Discussion around a symbiotic economy usually revolves around external factors like the environment, ecology, air, water and sustainable policies and practices with respect to these resources. There is considerably less conversation around a parallel and equally important aspect - responsible practices at workplaces. The workplace is the epicentre of productivity and cultivating a culture of responsible work practices – through initiatives that include energy saving technology, people sensitivity, etc. – could enhance sustainability in today’s changing world. The Forbes India Insights CEO roundtable, comprising Raj Kumar Rishi, MD, Xerox; Manoj Chugh, President, Business Development: Enterprise Business, Tech Mahindra; Nishant Arya, ED, JBM; Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director, Nestle India; Sumit Joshi, Chief Executive Officer, South Asia for Philips Lighting and Vineet Agarwal, MD, TCIL, shared their experiences and insights on creating a culture of sustainability at the workplace.
Setting the discussion rolling, the participants showcased their respective company’s endeavours and achievements in the sphere of sustainability at the workplace. “On the manufacturing front, we are proud to say that in the last 10-15 years we have reduced our water consumption by almost half. We have reduced the carbon footprint by almost half. The energy usage has also gone down significantly, by almost 45-50%, and also the recycling of the waste water has been close to 60%,” ventured Suresh Narayanan. Nishant Arya shared his company’s target of meeting about 70% of its energy requirements through renewable sources in the next three years and at least 20% of the requirements of the whole business ecosystem – comprising customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Raj Kumar Rishi was proud of the fact that over the years Xerox has actually helped corporates, enterprises and assembly organizations to move lot of work from physical to digital. “There was a point of time when 100% of business was selling photocopies, now a very large percentage of our business is digital solutions, which basically help our customers to cut down on the use of paper and print and toner.”
There was a broad consensus that a behavioural change is the starting place for any sustainable effort to build a more symbiotic economy at the company level. Suresh Narayanan suggested that creating a sense of symbiosis within society and the environment is part of a change journey that begins with responsible behaviour. Sumit Joshi pointed out that responsibility and a responsible behaviour is not always convenient. “Unless and until at an individual level and as leaders we can combat that inconvenience, we will not make a change.”
Taking a more practical approach, Vineet Agarwal opined that there is a very close link between profitability and sustainability; only a profitable company could start thinking about sustainability as it would have the capacity to start thinking about innovation, without which sustainability in one’s own business, in society and in the environment would not be possible. Manoj Chugh went a step further to suggest, “I think that sustainability and profitability can be synonymous. The generic logical belief is that they are not, but in a way, particularly driven by digital and what digital technologies can enable, that is possible.”
Raj Kumar Rishi observed, “Today’s education and skills are much more geared towards sensitiveness to the environment than earlier days. But as long as we continue with a short-term focus, it will not help us to take decisions which can save energy and find and implement other symbiotic economy solutions in the long term.”
Nishant Arya agreed that short-term thinking is necessary in certain cases but one needs to have a long-term approach and a long-term vision to eventually achieve shared prosperity.
Manoj Chugh raised an interesting issue saying, “It’s an Indian philosophy that we work and save for the betterment of future generations but those generations may never ever see the light of the day. So, I think fundamentally we have to be mindful. We have to recognize that today, here and now is when we have to bring about change, the past is gone, the future is a dream but today is when we can make a change.”
Suresh Narayanan concluded, “We can talk about global issues and we can talk about our global problems. But I think each of us is vested with the responsibility of leadership, of ensuring the responsibility to society and to the environment happens at a lot of place. Offering an actionable approach, he added, “In my experience, when we have a larger change management goal of symbiotic relationships, ‘meaning, measurement and motivation’ would be the three fundamental principles that will drive the change management program.”