Sustainability More Important Than Ever
Patrick Adamcik, ConCert Project Director, DNV discusses about business sustainability
The BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - are big places with rapidly growing populations and expanding economies. So when a renowned think tank says that Infosys is among the five most sustainable companies in all of those countries, it's a distinction for us to celebrate.
I say this because sustainability isn't always cheap. It's not always easy. And it's certainly not the most popular set of programs to foster when the global economy is stuck in neutral and shareholders scrutinize every corporate activity for its cost-effectiveness. We have been a sustainable company through thick and thin, and we believe that our serious, long-lasting commitment to the environment - physical, social and economic - continues to pay off in a number of ways.
Focusing for a minute on the physical environment, we started with a promise: To be carbon neutral, to reduce our per capita electricity consumption by 50 percent, and to power our entire operations in India with renewable energy. Besides the environmental awards (the BRIC distinction is the ninth of 10 in the past year alone), we have had tremendous success meeting our stated goals. We put up new buildings that consume 66 percent less energy and 40 percent less water compared to our older buildings, but at no extra cost. We increased our share of renewable energy to 22 percent of our total electricity consumption using both off- and on-site renewable sources.
That promise continues to take shape because of Infoscions like Rohan Parikh, the company's head of Infrastructure and Green Initiatives in Bangalore. He recently wrote a compelling article that's a call to action for everyone: people within the company who might not yet be completely sold on sustainability's advantages, but also government officials who have the power to institute sweeping changes in this area. According to Parikh, we don't have the luxury of time anymore. The planet needs us to think and act with sustainability in mind ... starting today.
Parikh uses a wonderful phrase that I plan to borrow from him in the future when called upon to discuss sustainability: We need leaders, he says, who have the courage and conviction "to take unreasonable goals." This phrase resounds with me because environmental challenges are considerable and if we at Infosys don't make them our priorities, who will?
The good news is that our efforts are recognized and supported by our CFO. So you can rest assured that our goals are not deemed unreasonable (if they ever were in the first place). To me, the recognition of sustainability practices by the CFO and not just the marketing team means that our commitment does more than simply look great. It saves money. How many corporate sustainability programs can say that? For instance, we were the first to use radiant cooling air conditioning in a commercial building in India. We've devised ingenious solar panel farms and even a photovoltaic plant across many of our campuses. We've even developed a system that allows employees to switch off their computers remotely using their cell phones if they should accidentally leave them on at the end of the workday.
We harvest rainwater, too. In fact, we managed to sequester more fresh water into the ground than we consumed last year. Our rainwater harvest program among the buildings of the Mysore campus reduced freshwater consumption by 18 percent in its first year alone, saving some 80 million gallons. We also succeeded in reducing our overall water footprint by 14 percent last year by using flow restrictors, low-flow fixtures, and recycled water for flushing and air conditioning.
What Infosys has demonstrated is that sustainability is more than just a fad. It's a financial success story because we stuck with it. In business, having a set of goals and focusing on them is one thing. But making those goals among your most important is quite another thing. By following through on our commitment, we've shown the world just how efficient renewable energy can be. This success story has two corollaries: One is that companies in the BRIC nations are just as committed to caring about the environment as are organizations in the West. The other is that private enterprise is showing governments what it takes to get things done in the sustainability arena.
By setting the right example - that sustainability is a corporate way of life and not simply a fly-by-night program - Infosys is beginning to influence companies in other industries to begin building and operating with the environment in mind. In fact, one way we think we can have an enormous effect on the global markets is to have governments, agencies, and universities showcase our achievements in case studies. My reckoning is that if such studies were to influence just one percent of future construction, our sustainability philosophy would be far-reaching enough to be thought of as nation building. Nobody ever accused us of thinking small!
So I laud our colleagues for making us an environmentally responsible company. And speaking of awards, we're proud to be recognized by Green IT magazine among their many categories in their annual awards issue. We're honored to join a number of ecologically conscious enterprises working toward a more sustainable future.