Sevashree Mohapatra is the Head of Corporate Communications in the SUEZ Group for the Indian subcontinent. 

Shilpa Jain: Why is being financially independent important to you?

Sevashree Mohapatra: Being financially independent makes you certainly feel empowered and confident. For me, it’s about the ability to make choices for yourself and the family.

I firmly believe women must take a leading role in supporting deserving girls and young women. Many meritorious girls want to follow their dreams but do not have the means to do so. One of the ways you could support is by offering financial assistance, even though I am able to make a very humble contribution, yet it gives me immense satisfaction.

Being financially independent is considered core to achieve equality for women, but it has not been the case all the time. Unfortunately, many working women fall silent victims to mental and physical abuse by their intimate partners. That proves that being ‘financial independent’ isn’t precisely ‘independent,’ there is more to it.

SJ: Why is ESG/Sustainable Development seen as an emerging attractive career option?

SM: ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. From the last several decades, conversation and initiatives around climate change, sustainability, responsible consumption of resources, etc., have gained much momentum. These conversations are eventually turning into commitments with major international corporates pledging for their bit aligning with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

All these developments have pushed the ESG function to emerged as a strategic one encompassing a broad spectrum of core issues. A few years back, not many corporates have this function as an independent one. Today as companies are talking more about climate change, water management, responsible investment and consumption of resources, etc., it has evolved as a lucrative career option for the young generation.

SJ: Tell us more about the ESG/SD function, and what are the various career options available for someone who wants to pursue ESG?

SM: Since it covers a broad range of topics, a typical SD department has professionals with expertise in climate and circular economy, sustainability and dialogue, and social impact. They collaborate with all critical functions, from business development, risk management, operation, finance, to culture and diversity & inclusion to develop a long-term vision for the company in alignment with the commitments and local compliances. 

In both the companies I have been associated with, ArcelorMittal previously, and now SUEZ has a strong SD practice, and the commitments are quite ambitious. 

SJ: Do you think there is enough awareness about this career option?

SM: The career option was always available but not precisely in the consolidated format as it is now evolving. Several good institutes in India offer courses. One of the main observed things, especially among the millennials, is their passion for the environment and their inner drive to contribute. They want to pursue either a career around it or be part of a company that is responsible. Data, innovation, and digitalization are key drivers of improved ESG performance for any Group, which makes it an exciting career option for the young generation.

SJ: Tell us something about your career. Currently, you are working for a company that has a significant presence in environmental services. Can you talk more about your role?

SM: I have over 20 years of experience and have worked for diverse industries and several global brands, including SUEZ India, ArcelorMittal, Ogilvy & Mather, and Hindustan Times. Currently, I am leading the Corporate Communication for the South Asian market for SUEZ. My key areas of priorities include engagement and brand building to promote business development in India, drive stakeholders’ dialogue for the company’s several PPP water projects, and strategic digital campaigns to engage and initiate conversations around topics relevant for the brand. As part of SUEZ’s global communication executive committee, I proactively contribute to Group’s communication strategy and brand building.

Our Group is currently in the process of transformation and, in 2019, launched an ambitious plan called Shaping SUEZ 2030, wherein the target is to become the leader in environmental services by 2030. This also gives us a unique opportunity to engage in rigorous internal mobilization and build a strong image of the brand among the external stakeholders.

SJ: SUEZ is a global leader in environmental services. What about its footprint in India? 

SM: SUEZ has a significant presence in India, and over the last 40 years, the company has created a strong legacy in water and wastewater management. The company has designed and built water treatment facilities in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, etc. benefitting more than 55 million people. SUEZ is supporting major cities as an operator, improving their water network and distribution, minimizing non-revenue water, and substantially improving customer service and revenue generation.

A more critical issue that the company is addressing is the treatment of wastewater and making it fit for reuse. This is key to protect our rivers and public health and reduce the consumption of fresh water, especially for industrial purposes.

SJ: Apart from your job, what do you do as a passion?

SM: I am passionate about gender equality and women empowerment and try to engage myself in professional and individual capacities. I am thankful to be invited by Aspire for Her as a Mentor and collaborate with equal minded women passionately working for the same cause.

Apart from this, I use my social media pages to promote awareness about various topics related to gender equality. I am amazed at the response I get to some of my posts. It seems that there is a lot more will and fire among the people to do something that will bring a visible change.

In the future, I want to convert this passion into my profession and want to contribute more. Many international development organizations are doing a fantastic job, and I will be happy to see myself in some of them.

Rapid Fire!

Question: One person, fictional/real and dead/alive that you want to have dinner with 

Answer: Mahatma Gandhi for sure.

 Question: A book on your career field that you would recommend to or readers

There are many books that talk about real incidents in negligence in H&S and governance, and its consequences on the reputation of the company. One of the most famous episodes that can never be forgotten and forgiven has been the British Petroleum Oil Spill Crisis. There is a book on this incident – Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP by Tom Bergin, which is worth reading.

Closer home, I would recommend a book The Bhopal Tragedy: What Really Happened and What It Means for American Workers and Communities at Risk. It talks at length about the health and environmental impact of the disaster that killed more than 5,000 people and injured 200,000.

3 things on your bucket list: 

For me, mountains are special, and my dream is to climb Mount Elbrus one day.

Hiking in Amazon rainforest!

Complete reading most of the amazing books

Interviewed by: Shilpa Jain Executive Director, Indusion Consulting Services(ex-banker, now a head-hunter)