Our environment is increasingly impacted due to climate change. Rising carbon emissions, climate change, loss of bio diversity, plastics and other improper waste disposal coupled by poor governance are few among the many factors that have pushed environmental issues to the forefront.
As the world faces an unprecedented resource crisis, the move to an interconnected economy is key to protecting our planet, its species, and our collective prosperity. Globally, there is a growing awareness on how environment issues are impacting business growth and sustainability of society as a whole. In India too, several companies are coming forward to help limit global warming, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are looking at ways to protecting our environment and its precious species.
The World Environment Day (June 5) is an opportunity for us to reflect on how we can make our earth a better, healthier place to live in. At CXOToday, we speak to the CXOs of some of the major tech companies who are prioritizing sustainability and are committed to become carbon-neutral over the next decade. Here’s a glimpse of how these organizations are playing a part in protecting the environment and are coming up with innovative ideas in promoting sustainability.
Enterprises need to shift from shareholder mindset to stakeholder mindset, according to IT consulting firm Accenture. Enterprises need to focus on the most pressing issues of our times which are climate change, resource over-consumption and inequality.
“At Accenture, we are committed to driving real change and building a more sustainable future for all our stakeholders and communities. In October 2020, we set three industry-leading sustainability goals for ourselves globally – achieving net-zero emissions, moving to zero waste and planning for water risk by 2025,” says Vishvesh Prabhakar, Managing Director, Growth & Strategy – Sustainability, Accenture.
Accenture has researched 2000 companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and found that the operating profits and shareholder returns of ESG leaders are two-three times more as compared to companies who have not moved the needle on ESG parameters.
Prabhakar sees a Carbon neutral future will require immense innovation amongst other levers. “Tech companies can lead this path of innovation. They can set examples by not only becoming carbon neutral or positive ahead of science-based targets through green data centers and renewable energy investments but also bring forth their power of capital and innovation to focus on carbon capture technologies. At Accenture, we are committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025,” he says.
The company believes that digital technologies powered by internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine language (ML) and blockchain can help consumers be aware of carbon, water and waste footprint of their day-to-day choices and make informed decisions to make their lives sustainable. According to Prabhakar, “Digital labelling of consumer products highlighting their carbon, water and waste footprint is another innovation which needs to be scaled up to enable consumer to make informed choices when they are evaluating different product options in a supermarket or online.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues and is affecting the planet in severe ways. Intuit’s Corporate Responsibility efforts reflect its mission to “Power Prosperity Around the World”.
“We’re moving towards solutions that reverse the impact of climate change to take collective positive steps to save our planet,” says Saurabh Saxena, India Site Leader & Vice President, Product Development, Small Business & Self-Employed Group, Intuit India adding that It’s about moving beyond our own operational footprint and using our scale and resources to empower our employees, customers, and communities to join us in our commitment to be climate-positive. Our aim ultimately is to drive global prosperity which correlates to the health of our planet.
There are so many ways in which companies can start reducing their carbon footprint. Some ways to start could include using only eco-friendly products on campuses, cutting down the use of paper for e.g. At Intuit we have one no-paper day every week, we offer transport to employees to encourage them to carpool versus using their private vehicles to and from work, and the most effective is to mobilise employees to drive some of these efforts.
As a company, we have pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 50 times compared to our present footprint. By 2030, we aim to be carbon neutral and encourage our communities, employees, and partners to restore our planet. We are committed to recognizing our strength to promote sustainable livelihoods by supporting communities through partnership and solidarity. We’re prioritizing efforts and working hard to ensure that our planet and communities stay safe and liveable.
The company is working with key partners across the education, financial and small business sectors to amplify our impact.
We have an employee community called the Intuit Sustainability team within Intuit, made up of passionate employees who educate and inspire us to take action. Even before the pandemic hit us, the Sustainability team in Intuit India were actively working towards using more eco-friendly products on campus and reduce eco-waste, as part of our goals to reduce our carbon footprint. Even through the pandemic, the sustainability team has been working non-stop, creating champions for sustainability by encouraging employees to make micro changes in their homes and communities. This is an continuous effort.
STERLITE TECHNOLOGIES (STL)
STL’s sustainability goals focus around ensuring Zero Waste to Landfill globally, 100% sustainable sourcing and product family lifecycle assessments, water positivity and 50% reduction in its carbon footprint.
Akanksha Sharma , Global Head – Social Impact & Sustainability, Sterlite Technologies (STL) states that this has helped us warrant circularity of resources, carbon emission reduction and water reuse, resulting in operational efficiencies and cost savings.
“ESG needs to be at the core of every enterprise’s business and operations strategies. It cannot be an afterthought. Neither can there be focus on just one aspect of ESG. There has to be equal focus on the environment, social capital, and governance to build a more inclusive future,” she says.
Sharma believes using more digital tech supported by AI and IoT in agriculture can help the sector not just use water more sustainably, but also reduce emissions. Similarly, robust monitoring and recycling tech can help industries utilise water efficiently and effectively reduce fresh-water intake.
The company is encouraging employees to adopt a green lifestyle, as Sharma informs, “Engagement through sessions on reusing and recycling is one way we do it. It involves reusing unused paper for notebooks, making planters of plastic bottles and so on. Additionally, we also do campaigns around water usage, energy conservation and share simple tips and tricks around the cause.”
Acer recently joined the RE100 initiative and makes a pledge to achieve 100% renewable energy use by the year 2035. In addition, it is on a mission to help tackle environmental challenges with our “Earthion” platform that unites the strengths of its employees and supply chain partners and expands the circle of the impact of its sustainability efforts.
Environmental sustainability is about making sensible decisions that will reduce the negative impact on the environment. Sudhir Goel, Chief Business Officer, Acer India says, “From Acer’s internal recycling activities, over 50 metric tons of batteries were recycled and remanufactured into new ones so far. Today, we have a clear goal of utilizing clean energy and sustainable materials, concluding in a concerted effort with its suppliers and partners to build the Earthion platform, starting with the Aspire Vero, a sustainability-focused notebook.
Acer is aiming to reduce carbon emissions up to 60% by the coming year, with the ultimate objective of bringing that figure up to 80% by 2050. This can be achieved in an array of ways. We are taking measures to ensure that the everyday life of Acer employees is environmentally conscious. A video conference is less harmful than boarding a plane. From employees to overall company policies, Acer is working at all levels to make the world a more sustainable place.
The company is also promote trash sorting and recycling and favor digital documents overprinting. “In our office facilities, we discourage disposable cutlery and bags and have discontinued the use of bottled water in conference areas. We,” Goel says, adding that all these small steps towards a greener world, apparently insignificant by themselves, but much more significant when combined.
Ramesh Ramadurai, Managing Director, 3M India highlights that June 5th (World Environment Day) also marks the official launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a 10-year push to halt or reverse the decline of our environment. While years of degradation cannot be undone, we can take action to ensure we do not leave nature behind as we progress. This year World Environment Day calls for action to restore our ecosystems like farmlands, lakes, rivers, forests, which are all crucial to our society, providing life sustaining resources like water and food.
3M’s recent environmental goals around carbon neutrality, water use, water quality and plastic use are significant commitments our company is making to help prevent devastating climate change. You can read more about 3M’s sustainability progress in the 2021 Sustainability report which was launched in May.
The pandemic has also brought greater attention to sustainability issues, with a focus on making more sustainable lifestyle choices. There is a lot one can do in our daily lives to bend the curve of environmental degradation. Nature needs our attention. This World Environment Day, commit to make more room for nature to thrive.
Pure Storage strongly believes that sustainability has become more important than ever for enterprises. In fact, it’s becoming an imperative. Increasingly enterprises are factoring in the impact on their carbon footprint goals when making buying decisions. And with new efforts led by the World Economic Forum and the EU aimed at standardizing metrics and reducing ‘greenwashing,’ businesses will be held more accountable for their efforts.
“Technology companies have an obligation to make our solutions as friendly to the environment as possible. Our all-flash solutions for example have made a big difference in data centers around the world. In the data center, the proliferation of data generation, consumption and storage has led to unsustainable energy usage,” says Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, India, Pure Storage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers consume ten to fifty times the energy per floor compared to the average commercial office building.
He states that Pure Storage is building sustainability at every stage of our end to end supply chain – from manufacturing and packaging efficiencies; planning optimal transport routes to minimize air or sea transportation and even the smallest things such as reducing documentation. We estimate that we have reduced the amount of documentation that goes into our packaging equivalent to 19 trees per year.
Birlasoft is committed to building sustainable communities, through community-benefitting programs which help in reducing air pollution and mitigate the harmful effects of stubble burning. Building a sustainable future for customers and people is an essential business driver for any modern organization. As Dharmender Kapoor, CEO & MD, Birlasoft believes that a better world starts with small steps towards larger good.
According to him, making businesses more sustainable is about being situation-aware of the issue at hand and understanding the importance of making changes at the right moment — both for the business and the planet. For a tactical move towards greener energy sources, implementing the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and encouraging employees for its adoption can lead towards a carbon-neutral future.
Digital technologies and initiatives are at the center of sustainability strategy, from reducing carbon footprints, easing pollution to managing waste. When looked at together with the business strategy, it helps businesses differentiate themselves and gain long-term viability among customers, regulators, and the communities where companies operate.
On encouraging employees to adopt a green lifestyle, Kapoor comments, “We have a community initiative titled as Project Shodhan committed to reducing stubble burning by creating awareness among farmers in the “wheat bowl states”, offering machines and expert consultation for better yield. The volunteering teams educate farmers and their families on the harmful effects of stubble burning and the alternatives available.”
The company has also collaborated with the CII Foundation over the past few years for this program which has brought a significant change and positively impacted 61 villages, covering approximately 53,000 acres of farmable land.
EMBASSY SERVICES PVT. LTD.
Real estate is known to contribute to over 40% of world carbon emissions. Taking measures to reduce this impact is imperative. While construction material and design have their nuances, the operations and maintenance of facilities require expertise and scientific practices that are sustainable in the long term. “Our goal at Embassy Services is to reduce the overall carbon footprint of our real estate portfolio,” says Pradeep Lala, Managing Director and CEO, Embassy Services Private Limited.
Working in synergy with the developers and occupiers, we set parameters in terms of utility consumption, set reduction and recycling targets, advise on technology investments for energy efficiency, and assist compliance with attaining global certifications, says Lala. For instance, at Embassy Group, we own a solar power plant with a capacity of 100 MW in the Bellary district of Karnataka. This supplies power to all our occupiers across three business parks in Bangalore.
The current goal most have set towards sustainability is NZEB (Net Zero Energy Buildings). Achieving this goal requires investments in technology and scientific management of the facility. The overall mission assures provisions that would aid in a sustainable future for real estate.
A prominent area of technology that has completely transformed the facility management sector is IoT, sensor technology, and proptech. IoT based sensors integrated on Cloud Technology provide the core data required to study consumption, emission and therefore arriving at a quotient for sustainability. When this data is scientifically studied, effective measures can be deployed with realistic targets.
For instance, since 2017, we have reused over 16,20,800 KL of treated water for flushing, gardening and ancillary purposes. It resulted in a 45% reduction in raw water consumption at few facilities. We achieved this through the constant study of flow patterns, redesigning of STPs, and investments in updated water treatment technologies.
Among the many initiatives the company has taken to engage with our facility users is a carpooling initiative – Green Rider.
“We have managed to reduce 544 tonnes of CO2 emissions with 22,00,000 km carpooled. We host a grand event every year to award the highest carpool service user. This inspires more employees from various companies to participate. We at ESPL also promote the use of public transport,” says Lala.
Furthermore, we also have the Urban Green initiative where park users adopt plots of land at their workplace to grow organic vegetables. In an assisted setup with trained gardeners, the employees nurture the plants, learn the process and take home their produce. The Urban Green initiative has over 1200 plots and yields up to 6,000 kg of vegetables annually.
Dell has set a goal of using 100% sustainable packaging by 2030, made from recycled or renewable material. With our focus on accelerating circular design, rethinking a closed-loop approach for the aluminum in our products was right in our wheelhouse.
“We want to inspire transformation for the entire technology industry in how we approach design and use resources. It will take industry-wide action to rethink existing approaches and move to designing an entire product for circularity,” says Ed Boyd, Senior Vice President, Experience Design Group, Dell Technologies.
This is why we’ll engage designers and engineers both in the IT industry and other industries along the way. This new circular design vision accelerates our leadership position and works towards creating solutions that will reduce waste, extend the life of technology, and bring everlasting positive environmental impact,” he says.
Equinix is focused on its sustainability strategy that rallies its people and partners to envision a better future.
“We harness the power of technology to create a more accessible, equitable and sustainable future. We achieved over 90% renewable energy in 2020 for the third year in a row, and we are scaling this globally to reach 100%,” says Jeremy Deutsch, President, Equinix Asia-Pacific.
In 2020 alone, Equinix leveraged the purchase of renewables to avoid 1.95 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, which is as much as 400,000 cars’ worth of carbon emissions.
“Our renewables purchasing strategy has also helped us in reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2015 to 2020. We are boosting investments in green data centers and offices. We are also deploying the best-in-class technologies and strategies to reduce the use of all resources,” says Deutsch.
Deutsch says that no single organization, government or community can solve a global issue like climate change alone.
“We actively work towards influencing our broader industry, customers and other stakeholders. We are partnering with like-minded companies, e.g. Oracle, VMWare, etc, to advance low-carbon energy policies and sharing renewable energy buying knowledge. Every day, we shall continue to encourage innovation that creates a positive impact on the planet as we do our part to accelerate the world’s transition to a clean-energy economy,” he says.
SAP LABS INDIA
SAP, through our sustainability management solutions, we are helping our customers minimize carbon footprints, reduce waste through responsible supply chain management, and enable diversity across all business practices.
According to Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD, SAP Labs India, “In our June 2 global SAPPHIRE NOW conference, announced a suite of sustainability solutions that can help organizations in their journey to becoming a sustainable enterprise. Last year, we launched the Climate 21 program to build analytical and transactional capabilities into our enterprise applications to help our customers understand and minimize the greenhouse gas footprint of their products and operations along their value chains. We aim to make all of our operations carbon-neutral by 2023.”
SAP has also joined the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership, which is determined to create a cleaner ocean by 2030. SAP supports the Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, focusing mainly on goal 13, Climate Action.
Gangadharan emphasizes that technology can play a vital role in ensuring a sustainable future. Therefore, technology companies have a huge responsibility to ensure that their expertise and skills help prevent the degradation of the environment.
She stresses that SAP is at the forefront to introduce intelligent technologies that help companies account, analyze, manage, and ultimately reduce carbon emissions.
Aeris has partnered with FluxGen Technologies to provide IoT enabled water monitoring solution to track real-time water consumption, pressure, and energy that the water pump and the recycling equipment consume.
“We are actively working towards helping build an ecosystem of like-minded technology companies that will help non-government organizations achieve a more significant positive impact,” says Dr. Rishi Bhatnagar, President, Aeris Communications, who believes that IoT is the technology of the future for making sustainable choices.
The company has collaborated with Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and created the TechNirmal app to help the social workers deployed in the field to monitor water bodies. This app is being used as a social accountability tool by the WHH associated NGOs, enabling local communities to track the encroachment of water bodies in a real-time basis.
Hence, by using IoT, we have enabled data collection at the source for periodic water body monitoring and water level tracking. This helps our partner NGO’s in initiating more impactful water conservation and revival projects to improve people’s lives today and into the future. “We have invested a lot in green spaces with urban gardens in our own office space. We encourage our staff to car pool and use public transport as much as possible, such as the metro, and provide hourly connectivity from metro to office during office hours,” says Dr. Bhatnagar.
“At CapitaLand, we place sustainability at the core of everything we do,” says Vinamra Srivastava, CEO, Business Parks, CapitaLand India.
The Group has launched its 2030 Sustainability Master Plan, a strategic blueprint outlining its ambitious sustainable goals, strategies and plans for the next decade.
“We integrate sustainability into every stage of our real estate life cycle, from investment to design, development, and operations. We have 29 green buildings across India and have adopted various measures to reduce our carbon footprint including reducing energy and water intensities, zero-wastage, reduce single-use plastic, use of onsite and offsite solar energy and other tech-driven energy efficiency initiatives. We have also raised Rs. 1700 through sustainable financing to develop green-certified buildings,” says Srivastava.
The recently unveiled CapitaLand Sustainability X Challenge will provide a platform for six greentech startup finalists to pilot their sustainable innovations at CapitaLand properties.
ThoughtWorks, India believes there isn’t a single solution that is going to drive the entirety of the needed change that will make Earth a better place to live in. But we do acknowledge that technology has its role to play.
Bharani Subramaniam, Head of Technology, says that the company has adopted green software engineering methods that raise the awareness of how software practices have a direct impact on energy consumption. The company is also leveraging tools like Green Algorithms that help developers estimate the costs of their code in ‘tree months’ of carbon and optimizing pictures and videos that goes a long way in conserving energy. Subramaniam adds that the company also encourages its teams and clients to adopt a sustainable web design approach when building user experiences.
“At ThoughtWorks, we factor in environmental considerations as part of the cross-functional requirement in cloud strategy, and alongside other considerations like cost, performance, and security. To ensure sustainability, we have built the Cloud Carbon Footprint, an open source software solution that allows one to measure, monitor and reduce carbon emissions from public cloud usage,” he says.
One can quickly connect their cloud usage, even from multiple cloud providers and visualize their total cloud carbon emission. We believe this is a good step to aid organizations in taking tangible steps towards reducing their cloud emissions.
SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC INDIA
Sustainability is at the heart of everything that Schneider Electric does, and it also encourages our customers to accelerate their own transitions towards a low-carbon world.
Venkat Garimella, Vice President, Strategy & Sustainability, Schneider Electric India says, “We see a world where we can achieve more while using less of our common planet, and we are applying these principles to everything we make, everyone we serve, and every solution we implement. As an organization, we have undertaken various goals & objectives to support a greener, healthier and safer future.”
The company is committed to have net-zero carbon emissions in our own operations by 2030, and in our end-to-end supply chain by 2050. For 15 years, the Group has measured its holistic sustainability performance through a dashboard called Schneider Sustainability Impact and has set specific governance bodies to ensure that sustainability is positioned within every part of the Group’s strategy.
“Our recently announced SSI (2021-25), is our most ambitious one yet,which will deliver on six long-term commitments set against the UN SDGs and related to climate, resources, trust, equal opportunities, generations, and local communities,” says Garimella.
Earlier this year, Corporate Knights, a globally recognized media and research company, ranked Schneider Electric as number one on 2021 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations.
Schneider Electric is providing future sustainability champions with the skills and training required to build a greener world.
“In India, by 2023, we plan to train more than 2,30,000 youth as energy professionals, while more than 24,000 students would have access to digital education in solar-powered digital classrooms across 100 rural schools. We are also doing an extensive tree plantation exercise across our facilities in the country, and our target is to do 10,000 tree plantations in 2021 through our employees and external NGOs,” he says.
“We instill a culture around sustainability through performance incentives for employees and leadership. These incentives encourage leaders to prioritize decisions that improve sustainability performance and uphold the SDGs. Up to 20 percent of the variable portion of our leadership’s performance shares depend on achieving SSI targets,” says Garimella.
In the post-pandemic phase, ‘Ecosystems Restoration’ takes the center stage and innovative & sustainable technologies will drive this cause and cybersecurity firm Cyware takes climate issue very seriously.
Akshat Jain, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder at Cyware believes cybersecurity and sustainable development are closely interlinked as threat actors are now increasingly targeting our critical infrastructure and clean energy assets.
“In recent times, we have seen several cyberattacks causing major disruptions of such energy generation and distribution systems, hydroelectric dams, and drinking water facilities,” he says.
Jain adds, “At Cyware, we are paving the way for a sustainable ecosystem by building solutions that protect our critical infrastructure entities from cyberattacks and thus prevent environmental damage and spillover impacts. Our Virtual Cyber Fusion Center, a technology breakthrough in cybersecurity world, empowers critical infrastructure entities to put forth a collective defense against threat actors while sharing actionable threat intelligence and automating responses against them.”
The company is gearing up for the next phase of growth, Jain mentions, “We are creating a global collective defense network that would protect critical infrastructure organizations across the world and thus our environmental global-commons from advanced cyberattacks.”