22 April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day. The theme for this year was aptly chosen as “climate action” — a reminder about not only sparking awareness around how we can protect the planet we inhabit, but also underline why it matters that each one of us does our bit.
What is Earth Day?
Since 1970, Earth Day is observed to provide a voice to create and channelize environmental consciousness at the forefront. Earth Day has been a unified response to an environment in crisis — oil spills, smog, rivers so polluted they literally caught fire. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.
CSR gets creative on Earth Day 2020
Environmentally conscious companies which had been planning Earth Day 2020 campaigns months ago, were in for a rude shock after the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did it stall business operations across the globe and force offices to shut, social distancing norms also put a spanner in their corporate social responsibility programmes that were meant to show some love to mother nature.
CSR teams and foundations have had to cancel offline events and corporate firms could not hold employee-oriented contests in the offices. However, trust adversity to give rise to creativity. Some eco-friendly companies decided to soldier on as a sign of their commitment to nature. They altered their activities planned inside offices in the pre-lockdown era to suit the work-from-home scenario.
One such was GlobalLogic, a digital product engineering firm, with offices around the globe, including seven in India that prides itself in being eco-friendly throughout the year. GlobalLogic India has eliminated plastic glasses and bottles from all its offices.
“All our conference rooms house glass bottles and containers. Every employee is given a specially crafted water bottle for their use. We don’t use plastic cutlery in the pantry either. In fact, you won’t find plastic pens in our offices. We’ve switched to pens and stationery made from organic materials and reusable paper. We try to reduce paper usage. Employees are encouraged to print on both sides of the paper. All the water is recycled and special water-saving nozzles are installed in the bathrooms. We have managed to reduce water consumption by 50% because of these measures,” said Neeru Mehta, VP – People Development & Learning, Head of Human Resources, GlobalLogic India.
The company’s sustainability division had made elaborate plans for Earth Day 2020. The whole month was being dedicated to getting employees involved in climate action through a special campaign titled, #GLGoesGreen. However, with the employees working from home after the lockdown, any office events were off the radar. GlobalLogic India decided to go ahead with the month-long love for Mother Earth anyway, by taking the campaign online.
One contest on #GLGoesGreen had people channelising their creative energies during the lockdown to convert trash into treasure. Flaunt Your Green Space was another contest where employees posted pictures of their balcony gardens on Instagram and Facebook. The best entries win special prizes. A poster making contest related to the environmental theme also saw entries on social media.
“We joined hands across our centres in India to switch off lights and electrical appliances from 1 pm to 2 pm on April 22nd to observe Earth Hour. More than 7000 employees switched off lights in their homes for an hour, and encouraged their friends and family to join and make a bigger impact,” said Mehta.
Tech companies conserve energy
While the empowering impact of the Internet is universally acknowledged, it seems a pity that most don’t understand the implications of not using it right. Whether it’s the energy our digital devices are radiating, or the power consumed for our access to the internet, each action we partake in releases more carbon dioxide into the environment.
Data backup and recovery firm Commvault is part of the United Nation’s global taskforce ‘Business Avengers’ whose mission is to promote business as a force for good. “Our ethos has always been driven by advocacy of using science and technology to impact the reduction of carbon footprint and ensuring responsible consumption and production,” says Ramesh Kalanje, Vice President, Center of Excellence, Commvault.
With the IT industry surpassing carbon footprint levels of even the carbon-spewing aviation industry, it is time IT firms improved technology with the environment in mind. “To this end, Commvault is powering a promising expedition in the South Pole via sustainable energy resources. Our commitment towards the planet also extends to our partners and customers where we continue to counsel them on offsetting carbon footprint of data by responsible sourcing, use, reuse and recycling,” said Kalanje on Earth Day 2020.
Tata Power partnered with Earth Day Network to promote the theme of ‘Climate Action’ this year by launching the ‘I Have the Power to Choose’ campaign. In tune with the company’s existing ‘I Have the Power’ campaign, this particular one aims to sensitise its customers and employees across the country by promoting sustainable alternatives which help everyone to live a sustainable life, and giving them the #Power2Choose.
The objective behind this partnership is to bring about change at an individual level and sensitise masses to act responsibly by making a small contribution towards reducing climate change. The ‘#Power2Choose’ pledge can be taken on the official website. This campaign will also run live across all the social media handles of Tata Power, where customers and employees can register themselves and take this pledge.
Said Shalini Singh, Chief-Corporate Communications & Sustainability, Tata Power, “We are confident that this campaign will make individuals realise that they have the ‘Power to protect’ the planet and will join us in bringing about a change in the eco-system.”
Reflections on Covid-19
Of course, socially conscious corporates are happy that earth is healing itself during the pandemic the world is experiencing. “The Novel Coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire world to a standstill causing huge amounts of losses to every industry.
The only silver lining to this pandemic is that our very own planet and environment around us has witnessed a drastic fall in industrial and transport emissions and effluents, and measurable data supports the clearing of pollutants in the atmosphere, soil and water. However, even post Covid-19, we must continue functioning at low emission levels,” said Ramnath Vaidyanathan, General Manager, Sustainability, Godrej Good & Green.
Said Dr. Vishwakumara Kayargadde, COO, Saankhya Labs, “While the world is going through one of the worst pandemics of our lifetime, we are also simultaneously experiencing one of the most pressing challenges which is ‘climate change’. With the current lockdown being imposed in many parts of the globe, we have seen nature recuperate quickly from human exploitation. There have been improvements in air quality, wildlife sightings in backyards, wild animals walking down urban streets as well as calm and quiet in our cities and towns.”
However, he is concerned that no sooner the lockdown is lifted and life returns to ‘normal’, we will see the steady increase in the exploitation of the earth’s natural resources for our selfish needs. That said, COVID-19 should serve as a wakeup call and push us to reflect upon the impact our decisions have on our surroundings.
“Companies can do their bit by building sustainable technologies that not only consume less energy but also have a net-zero impact on the environment, including increased WFH as a new normal. Similar to the world coming together to fight this coronavirus pandemic, as we observe the 50th year of Earth Day, we should collaborate with each other to help build a sustainable future,” added Dr. Kayargadde.
Kishan Jain, Director at Goldmedal Electricals was of a similar opinion. He said: “The pandemic is helping us realize how the decisions we make today, can impact our surroundings in the long run. With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day being observed globally, as citizens, we can begin by adopting energy efficient products and solutions like LED lighting which can save up to 70% energy. Industry too should focus on building sustainable solutions and make use of innovative technologies such as internet of things (IoT) and smart appliances, which significantly reduce energy wastage and bring down costs. This Earth Day 2020, let’s pledge to work towards a sustainable environment for future generations.”