The unpredictable arrival of Cyclone Nisarga, the locust invasion in Northwest India, the devastating Cyclone Amphan in Orissa and West Bengal, the earthquake in New Delhi and the ongoing global pandemic. If recent events have taught us anything, it’s the interdependence of all human beings and the living world in which we exist. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Environment Day 2020 reminds us that it’s time #ForNature to take centrestage in our actions.
What is World Environment Day?
This special day represents five decades of activism. The UN General Assembly designated June 5 as World Environment Day back in 1972. It marked the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Coincidentally, UN Environment was created on the same day with the adoption of another resolution by the United Nations. The first World Environment Day, however, was celebrated two years later (1972) with the slogan: Only One Earth.
Since then, World Environment Day has gone on to become a global platform that has brought changes in trade and environment policies at the local administration and international government levels, raised awareness on global warming, sustainable living and wildlife crimes, and made us reconsider how we buy and consume things.
Host for World Environment Day 2020
Although there are thousands of events scattered across the world, a different country plays host to the official celebrations every year. The host for World Environment Day 2020 is Colombia in partnership with Germany.
What is the theme?
The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is “biodiversity”. This all-encompassing term describes the amazing scope of life – from simple bacteria and plants to elephants and whales, the ecosystems we live in and the diversity in it all. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are connected with nature in the most intimate way.
The coronavirus pandemic and its link to deforestation is a stark reminder that when we plunder and harm biodiversity, we harm the ecosystem that human life thrives on. By twisting the delicate balance of nature, humans have created the conditions that led to viruses–including Ebola and the novel coronavirus–multiplying and spreading.
UNEP and its partners are launching the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), a global initiative to restore the relationship between humans and nature. UNEP is also working with world leaders to develop a new and ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework for the year 2050.
Iconic CSR programmes #ForNature in India
The most impactful CSR programmes for conserving nature and protecting animals in India were started by companies with a long-term commitment to the greater good. Tata Power’s operations are not in close proximity to protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or world heritage sites. The company has taken various steps towards preserving the natural capital, from the production of green and clean energy to the creation of sustainable livelihoods for communities to green buildings and villages. Conferring the importance of conservation, a stand-alone biodiversity division has been established within the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department in 2012.
Since biodiversity conservation is an ongoing journey at Tata Power, the company is fully committed to continuing its biodiversity action plan across locations as well as breeding and hatching of Mahseer fish as the prime concern. The company aims to expand its conservational activities across geographic locations. As is evident that biodiversity is the cornerstone of the existence on earth, Tata Power is committed to preserving this cornerstone.
As for another enterprise from the Group, Tata Chemicals, its biodiversity footprint in India is primarily based upon its coastal solar saltworks. The surrounding ecosystems are refuge zones for many species of migratory birds, making it imperative to promote conservation of these saline wetlands.
In addition to preserving biodiversity at its sites and facilities, Tata Chemicals has taken a proactive approach towards conservation of flora and fauna in the surrounding community. Driven by the commitment to sustainability that is believed to ensure global competitiveness, the company has taken a number of steps to safeguard natural capital.
As a user of ecosystem goods and services (seawater for example), Tata Chemicals has recognised that biodiversity is vital for livelihoods of people, development need of industries and inclusive growth in India. The company has realised the need to develop and implement an integrated coastal ecosystems conservation approach for the region as a whole, involving various stakeholders such as government departments, NGOs and local community.
For this reason, the “Dharti Ko Aarpan” (Giving back to Mother Earth) programme was launched in 2008, with an objective to conserve coastal ecosystems and protect endangered species. The programme includes a variety of flora and fauna safeguarding projects, ranging from the whale shark, Asiatic lion and waterfowl conservation to mangrove and coral reef regeneration.
These CSR initiatives ensure upward and sustainable growth along with the betterment of the lives of nearby communities, as well without harming the environment.
By Wipro’s own admission, biodiversity’s connection to business is more intangible as compared to energy efficiency, water conservation and waste management. Wipro followed an integrated approach wherein biodiversity was not only seen for its aesthetic value but as something that in the long term will have a positive impact on and reduces the water and carbon footprint of the campus, bring the ambient temperature down, improve air quality, reduce the use of pesticides, and improve groundwater level.
A central part of the programme is employee engagement – to create a language for communicating the complex relationships in the natural world and the role as active stewards towards fellow beings.
Wipro’s first biodiversity project was initiated in Bangalore at its Electronic City Campus in collaboration with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), architecture specialists Idea Design and Hariyalee Landscapes. ATREE carried out a baseline study to assess the biodiversity, water and carbon footprint of WIPROs two campuses in Electronic City in Bangalore.
The intention was to link the reduction of the campus’ water and carbon footprint to a healthy, biodiverse environment. The initiative attempts to retrofit the campuses into biodiversity hotspots/zones. Such an integrated approach is perhaps the first of its kind in India. Given the size of the campus and the number of employees, Wipro saw an opportunity to engage with and involve them, a large part of the reason for the success of its initiatives.
Reversing the impact of the loss of biodiversity and implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are the two main solutions for a better tomorrow. World Environment Day 2020 is a step in building momentum for positive change.