Saturday, December 3, 2011

Serious about Sustainability Solutions? Learn to break the ICE…

Last week I was in New Delhi attending a “Sustainability Solutions” Summit. Organized by Confederation of Indian Industries. Attended by more than 500 participants from wide variety of Industries, academia, government officials and consultants and entrepreneurs and students, the Summit was really an eye opener in many respects as Industry experts and Government officials discussed wide variety of sustainability challenges and possible solutions. Interestingly sustainability is growing strongly in India, and New Delhi is listening and appears to favor sustainable development going forward. In a land where the environmental legislations are rampantly evaded, Indian industry appears to have woken up to the business value of Sustainable development and the need for coming up with sustainability solutions to operate in this challenging vibrant Indian economy. The fact that many Indian companies now have a global footprint, it is becoming increasingly important to embrace sustainable business models in order to sustain. Sustainability is no longer a choice and it is no longer enough to comply. This Summit sought to find enduring solutions to 2 key inter-twined aspects of sustainable growth and development: re-creation of a green economy, and inclusive innovation.

However the key takeaways of the conference as gathered by me, were that sustainability solutions emerge through Innovation, Collaboration and Education which I have coined as the ICE and embracing sustainability involves what could be called as breaking the ICE.

Innovation involves creative thinking and connecting the dots. It involves being aware of consequences of business impacts and the unintended consequences of our actions. What we believe to be a sustainability solution today may have unintended consequences. Did we know that biofuels would create rise in price of corn or biodegradable plastics derived out of palm oil will give rise to unsustainable palm oil exploitation and harm the ecosystem of the orangutan? Innovative business models are those which are sustainable and inclusive and there will be no business in future that can survive if it is not inclusive and sustainable. Going forward all innovation will be sustainable social innovation. Social innovation means thinking about the organization or the business as a part of the society and working together as humans and going with the natural flow of nature. Social innovations are source of well-being and have shared benefits.

Collaboration means listening to each other with empathy and working together. When faced with complex problems of how much we have trashed the earth, which set ways of thinking cannot solve, now we see businesses, governments, customers, competitors all sitting together and putting their heads together to come up with solutions. Collaboration involves building bridges between different kinds of stakeholders and allowing ideas to develop freely. Collaborative platforms like conferences, in person meetings will continue to exist however collaboration is and will be driven by information technology. Forums, social media, IT tools will enable sustainability collaboration and drive stakeholder engagement.

Education is the key to the realization of innovation and collaboration. In this parlance it is sustainability education and awareness that I am referring to. Making more businesses realize that sustainability is not something that you adopt because it enhances your brand, it is rather necessary to survive in this fiercely competitive, resource crunched environment, and this by itself will be an uphill task. Here again IT tools are and will continue to be widely leveraged.

Breaking the ICE is not easy and education and awareness the key to innovation brought about by collaborative efforts of passionate individuals and businesses. With representatives from GIZ, WWF, CDP, WBCSD, Bureau of Energy Efficiency, and industries like Microsoft, Infosys, ITC Infotech, Tata chemicals, Tata Steel, Vedanta, Petrobas, Rio tinto, ACC Cement, Tata Power, Kirloskar Brothers, and ministers from the Govt of India, and enterpreneurs like Harish Hande from SELCO and thought leader like Gunter Pauli from ZERI this conference proved to be a perfect melting pot for sharing ideas and joining the dots for Sustainability Solutions in the real world.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Scope 3 - what it means

I posted this on Infosys Sustainable Tomorrow blog - this is a repost:

Children show a clear understanding of what belongs to them and what doesn't. Similarly with carbon emissions, companies are very clear about what emissions are theirs and what are not theirs. Clearly delineated as what is known as scopes we know what they mean in the carbon emissions reporting parlance.

Scope 1: Emissions I own and emit - direct emissions.

Scope 2 and 3: Emissions that are emitted by others due to services and products used by me - Indirect emissions

The drivers for reporting carbon emissions are many, but the biggest driver is regulatory. Legislations like AB32, EPMRR, UKCRC, NGERs all require organisations to report carbon emissions. What is common amongst mandatory reporting is that they all have to report scope 1 emissions. Emissions trading also require trading emissions which companies own i.e Scope 1.

Voluntary reporting registries/protocol ask for scope 1 and scope 2 (indirect emissions reporting due to electricity and district heating and cooling). Reporting scope 3 is optional.

Hence why should I account for Scope 3 at all when there is no requirement to do so by law or by voluntary registries? What is it that is asking companies to take a look at scope 3 emissions?

What has been increasingly observed is that companies are undertaking investigation of all environmental impacts of any given product or service, over its entire life cycle - commonly referred to as Life Cycle Analysis or LCA. While LCA refers to entire gamut of environmental impacts, the LCA of carbon emissions is the carbon footprint of the product or service.

Scope 3 accounting is gaining importance as companies like Walmart, is nudging its suppliers to engage in deeper sustainable practices. Given that accounting for scope 3 emissions is no cake walk, the premise of scope 3 accounting is that we know that we are responsible for more than what we own. Since scope 3 is no cake walk, companies like Coca Cola, and Inuit are seeking help. What is difficult is the amount of data and management of the same. Scope 3 emissions account for the biggest portion of emissions that a company is responsible for. It is here that a company has the largest scope of reducing its emissions, identifying efficiencies in its processes, logistics, and resource and energy consumption.

While I have observed that over the last few years the number of companies participating in voluntary disclosure has increased manifold, the trend to account for all three scopes is something that will be increasingly adopted. Initiated by sustainability leaders, this movement will nudge companies to embark on the journey of finding out relevant long lost relatives, grandparents and uncles and aunts i.e scope 3 emissions accounting, perhaps reflecting a greater sense of belongingness in the family of emissions. Cherry picking of what activities to report in Scope 3 continues. Comprehensive reporting of scope 3 is still no cakewalk. Atleast now we know the importance of Scope 3 reporting as a means to assess inefficiencies in our supply chain.

It may be little difficult for individuals to understand what scope 3 emissions may mean...however Scope 3 comprises of more than 50% of our carbon footprint. It is here that there is a potential to reduce our emissions. Give a thought to what you buy, what you consume daily. All goods and services we consume are our scope 3 emissions. Therefore shop local, buy what you need, and avoid waste and recycle. Weaving these three mantras in your life will help you keep a tab on your scope 3 emissions.

Infrequent postings continue...but I promise the mind is still bubbling with ideas towards a greener you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was recently invited as a speaker at a UGC sponsored National conference on Environmental Management and Challenge for Sustainable Development. It was organised by M.D.College Parel, Mumbai. The chief guest at the conference was none other than the Sheriff of Mumbai Dr. Indu Sahani. She is the principal of H.R.College(Commerce and Economics) in Mumbai. Her address to the students was really impressive.

During her speech she gave examples of what sustainable development really means. One example was so exemplary that I felt was itching to share this with you all.

I will recount it in her own words:

"One day, one of my students' comes into my room and switches off the lights/fans and ACs of my room. The student is Jyotirmoy Chatterjee(a.k.a JC). So I asked him, "why are you doing this JC?". He asked me to wait and continued to gaurd the switchboard for 10 minutes. It was becoming unbearable. You can understand in Mumbai heat sitting without AC/fans and light becomes very uncomfortable after some time. So I ask JC, "Tell me JC, are you not scared of coming into the Principal's room and behaving in this fashion?" "No", he says and says that he will not put the turn it back on till after TEN minutes! After 10 long minutes he says, "Mam, I wanted to sensitize you to the problems people in rural India are facing. We cannot bear to have lights off for 10 minutes, but rural India has been in darkness for so long!" Point well driven. Born out of college students and their enthusiasm is Project Chirag - with the mission of lighting up rural India using solar lamps. Each lamp costs approximately Rs. 3500 The students decided that they will not approach rich people for handouts. If a student could forego Rs 10 each day for 365 days(foregoing their bag of chips) each person could raise the money to buy a solar lamp."

In a manner similar to how they sensitized the sheriff, the students removed the tubelights/lamps in the whole college. Their message went right in "hit the nail"! Project Chirag was born!

What does this project have to do with Sustainable Development? These students have lit up an entire village(now more!!) using solar power with their passion, enthusiam and ingenuity. All this without expecting doleouts from people who are rich. Less than 23 years of age, J C is the President of Students in Free Enterprise, HR College (SIFE, HRC). Check out their awesome work at Their work deals with 5 areas :Environment, Empowerment, Health and Sanitation, Social Upliftment, Education.

I hope this inspires you as well.

Lets take baby steps to becoming Greener. You never know what project could be born out "A Greener You too!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Read only if you identify yourself with the theme..

Too many months have passed and not a single post from me..that is a bad. However I did manage to do one post on Sustainable Tomorrow at Infosys website. For those who like reading my posts please do visit My blog title is Sustainability and Sustainable Tomorrow. I know few of my close friends have actually heaved a sigh of relief not to be asked by me - "have you read my latest post?", but here I am again..though may be I will not spam their mail boxes this time!

Hoping to do more frequent posts. For the time being do visit my post at infy website. Till we meet again ciao