Being among the first environmentalists in India, he learnt from his own mistakes; Dr Yogendra Saxena, Chief Sustainability Officer-Tata Power says, “Unnecessary freedom must be curbed, when you go to Singapore, you won’t litter or smoke wherever you want, but in India you do. This won’t stop until we understand the Individual Social Responsibility (ISR).”
Tata Power’s approach to Sustainability
We started our journey of sustainability long time back in 2002, same year when Global Reporting Initiative, Netherlands (GRI) started. For the past ten years, we have been reporting on sustainability which now is published on annual basis. The latest report 2013-14 is to come in July. The report brings insight about the latest 84 initiatives taken at Tata Power which were suggested by GRI. This, we call as the bottom-line performance covering economic, environment and social. There are currently 70 corporate groups in India that are publishing sustainability report. This must grow.
Tata Power has always set a standard in adopting sustainable practices in business. In fact, it has accepted sustainability challenge in a broader sense, wherein sustainability encompasses a much wider spectrum of behaviour and resilience towards environmental, social, and financial factors. The Company believes that Sustainability is not a skill but an attitude; and by maintaining that Tata Power can drive a positive change among the stakeholders.
In 2009, under the Community Relations (CR) department we developed a sustainability model called ‘leadership with care’ – care for employees, community and stakeholders. In 2012, we formed a sustainability department separately, now called as Corporate Sustainability Department which deals with CSR, Environment and Bio-diversity. Since most of our plants are either near the sea, lake or river, bio-diversity is important. The value of Leadership with Care has been ingrained in actions and helped, not only in rising to emerging challenges but also in translating them into opportunities. Sustainability has been strategically integrated in all business operations and decision-making processes and workforce is sensitized and aligned to the cause. The Sustainability Policy of Tata Power integrates Economic progress, social responsibility and environmental concerns with an objective of improving quality of life.
There is a buzz about making 2% of total revenue to be invested on CSR mandatory. But, I will say, learn from the past, whenever anything has been made mandatory in this country, it hasn’t shown positive results. Companies will invest more on their CAs to prepare false data. Vision is important. Change must come from within, be it at individual or corporate level. But yes, it will be a positive step.
Few years ago, I coined the term ISR.
At individual level we, in India do lack Individual Social Responsibility (ISR). We talk of CSR, but pay less attention to ISR, CSR may release funds and initiate various programs regarding sanitation, hygiene and green, but ultimately it is ISR that will improve the result.
What is ISR? ISR reflects the self-consciousness about cleanliness, environment and the commitment to do the least harm to the environment while doing a task at an individual level. At home, I see everyone very conscious about cutting electricity bill as much as possible, but they don’t pay same attention while working at office. This is because of the lack of connectivity with nature/environment. While publishing the 200 paged sustainability report, not a single photocopy/Xerox/print was taken. From writing to editing, everything has been done with the help of a giant computer screen. This is important, it has reduced the carbon emission. If you will through the entire office, other employees also have adopted the same practice.
Awareness at individual level is very important – how to make use of less water & Energy as less as possible – that self-consciousness must be there, we all connected in some way other, if someone is using more of the natural resources, somebody will deprive of that…Knowing the fact and implementing the same will exponentially improve the lives of masses.
Thus, awareness at individual level can only connect the dots.
To improve the awareness at individual level, we have taken many initiatives for e.g., in canteen, you won’t be offered water but with empty glasses, fill it as much as you need. On almost all the electricity boards, we have put a sticker saying, “Switch it off, if not needed.” And many other similar initiatives.
In general, four things are essential to do at an individual level as it affect others. Reduce water uses. Reduce energy uses. Segregate your waste before putting into the bin. Dispose your own waste in a proper manner. Don’t feel pride in throwing garbage from running cars/trains.
If we are going to have big problems tomorrow, it is because of natural resources’ scarcity such as water. So make sure that you are using as per the requirement and not wasting it. Personally, I am totally against washing cars/ streets/colonies with water. Time has come for water harvesting and not wasting it. Harvesting structure must be properly designed particularly in multi storey buildings. So is the case of energy.
Large and very large scale industries must adopt or join hands with small scale, medium scale industries those can’t do CSR on their own to ensure the change is happening.
If you will compare Mumbai of 1979 with todays’; you would see the difference. Today, all the roads, streets and public places are filled with garbage. The littering, de-beautification and misuse have been done at individual level which can’t be cured alone by municipality; everybody will have to join hands to stop it and make Mumbai a lively place again. You are paying thousands of bucks on maintenance why can’t you pay hundred bucks for proper garbage disposal!
Mumbai must learn from Surat; how they could convert the entire city into a garbage free city.
You see, ISR is vital.
To bring the change, the awareness must be rooted at school level. Right now, it is worse as people teaching environment actually are not from the zone.
On every bottle, cigarette pack, it is written “dispose off properly,” but how many of us do that? Also there are not adequate number of bins available at public places. Not everyone likes to carry the garbage to his/her home. More bins with segregation facility are required.
When we talk about sustainability, there are many things that are important and must be taken into consideration with equal importance. For example, take waste for instance. At Tata Power, we segregate our waste by ourselves, be it municipal waste, hazardous waste, hospital waste and other waste which goes to the third party authorised dealer. We have fly-ash which is not hazardous and is sold to the cement industry and construction industry. We have some bottom fly-ash for which we have set up brick plants in Trombay and Jojovera. Apart from that, due focus has also been given to reuse the materials such as iron rods to the fullest in various applications based on their remaining strength before putting them into the trash. These iron rods thereafter are sold to the authorised dealers.
These are small initiatives taken by the brand to ensure the aesthetic environment from our side. We have a separate area for the waste collection and disposal. At every station, a complete flora & fauna and trees have been planted in sufficient area for a soothing impact on the living creatures.
We are not conscious because of the stringent rules but because it is essential to survive. It is also an investment to improve the employee retention rate and above all to win the trust of stakeholders/investors.
Tackling ‘clean’ at its core
Cleaning is a huge challenge, it should be tackled in steps. I admire when Modiji says, “there are 1.3 billion police in the country if everyone does his job correctly India won’t need any policing.” I see Americans are very proud of being Americans as this could be seen in their acts and deeds but Indians are not. A left down. We have deep rooted attitude, “everybody throws, so I will also throw.”
I have co-chaired some of the committees formed by Planning Commission which were about cleaning the industries. We visited many industries and forwarded our suggestions on what steps should be taken in this regard. Planning commission, CPCB and Municipal corporations have vital roles to play in this regard. I have worked with CPCB in past, but didn’t like the way it work. It is CPCB who makes policy for waste management, pollution, and sewage plants. But, it lacks the determination, knowledge and governance needed for the same. For the past five years, it is working without a Chairman and without secretary. They have been deputed on ad-hoc basis. Who will take the accountability?
“At Tata Power, we are committed to provide and maintain a clean, healthy and safe working environment for employees, customers, partners and the community.”
‘Clean’ is very significant while selecting a technology as it reflects the quality of end products as well. In some way clean is green and vice-versa for e.g., using wind power is a clean & green practice, why clean – because it doesn’t pollute, doesn’t generate any waste any wastewater. Further, wind turbine life span is more than that of solar cells hence from disposal POV, it is cleaner. But not everything which is clean is actually green.
We have highly misused the term ‘green’ in this country. You will see advertisements claiming an AC to be green. Being effective in terms of energy is not green. To be green one will have start from the manufacturing. Right from the beginning, the entire process should be waste-free, carbon free and must have used renewable source of energy. Which nobody does in true sense.
Certain things we need to change. For instance, Why to have white dresses in schools and hospitals? The US has changed it long time ago. It is evident white dresses need to be cleaned more often than other coloured uniforms. These are some clean practices which we need to transform into green.
Water act came in 1974, the environmental protection act in 1986. Sustainability development started in early 90s through Rio conference Earth summit. And, now today we are talking about it. All the companies must be 100% compliant of these standards. See, being 100% compliant is the least required we have to go beyond that. Government policies are good. At times, private firms don’t give enough information needed and this delays their project. But, compliance is very important.
GRI started the G2 guidelines in 2002. I was associated with GRI while developing G3 guidelines that came in 2011 and last year, G4 guidelines has come. It suggests reporting on sustainability. It’s not a standard like ISO but is a voluntary. Unlike European Industries which are reporting since beginning, India started recently. My experience says, it is a must as it improves transparency, investment values. It also says, where we need to improve. For instance, few years back, we didn’t have any gender based laws, today we have human rights laws, three years back, we were not in advocacy, it was TCO – Tata code of conduct, and today we have advocacy policy also. The area which we were lacking was green supply chain. Now, we are working on suppliers also. We want our suppliers to work on sustainability program as well. They should also equally aware of the compliances. We are improving the suppliers’ performance.