Among the many acronyms at my former workplace was OSP, “one-sided paper”. Documents for internal circulation had to be printed on paper already used on one side — a small but effective way to minimise paper consumption. Large set-ups are usually a nightmare for green thinkers, with perpetual air-conditioning, no ownership of resources, and therefore no economy in utilisation.
Often, companies and employees want to do something to change that, but need expert guidance to do it meaningfully. Offering exactly that help is the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), established by Rashneh N Pardiwala and Kitayun Rustom. “According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), economic damages from climate destabilisation could go up to $970 billion,” Pardiwala explains. “Most Indian companies don’t address climate change concerns in their policy. Only when it is institutionalised in policy can employees work towards green practices as a team. Besides, carbon disclosure will eventually be mandatory for companies, and we can help corporate set-ups prepare for that.”
CERE’s experts assess a client’s carbon footprint before suggesting (and helping implement) measures to minimise this impact: “map and cap”, Pardiwala calls it. CERE also sensitises employees to the environment through training workshops and by organising nature watches, tree-planting drives and other such activities.
In consultation with CERE, IndusInd Bank embarked in 2009 on a green office project, Hum aur Hariyali. The project involved initiatives such as paperless faxes, e-waste management, and so on. To reflect these eco-friendly practices in the public sphere, CERE advised the bank to go solar with their ATMs. The first solar-powered ATM was launched at Opera House in October 2009. Mapping savings in the first year, they found that a single solar-powered ATM resulted in savings of Rs 20,100. Imagine the savings if this were replicated across India! Solar ATMs also come with a 25-year warranty on the solar panels, impossible with electricity-powered ATMs.
Pardiwala believes that unless they positively impact the bottom line, it is not realistic to expect companies to prioritise green practices. Mapping the “before” and “now” scenarios at IndusInd Bank, CERE computed cost savings of Rs 42 lakh and a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions by 306,874 kg at the end of the first year. And any organisation must involve employees in green initiatives, creating a sense of purpose that reflects in all areas of work.
To share learning and knowledge in this sphere, CERE is planning the first-of-its-kind Carbon Map and Cap Conference for the corporate service sector. Scheduled for April 2011, it will offer an understanding of the current situation and serve as a step towards a low-carbon future through companies’ awareness of newer organic solutions and cutting-edge technologies.
CERE, which has completed projects for TCS, Rabobank, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Power and National Geographic, was selected to represent the Indian Youth Climate Network contingent at COP16 in Cancun. However, the organisation has another, completely different clientele — it also works in rural Maharashtra to promote rural sustainability, using funds from corporate consulting projects for these non-profit initiatives.