Striking a green deal in office
Employees are actively adopting eco-friendly habits inside and outside their workplace, and companies are encouraging them with internal policies, workshops and rewards
It has been a year since Gurugram resident Rohit Dang decided to take the Metro instead of his car to reach office. When his company Stratbeans Consulting, a learning management solutions company, also based in Gurugram, introduced a policy to encourage public transport by offering reimbursements, Dang was unsure whether he would be able to give up the comfort of his own vehicle.
“Using the Metro meant I needed to plan my daily trips ahead to time, change my lifestyle and didn’t have the flexibility of taking a car," says Dang, who travels a lot being in the sales department. Within few months, he started living car-free. Office sessions on how to plant trees helped him become more environment-conscious, and he planted some in his locality. He now plans to plant 200 trees around his neighbourhood.
With increasing awareness about global warming and high pollution levels, more people are becoming aware of their responsibilities towards the environment. Companies, too, are realizing the need for a shift in attitude.
“Company policies influence employee behaviour. Leaders who work as advocates for clean energy influence their employees, and rewards, benefits and positive reinforcement in company policies is an effective way of moving employees towards climate action," says Jarnail Singh, director of non-profit The Climate Group India that works with business and government leaders to address climate change.
Plan in action
Data from last year in a report by CDP, a non-profit that engages with environmental issues worldwide, lists 24 Indian firms that have reported monetary incentives for reducing emissions, with nine of them using internal carbon price to drive employee behaviour change and energy efficiency. “An internal carbon price helps drive employee behaviour change because you assign a monetary value to the cost of carbon emissions and provide employees an incentive towards low-carbon transition," says Damandeep Singh, director, CDP India.
Singh cites examples of how Mahindra Group has adopted LED lights, energy-efficient fans and air-conditioners in their offices, and are running programmes for employees on how to reduce carbon footprint. Wipro supports use of electric vehicles among its employees by setting up charging infrastructure at its campuses.
At Stratbeans, where Dang works, strict policies are followed to protect the environment—use of paper is discouraged, reimbursements are given for use of public transport, employees can work from home for two work-days a month, and overall, the energy usage is controlled. “Employees spend a lot of their time in the office and the right policies, exposure through knowledge sessions, monetary rewards and token gift vouchers can influence their behaviour," says Shiv Kumar Nigam, human resources (HR) and administration head, Stratbeans. For the next year, Nigam plans to tie “social responsibility" with appraisal cycles and hire a dedicated environmental manager to drive the agenda within the company.
Growing popularity of internal environmental policies also reflects in a survey released in September by Indeed, an employment search engine. It shows a rise in demand in India for jobs related to the environment management and specialists who have the ability to develop, implement and monitor strategies that promote environmental sustainability within a company.
When it comes to services companies, employee-facing initiatives are particularly important for businesses. “In these businesses, emissions from electricity use, business travel, employee commuting and waste generation are significant contributors to the company’s carbon footprint," says Ulka Kelkar, director, climate program at World Resources Institute India, Bengaluru. Infosys runs an in-house programme called “I, Citizen of Earth", which encourages a culture of responsible citizenship among its employees.
According to Swiss Re, an insurance company that has offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru, commuting emissions account for almost a fifth of its carbon print. In the spring of 2019, the company conducted a global survey for its major locations to find alternatives to private cars for coming to work. At Bengaluru, their solution was carpooling through an internal app. In another move, the company offered subsidy on e-scooters and hybrid cars. Mumbai’s Arjun Kanduri, 42, who works at Swiss Re as a vice president (finance reinsurance) , bought an Ather electric scooter thanks to the policy for his daily commute. His family had reservations about its durability. “Getting family members and friends on-board of the decision is hard as it’s something outside the established norm," he says. A couple of months after trying the e-scooter and finding it more efficient, he tried to convince his colleagues to take up the subsidy and buy the electric scooter. He received a mixed response.
After a point, companies can only encourage climate action, it’s the people who have to change their everyday habits and act. “Not only companies but individuals as well need to move away from personal profit maximization mindset towards a more inclusive view that supports sustainable practices," insists Kanduri.
“Like governments, companies need to seed the mindset that climate action is our collective responsibility, only then people are impelled into making environmentally-friendly habits," says Akhil Ghatiki, 25, a senior consultant at ThoughtWorks, a software consultancy. Ghatiki has been carpooling to work after his company started fuel reimbursement policy, under which 50% of the carpool cost will be paid by the company. ThoughtWorks does not have a regular travel reimbursement.
Reducing carbon footprint not only benefits the environment but also the bottom line because efficient practices reduce operating costs and help increase employee productivity, says Ritu Verma, senior vice president (HR), Brookfield Properties. “We have implemented share-transport services, green buildings, waste segregation, reduce paper usage and no plastic policies and hold regular sessions for awareness," she says.
Mukund Krishnan Kumar, 35, a general manager with the company, agrees. He has changed his lifestyle after a session on waste footprint. “I realized how much waste each one of us personally generate daily, its environmental cost and how I could reduce it just by consuming less, wasting less and recycling." He became mindful not only of everyday waste, but also of purchasing things mindlessly, focusing on need-basis only.
One way to push climate action is by tying professional and personal sustainability goals with annual performance and appraisals. It can be quite motivating, says Kelkar, adding her institute has already added “sustainability competency".
We need to do our bit, she adds. Write to us at email@example.com