Posted by: Ulla Rehell
Local collaboration and engaging with stakeholders are integral to being a good corporate citizen. Smooth collaboration and project diversity can lead to results that benefit a community long after the project has been completed.
Since the start of our operations in India in 2012, we have supported local communities through a number of projects carried out in the local areas around our solar power plants. Collaboration with various stakeholders has played an important role already during the construction phase.
A good example of the diversity and significance of these kinds of local activities is our collaboration with an Indian NGO that lasted the entire duration of the Pavagada solar power plant construction project.
The Pavagada project was Fortum’s fourth and biggest solar power plant in India, with a total production capacity of 100 megawatts. During the plant’s construction phase, thousands of migrant workers from varying cultural backgrounds worked at the plant. They represented different religions and ethnic groups, and they spoke different languages. Their food habits and social customs also differed significantly.
The ability for employees to work together is crucial in the safe implementation of any project. Equally, a healthy work community doesn’t emerge without good collaboration and uniform ways of operating. With this in mind, we invited the Parivartan NGO to help us create a shared operating culture in the Pavagada construction project.
Throughout the construction phase, the Parivartan members lived as part of the community in the housing accommodations built for the workers. This way, they were constantly aware of the work community’s situation and were able to impact the community’s activities. The first step to ensuring wellbeing was to encourage the workers to adopt good hygiene practices. Next, the Parivartan members started sharing information about worker rights and safety.
Parivartan works closely with women because it believes that sustainability requires strong participation from women. So the NGO provided information about treating women workers with respect. At separate events arranged for women, they had an opportunity to speak about issues important specifically to them.
Safety at the foundation of everything
Excellence in safety is the foundation of our business. It is our responsibility to ensure that our employees go home healthy at the end of the work day. We believe that all work injuries are preventable when we all take responsibility for safety.
The results of our efforts in Pavagada were clearly visible. After working with the NGO, absenteeism decreased and a good safety culture prevailed within the work community. We achieved good results with the actions we took to prevent diseases that are common in the region. In addition, our well maintained housing accommodations for workers received positive feedback from health officials.
Local collaboration will continue upon completion of the plants
Last year we continued support for local communities also in areas around the Kapeli and Amrit solar power plants. Among other things, we have improved the water supply and electricity distribution, and we’ve supported local schools by building a new classroom and equipping the school with a kitchen that can provide lunch service. A community development project was started in three villages around the Bhadla solar power plant.
The Pavagada solar power plant is now operational, and the local collaboration is also continuing. Additionally, the Pavagada construction project gave us good lessons that we can apply also elsewhere in our operations.
Ulla Rehell is Fortum’s VP, Sustainability