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Earth Day: Lets renew efforts to prevent climate change; Time to take action is NOW

Businesses are uniquely placed to provide solutions to the global challenges – ranging from climate, water and food crises, to poverty, conflict and inequality.

Invest In Our Planet – the theme for Earth Day 2022 – is a clarion call for each individual to collaborate and contribute to build a healthy planet for our future generations.
Invest In Our Planet – the theme for Earth Day 2022 – is a clarion call for each individual to collaborate and contribute to build a healthy planet for our future generations.

By Ramnath Vaidyanathan,  

Earth Day 2022 underscores the urgent need for everyone to renew action and contribute efforts to prevent climate change, says Ramnath Vaidyanathan, GM & Head – Environmental Sustainability, Godrej Industries Ltd

Sustainability has become a key focus area for countries and corporations today. There is now a general consensus that a green future is a prosperous future. However, global concerns such as climate change, water scarcity, extinction of species, and many others continue to worsen. 

And the near dismal situation underscores the urgent need to reinvigorate our efforts to ‘act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably)’ to save our planet. Invest In Our Planet – the theme for Earth Day 2022 – is a clarion call for each individual to collaborate and contribute to build a healthy planet for our future generations.

Corporates can play a big role in driving sustainable development. Businesses are uniquely placed to provide solutions to the global challenges – ranging from climate, water and food crises, to poverty, conflict and inequality. Building a more inclusive and sustainable world is not an option, but an imperative for all, especially corporations. 

A new roadmap 

Changing the way we do business is essential to addressing the challenges of environmental degradation. The Friedman doctrine that the social responsibility of business was to increase its profits no more holds currency. Improving sustainability and protecting profitability are not mutually exclusive but rather go hand in hand. 

For corporations, business sustainability has not only gone mainstream but also become a strategic concern today. Extended producer responsibility, end of life recycling, etc. are no more buzzwords. Green manufacturing and sustainable policies have nudged corporations to evolve in ways that were unimaginable in the past. 

Mounting evidence shows that sustainable companies deliver significant positive financial performance, and investors are correlating better ESG (environmental, social and governance factors) performance with better financial performance. In 2019, 90% of S&P 500 firms published sustainability reports, up from only 20% in 2011. 

Corporates for social change

In tandem with the shift towards green business models, corporations also need to accelerate efforts to drive positive change. It needs to be emphasized here that even before CSR, commitment to communities, etc. became part of the business lexicon, Indian corporates have integrated social concerns in their business models. 

The Godrej watershed development projects in the drought prone regions of Maharashtra, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have encouraged the adoption of land and water resources in a comprehensive manner. The ecological balance of over 10,000 ha of land has been restored and close to 10 million kl of water per annum is being saved annually. About 4,700 households have improved through agriculture and farm based activities. 

Other Indian corporations such as the Tata Group, the Aditya Birla Group, the Mahindra Group, to name a few, are also investing funds and resources to serve India’s underserved communities and transform the rural landscape. 

More action needed 

While the developments extend hope, there is other disconcerting news. The corporate world was not moving fast enough on emissions reductions to meet the 1.5-degree target set by the Paris Accord, according to Arabesque, a corporate sustainability data firm and asset manager. The world needs to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep the global temperature below 1,5°C. 

In the six years since the landmark agreement, the percentage of companies on course with their emissions reductions targets had actually regressed at least in two markets. In 2015, 29% of German companies were aligned with the 2050 climate target, dropping only slightly to 28% in 2021. In India, alignment dropped from 25% to 24%, whilst in Britain (.FTSE), the figure remained the same, at 21%.

The monthly peak amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere reached 414.8 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, the highest level in human history and likely the highest level in the past 3 million years. And this portends trouble for the entire world and puts a big question mark on the survival of human species.

The contribution of businesses, regardless of their industry or size, will be key to the achievement of SDGs. Corporates have the onerous responsibility of aligning their businesses with the SDGs to help their countries achieve the global development goals. New technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and IoT, among others, can contribute significantly towards achieving the goals. 

This Earth Day is the perfect time for each one of us to find ways and means to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Every small step counts and each step can add to the collective effort and help avert the disaster that stares at us. 

(The author is GM & Head – Environmental Sustainability, Godrej Industries Ltd and Associated Companies. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)

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