Organizations today are evaluated not just by business performance but also by their contribution to sustainability, environment and climate friendly initiatives !

Vidhi Thukral, our next pathbreaker, Senior Manager- ESG at Max Life Insurance Company India Limited, handles their Environmental , Social and Governance (ESG) portfolio.

Vidhi talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about opting for environmental law after interning at WWF India, and subsequently focusing on careers which have sustainability as an integral quotient.

For students, though the world is filled with opportunities, the decision is still yours ! Learn to challenge stereotypes and most importantly, be you !

Vidhi,  what were your initial years like?

I was born in Uttarakhand where I did my initial schooling. Thereafter, we moved to Delhi where I completed the rest of my schooling. I opted for commerce with mathematics for my higher secondary. Being fairly decent in understanding business and accountancy, I opted to do B.Com (Hons.) and alongside did a Company Secretary course. 

My parents were also born in Uttarakhand. My mother is a keen gardener and homemaker. My father is PhD in Economics.  Since we all belong to Uttarakhand, we all have a special place in our heart for nature. In fact, both nature and wildlife are close to my heart. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I studied B.Com (Hons) followed by LLB and did my Company Secretary course as well. To do my CS management training, I worked with a life insurance company for 15 months and then worked there for another one year. During this time, I felt the need to study law as I understood that I enjoyed interpretation of legal text. So, I did an LLM in Environmental Law, Energy and Climate Change.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

It was in my last year of LLB that I interned in WWF India where I was exposed to wildlife and forest law. This was the turning point in my career. My initial plan was to pursue a career in corporate law as I already had a LLB and CS degree. But then I dropped the plan and followed where my heart guided me. I decided to pursue Environmental Law. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path

After my LLM, I worked with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the Impact Assessment division where I learnt the process of granting environmental clearances to projects. This gave me an understanding of how the government functions. After this, I worked briefly with a statutory body called Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board where I assisted in handling matters before APTEL. Then, I joined WWF-India where I worked in their Centre for Environmental Law division. Here I primarily worked as Course Coordinator for the courses offered by WWF-India in collaboration with knowledge partners. Then, I joined Max Life Insurance to handle their ESG portfolio. I have kept environmental law and sustainability as the integral quotient while deciding my job.

How did you get your first break? 

For all my internships and jobs, I have followed the formula of writing to them on the details provided on the website. It works 90 per cent of the time. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1

The first challenge in moving to environmental law was that it is not very financially rewarding. I had to cut down on my expenses. The biggest satisfaction is to follow and do what makes your heart and soul happy and that’s what keeps me going.

Challenge 2: 

There was a lot of resistance from friends and family on walking a path which was away from my mainstream career. Environmental Law is still evolving in India. Again, the main thing which kept me afloat was that I was doing something which gave me satisfaction at the end of the day.

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

Currently, I work for Max Life Insurance Company India Limited as Senior Manager-ESG. ESG stands for Environment, Social and Governance. In India, the reporting framework for ESG is applicable to only top 1000 listed companies. My day is dynamic at work since it involves interacting with different internal and external stakeholders. 

Well, an insurance company inherently does not emit much carbon emissions since the main business is to provide financial protection. However, ESG is much wider that what we think of. For the E component, it includes energy conservation, effective ways to dispose waste, reducing the water footprint; for S component it consists of responsible investment, welfare of employees and customers, data protection and so forth, and G consists of corporate governance. These are just few examples of what is within the purview of ESG. Basically, all the non-financial disclosure is part of ESG. The idea is to trace the impact of each activity. 

How does your work benefit society? 

My current job gives me a lot of freedom to suggest new ideas on strengthening ESG pillars and that gives me a lot of motivation to keep myself updated with the best practices followed by the industry. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

My work experience in WWF-India was the most memorable for me so far.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Please follow your heart and let it guide you. Don’t try to copy anyone else’s career path. Make your own. It is just okay to make mistakes. Take the onus of your decisions. Learn to challenge the stereotype. Most importantly, be you.

Future Plans?

My plan is always to give my best to my workplace and create value at work and interact with my colleagues. To balance professional and personal life and to grow at both arenas.