Whether it is their success as diamantaires or their deep-rooted love for the environment, Shree Ramkrishna Exports Pvt. Ltd. (SRK) owes it all to Mother Earth. After all, its founder Govind Dholakia was originally a farmer from Dudhala before setting up a natural diamond crafting unit in Gujarat’s Surat in 1964. Cut to now, they have a strong 6,000+ workforce, which Mr Dholakia’s son, and Brand Custodian, Shreyans Dholakia calls ‘family members, as it’s a part of their culture.’ In this conversation with us, Shreyans emphasizes that family values come above all for their organisation, besides a philosophy intertwined with the ESG framework, denoting their responsibility and care for the environment, society and governance.
The diamantaire also takes us through the SRK Sustainability Conclave 2023 themed ‘Rethinking Corporate Climate Action’ that was held on 20 May 2023 supported by The South Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Natural Diamond Council. The event brought together the brightest minds from different industries facilitating discussions around emerging practices around India’s sustainability goals.
Over to Shreyans Dholakia…
What has made the SRK group so committed towards sustainability since its inception 60 years ago, when it gained ground only in 1992 with the UN Earth Mission?
It starts with our roots. Despite making a name in the natural diamond business, first and foremost, we are a family of farmers. So, the respect for nature and all living beings was intrinsic to our culture. The problem began when everything started turning into a concrete jungle. Sustainability is just taking care of what God has given us. When he became an established name in the 1980s, my father wanted to donate money to his spiritual guru; but instead he asked my father to just take care of ‘everything’ around us, which means the environment and our people.
How did the efforts toward this begin?
We first looked at our village, Dudhala, and started a water conservation project since my father knows the value of water as a farmer. The group began with deepening canals, building smaller lakes around and working on dams. One of our business partners was passionate about the cause of the girl child. When we lost him untimely to cancer, my father started a girls’ school in his memory. This was in the 80s when educating girls was still a distant dream, especially in villages. The school complex is also home to many other charitable activities such as a medical center and a section for the care of HIV/AIDS patients.
What motivates you to be a purpose-driven company and align with the ESG framework?
It’s always happened organically and we didn’t need to plan or go out of our way to be purpose-driven. My father always says, ‘What I have received is more than what I asked for. Thus, I need to return it to society.’ We support 15 different causes, like granting scholarships to over 30,000 students and assisting three million people with medical care. This is the groundwork we have done over the past 40 years, and none of it is to get recognition but because it satisfies our souls. We just want to be a part of the journey of the world and we want to leave everything the way it was when we go back.
The context of ESG and the challenges keep changing. How have you evolved to be in tandem with your efforts?
We are never too old to learn every day. Even at the age of 74, my father is a keen learner so it makes everyone want to do the same. We stay ahead of the curve in terms of what are the new developments vis-à-vis ESG and SDGs. When the UN introduced the LEED certification as a symbol of sustainability in 2011-12, we started working toward reaching the Platinum category in terms of being green.
Is the solarisation of Dudhala village a part of the same thought process?
Yes, it is. But, the thought germinated when my father expressed the desire to visit our village in March 2022. He wanted to thank his people for the selfless love they have given him, but in a non-transactional way. That’s when we came up with the idea of installing solar panels on every roof in the village, so that the people do not have to pay electricity bills for the next 25 years, while giving back to nature at the same time. We completed the project in 4 months, and from August 2022 the villagers stopped paying electricity bills.
How did installing solar panels at the homes of 750 martyrs come about?
We planned to end the project after our village was solarised but on the occasion of India’s 75 years of Independence, we wanted to do something as citizens. We thought of doing our bit for the medical professionals, frontline workers, etc. who lost their lives while serving the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since August 2022, we have solarised approximately 150 houses, all in different locations. It is a time consuming-process but worth the efforts.
We have now extended this same initiative to the homes of 1,000 employees of the SRK family.
Tell us something about your Net Zero efforts. India’s goal aligns with SDG 2030. But two of SRK’s crafting units are aiming to achieve it by 2024. What inspires this ambitious timeline?
Once all the measurements and installation are in place for Net Zero certification, the team studies it for an entire year before issuing the certificate. We got on-board experts who ensured that two of our crafting units met the requirements, and now we only need to take care of solarisation and installing recycle plants. It’s a viable plan; everything will be in place by November 2023 and we will get the certification by December 2024.
Tell us about the recently-concluded SRK Sustainability Conclave 2023.
It is not that people in our industry don’t care about sustainability, there is just a lack of awareness. As we prepare to launch the Sustainability Report – Pure Impact for SRK group, we wanted to do something that would benefit the entire industry. We reckoned if we organised the conclave in Surat, we’d be able to reach the most people and make a bigger impact. We invited dignitaries from various industries to talk about sustainability. We are certain it will inspire many in our business to follow sustainable practices.
What’s SRK’s vision for the next decade vis-a-vis embracing sustainability?
The SRK family believes in the diamond and ESG story. So, the vision is to constantly keep our ESG and SDG efforts going. We plan to align ourselves with all the 17 SDG goals and hopefully expand into other businesses besides natural diamonds. The industry is largely male-dominated but we have a vision to be more gender-inclusive. We already have an all-female batch at our SRK Institute of Diamonds that gives practical training in polishing and grading. Water conservation as well as energy, water and electric waste management will also be a part of our efforts.
Just like the 4 Cs of diamonds, sustainability has 4Cs—Collaboration, Control, Communication and Commitment. And it reflects in SRK’s ethos. Shreyans concludes by saying, “One aspires to put in all the efforts only when they are committed. And SRK group is.”