By Haris Zargar
Even as larger issues around sustainability take centre stage in the wake of World Earth Day, some companies have been implementing responsible consumption practices for a greener workplace
New Delhi: Indian companies are gradually integrating practices set out in the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) in their business strategy.
The SDGs aim to target different stakeholders, including businesses and development cooperation agencies, into “doing more and better with less”. Of the 17 SDGs, one goal that companies are adopting at the workplace is SDG 12, which aims to promote responsible consumption and production, resource and energy efficiency, and development of sustainable infrastructure within the workplace, among others.
For instance, some companies are integrating green practices in day-to-day functions, especially dry waste management and recycling. Eco-actions include promoting the use of ceramic mugs or glass cups for beverages to save on paper products, recycling office supplies such as discarded paper, purchasing recycled paper, and using refillable pens.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an advocacy organization, says the private sector is increasingly adopting practices that aim at reducing and recycling waste produced within the office premises. “These are very important strategies to change practices within offices that can then have a cumulative impact at a citywide scale,” she notes.
E-commerce firm Flipkart, which has just moved into a new office building in Bengaluru this month, has replaced paper cups with ones made of ceramic and glass. Employees have been given stainless-steel water bottles that they can refill. “This one move is helping us save 4,000 litres of potable water every week, and not add 10,000 plastic bottles to landfills every year,” says Nagaraj Kulkarni, senior director, projects, at Flipkart.
The company has also placed large bins at different points on each work floor to segregate wet and dry waste. To ensure this, and minimize the use of garbage bags, it does not allow dustbins at individual desks. These steps were taken after employee surveys, with ideas being developed over around 18 months.
As a part of its green initiative, online classifieds company OLX India has replaced the plastic tableware in its cafeteria with reusable cutlery. Paper recycle bins have been installed in its Gurugram office to store paper waste. “Every month, the collected paper waste is reused to produce reusable office stationery,” says Varun Madan, head of human resources, OLX India.
Pune-based technology services company Persistent Systems has stopped the use of disposable plastic paper cups and plates, and is hoping to restrict the use of tissue paper. On an average, it dedicates around 10 days in a year to programmes such as “no plastic day” or “zero food wastage week”, to reinforce sustainable consumption practices.
“We also run several environment conservation programmes, such as observing ‘no printer days’ to save paper,” says Kedar Paranjape, chief administrative officer. Most of these initiatives—employee-led, and facilitated by internal teams and the Persistent Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm—are run through the year, adds Paranjape.
Some public sector utilities are also pitching in. Mumbai-based Mahanagar Gas Ltd (MGL), a natural gas distribution company, has adopted initiatives such as the conversion of waste paper into writing pads and envelopes through a waste management enterprise, Sampurna Earth. “The aim is to drive both the individual (employee) and the organization towards eco-friendly practices,” says Goutam Ghosh, technical director at MGL.
Some companies are taking the help of non-profits and social enterprises which provide services such as waste audits, designing waste management systems, monitoring waste generation, recycling and collection of paper waste, metallic and plastic materials.
“Most of the companies with whom we work are quite eager on sustainability. They use our recycled products that are processed from their waste,” says Abdul Rahman Janoo, product manager at Waste Ventures India, a Hyderabad-based waste-management enterprise that has worked with around 13 companies, including Google India, Infosys, Hindustan Unilever and Amazon India.
It has also developed a software that allows companies to track waste generation, and design green strategies accordingly. “Through this process, for example, a company realized it was generating a lot of tetra-pack waste. After examining the information, instead of going with 100-200ml juice packs, the firm decided to use 2 litre boxes for its events and meetings. In that way, they reduced tetra pack waste from their premises by 30%,” says Janoo.
What is helping to drive this change is the fact that firms are beginning to realize they must be seen as a “green company” to attract the increasingly environmentally conscious consumer.
Roychowdhury notes that both growing consciousness and regulatory demand are influencing corporate policy. “Sustainability is also linked to economics, because at the end of the day you are saving resources. And if you are saving resources, the cost recovery of operations becomes much more efficient.”