CSR, Reliance Limited and the Monster 'House'

Reliance India Limited was recognized for its CSR in a report entitled, 'Ethical Asia' by global research firm CLSA. It was the sole Indian firm to get a perfect score in a list of Asia's best companies in terms of CSR. The report also featured Australian airline Cathay Pacific and Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi which have been named as the companies maintaining the highest CSR standards in the region.

RIL's CSR includes focus on education, health, drinking water, large-scale development of employable skills, to assistance during natural calamities such as earthquakes and cyclones. It has been an organisational stakeholder of GRI since 2007. All environmental initiatives were addressed to the Company's long term objective of becoming water positive, carbon neutral and conduct the maximum possible recycling and reuse of wastes.

According to CEO Mukesh Ambani, "We have embraced sustainability as our core business strategy. We believe sustainability is the very foundation of lasting success. We will use sustainability principles to drive process innovation, new product development, improving manufacturing efficiencies and reducing material and energy consumption. This commitment is backed by active initiatives on the ground."

All this sounds fine and dandy. On the flip side, Mukesh Ambani has recently just moved into $1billion single-family home in Mumbai called Antilla. Yes, the house is LEED certified. Yes, it has a living "vertical gardens" to help shade the building and reduce the urban heat island effect. Yes, it does have the latest energy-saving features.

The lavish building is 173 meters tall and has 37,000 square meters of floor space. It contains a health club with a gym and dance studio, at least one swimming pool, a ballroom, guestrooms, a variety of lounges and a 50-seater cinema. There are three helicopter pads on the roof and a car park for 160 vehicles on the ground floors. It also boasts a staff of 600. Not only is the whole place air-conditioned, it also features an ice room where residents and guests can escape the Mumbai heat to a small, cooled chamber dusted by man-made snow flurries.

And all this for just Ambani, his wife and their three children to enjoy.

Does Mukesh Ambani not read his own CSR reports which clearly state facts about carbon emissions? Does it not occur to him that this display of unnecessary extravagance comes with a steep carbon footprint? Or am I just old-fashioned in thinking that CEO's should walk their talk when it comes to CSR?

Photo: Mukesh Ambani's single-family home in Mumbai.