities they operate in. Localism remains a mystical notion to big-business in Europe. It is seen as a challenge – whether in urban communities that rally against the latest incursion by a coffee or supermarket chain or a European state refusing meat imports. Where ‘safe’ standardisation drives profits, addressing individuality is perceived as an expensive pursuit.
The diverse nature, of urban communities in particular, confuses perception exponentially. The recent nationwide riots saw great numbers of people contributing to the clean-up and restoration of areas damaged by their disenfranchised ‘neighbours’. On the other side of the world, in the emerging Indian market, the approach to localism is simpler but so much more relevant to the whole of the society.
In a report produced for Mumbai’s ‘Forum for the Future’, sustainability company Futerra reports Indian attitudes to green issues as being “filed firmly in the box labelled “nice to have – but non-essential”. Bucking the trend however, is a young company by the name of Abellon, an energy provider that seems to have identified the missing link within business models worldwide. Where M&S have defined a sustainability approach within the European market, Abellon have pushed further. Firmly establishing its global responsibility, amongst its business model headings, alongside Agrisciences, Bio-energies and Waste Management Policy is an intriguing heading: ‘Poornakumbha’.
Poornakumbha symbolically represents an ‘empty pot’, “ready to receive and collect all that a community has to give after having enriched and enhanced its riches multifold”. Its roots are based in Ghandian philosophy, spirituality and entrepreneurialism – phrases you will be hard pressed to find in European business strategy. At its most basic, Poornakumbha promotes empowerment of communities by sharing of
inherent intellectual and financial wealth of big-business. Poornakumbha provides education and tools to drive local initiatives such as ‘wealth from waste’ – a cradle-to-cradle process that encourages re-use of waste energy products. In a society that acknowledges such obvious social divisions of class and caste, Poornakumba represents an inclusive notion of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Maybe this innovative business model offers a form of
engagement and community healing that the West may benefit from?