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Exclusive interview with T. M. Chen of CCIL: Conservation, climate, and communities

Conservation is key, for our environment and for our health. We discuss with T. M. Chen, president of Continental Carbon India Limited (CCIL) and Master of Chemical Engineering from National Tsing Hua University, to further investigate this topic.

“The drastic climate change caused by the greenhouse effect is seriously affecting our lives,” Chen said on the occasion of World Environment Day this year. “CCIL continues to work tirelessly to help make the communities around its plant more sustainable. On the occasion of World Environment Day, it is critical that we work towards increasing environmental awareness and the need to conserve and protect the environment. It is therefore imperative to ensure that sustainability and economic progress go hand in hand for a cleaner and greener economy, that is conducive of holistic development for our future generations. CCIL will also continue to work towards its vision of an ‘eco-friendly civilisation’ through various environmental protection measures.”

Our interaction can be read below.

  • What is CCIL’s commitment towards conservation and why is this important?

CCIL inherits the value concept of CSRC, its parent company, and believes that rebirth is a crucial concept. We believe that human civilisation can coexist with nature through circular economy which is also our successful business model. We aspire to be a true leader in circular economy and sustainability that astutely navigates the complex relationship between humans and nature. Therefore, we commit to conservation from our business essence, not just from a general CSR point of view.

  • You focus a great deal on community building, empowerment, and engagement. Why is it crucial for this to be part of your strategy?

We believe that we are all in a symbiosis system. If our members surrounding us do not live well, we will not be able to succeed either. Therefore, caring for our neighboring communities and empowering them is necessary. 

  • How are you working at the community level to facilitate better health outcomes and can you offer examples of some projects aimed at bettering public health?

We try to facilitate community health from concept establishment to resource donation. For example, we have held eye camps, HIV awareness camps, organised a karate tournament, and a fitness awareness session on International Yoga Day. We have also worked towards improving the sanitary infrastructure of the local schools, and donated benches to government hospitals in the nearby area. Currently, we are in discussion with Rotary International to set up a weekly health clinic for locals and economically weaker sections of the society. We think resource donation is a way to contribute to communities, and it’s also important to  deliver correct health concepts.

  • The pandemic has shined a light on those who belong to marginalised communities and their struggles in accessing various services including health, nutrition, and education. How are you supporting those groups?

It becomes important to care about the marginalised communities since it is this group which has been most poorly struck by the COVID-19 crisis. CCIL has started several relief measures with respect to children because the company believes that these children are the future of our country. This is also consistent with our group’s CSR mission. CCIL recently renovated basic amenities like lighting, drinking water, and toilet facilities in a government school in Chipiyana, along with distributing stationary kits to the students. Additionally, CCIL also provided scholarships to the marginalised and donated towards the relief measures and rehabilitation of the victims of the natural disasters in the past.

  • Environmentally, we are seeing a surge in natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. How are you addressing those?

Carbon neutrality is a necessary strategy. We, at CCIL, try to reduce our GHG emissions by optimising equipment and processes. To mark our commitment towards the environment, CCIL also organised a massive plantation drive on World Environment Day along with the local residents. CCIL also participated in a plantation drive called “Vriksharopan Jan Andolan 2021” organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pollution Control Board in Ghaziabad for planting 10,000 saplings.

  • Not only are we grappling with the health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also weather the climate crisis. Is it difficult to work towards addressing the impacts of both?

We think health crises and climate crises are closely related. If we insist on an “eco-friendly civilisation”, we have to maintain the balance between nature and human survival. Therefore, all business decisions or all CSR actions should follow this idea and then develop a way forward plan. 

  • How are you working to mitigate the effects of the second wave of COVID-19 in India, especially when considering the oxygen shortage crisis? 

During the first wave of Covid 19, CCIL donated RT-PCR testing kits worth INR 500,000 to the Uttar Pradesh government. Keeping the possibility of a third wave in mind, CCIL has come up with its mitigation plan by helping Civil Administration Ghaziabad in setting up an oxygen plant at Women Hospital, Ghaziabad, Primary Health Centre Modinagar, and Dasna. In the past, CCIL has also provided oxygen cylinders to the villagers during the beginning of the second wave of COVID-19. Meanwhile, CCIL also set up a vaccination camp in the company premises for its employees, families of staff workers and contract laborers to get their shot with convenience.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a policy of Atmanirbharta. Could you explain that vision and how CCIL feels about it?

A lot of investments from all over the world are attracted by the “Make in India” and “Self-reliant” policy by the Indian government. Investors are coming to India and creating job opportunities. Atmanirbharta will increase the importance and well-being of local industries, and further upgrade the level of self-reliance in the domestic Indian industry. However, this policy is not implemented in the carbon black industry, since the Indian government allows dumping materials from China and Russia which influences the industry level and competition. 

  • What’s the outlook going forward in terms of the areas where you are working and which we have discussed?

Carbon black is a crucial raw material for industry development, especially used for tyres in automobiles. The automobile production in India with 6.9 percent growth rate is higher than the worldwide figure of 3.8 percent. Apart from the various CSR initiatives mentioned above, climate change will be another important influencing factor to the business. We are currently working out a strategy with our patent group to consider some solutions. 

  • Do you have anything you wish to add? 

I would like to mention that EHS (environment, health, and safety) is a part of our key focus areas and this has resulted in no accident/incident in the past couple of years. Apart from environment and community investment, employee health and safety are important to our company. CCIL considers its employees as family. The management had recently organized a Covid vaccination camp along with arranging oxygen concentrators for its employees in case of an emergency.

Read more of Health Issues India’s interviews with thought leaders in health here.

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