Ramnath Vaidyanathan, General Manager of Sustainability, Good and Green at Godrej Industries, shares his views for greener, cleaner and better environment on the special occasion of World Earth Day. This year’s theme of World Earth Day is ‘Restore our Earth’. Vaidyanathan shares with Rusen Kumar of India CSR how during the ongoing pandemic corporates can make our environment sustainable, mitigate climate risks and how can they contribute their environment goals for India through their CSR initiatives.
The theme of this year’s World Earth Day is to ‘Restore our Earth’. According to you, amid this pandemic what can organisations do to ensure sustainable environment.
It’s been over a year since the Covid pandemic sent us a stark reminder of the fragility of the world and the ecosystems on which we rely on for to survive and thrive. In the early stages, we needed to display resilience, to weather the disruption to our lives, and also protect those most vulnerable. We then had to reinvent ways of working, to become more collaborative, responsible and empathetic. In the post-pandemic era, it’s time to focus on regeneration, not just restoration. In rebuilding our systems and processes for the future, we have the opportunity to build a greener, low carbon pathway for growth, and must not make the mistake of slipping back into our old behaviours.
Because If we thought that the impact of the pandemic was bad, then the looming threat of adverse climate events should terrify us into immediate and drastic action. Oppressive heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and more intense flooding and hurricanes – these aren’t pictures from a dystopian future, rather these have all occurred in the last 5 years simultaneously across the world.
Thus, it is no longer good enough to have individual calls for action or voluntary targets. This current situation that we are facing, calls for systemic and policy changes that needs to happen at scale. Organisations must start by adopting Science-based Targets as the norm for setting emissions reduction targets. The reductions must be reviewed and validated periodically, and for this, ESG information must be standardized, transparent and validated by independent agencies such as the CDP. What Businesses need from governments is ambitious, clear and consistent policies to create confidence for investment in low-carbon pathways.
Aside from reducing carbon emissions, there are three other areas that organisations and governments need to focus on from a sustainability perspective. Water stress is an issue that impacts industries and individuals alike, and it is absolutely critical that we institute a more realistic water price to ensure its responsible use. Secondly, bringing greater circularity to the plastic value chain would result in greater economic value for those work in the sector and would also reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills and the ocean. Lastly, the impact of our activities on nature and biodiversity cannot be ignored. Unlike carbon or water, initiatives to regenerate flora and fauna have to be geographically specific and targeted.
What is Godrej Group as an organisation doing on this World Earth Day to protect and preserve our planet?
This year, to overcome the restrictions of remote working, the Godrej Group is celebrating “Earth Hour” on Earth Day, where our employees will volunteer to switch-off lights for one hour during late evening. At our manufacturing plants, our teams will switch-off all non-essential lights for an hour. Post this activity, we will calculate the energy savings and share the data publicly to make the employees aware of their individual impact. This tradition of shutting down electric lights for one hour is to encourage our employees, and businesses to be more mindful of their energy and carbon footprint and also to symbolise their commitment to planet Earth.
How can organisations work towards mitigating the climate risks that lie ahead of us?
Energy used in industries contributes to about a quarter of all carbon emissions worldwide. Agricultural emissions are also significant in developing economies. Organisations need to approach climate mitigation in a two-pronged manner – the first of which is striving towards net zero emissions. Secondly, they need to set Science Based emission reduction targets. Phasing out use of fossil fuels, improving energy efficiency and moving to clean and renewable energy are crucial to keep the net increase in global temperatures below 1.5 degree Celsius. To accelerate adoption of low carbon technologies, setting up an internal carbon price to factor the true cost of carbon in product and processes and fuels innovation to take up measures to reduce it.
Organisations also need to commit to a steady reduction in water consumption, material consumption, solid and liquid waste, and monitor and report the same. Companies should invest with a long-term vision and have committed resources for climate change mitigation.
It’s time to be honest and walk the talk—to honour the larger commitment of mitigating climate change. The more sustainable a business becomes, the better prepared it is to face crises that are lurking in the shadows.
What is your point of view on ‘ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing’ philosophy that has gained popularity across the world in the past few years?
ESG investing is not just a theme but increasingly becoming a key driver of business. With increasing regulations and consumer awareness ESG focussed businesses are more prepared and face lower disruption risks to their business model. They have high reputation and low risk probability as ESG is core to their business.
ESG focussed companies are also more transparent in their governance and build products and services aligned with a social and/or environmental purpose which further business resilience. These companies make not only business sense but are great for people and the planet.
How businesses can contribute towards achieving the environment goals for India?
Businesses first need to look inward to their operations and processes and make them more efficient and clean. There are low hanging fruits in every industry that need to be taken up. The biggest mistake that businesses make when it comes to sustainability is trying to find the perfect solution, whereas the critical thing is to start implementing even imperfect solutions.
Businesses in India are already playing a major role but there is always a room to do more. Companies are basing their action by understanding the physical risks to their operation and supply chains, business opportunities as the economy strives to achieve carbon neutrality and making the shift meaningful for key stakeholders beyond the company.
The beauty of sustainability is that there is no competition – we are all in the same boat, and the flood is coming. Collaboration is paramount as any solutions we build have to impact the entire value chain. We as a country, need to rise to the challenge of building a prosperous and sustainable low-carbon future and scale up climate action towards a carbon-neutral economy.