HCL sees sustainability as a key opportunity for the future of its business and the world
Mr. Harsh Chitale, CEO, HCL Infosystems reflects on the strategic role ICT sector can play in shaping sustainability and the multitude of opportunities emerging in view of the new e-waste rules.
The world’s resources are depleting faster than we can imagine. Our planet is facing rapid environmental and climatic changes. While there have been continuous debates on the causes and effects, technology has been able to monitor the environmental impact of our actions on the planet, giving us better insight and hopefully, foresight into this critical issue. Thereby also highlighting the need for Sustainability.
In the famed Brundtland report of 1987, sustainable development, simply put, was defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is about making the right decisions now and evaluating the impact on future generations. Sustainability is also about managing and measuring the success of any activity on various parameters like economic growth, environmental impact, and social performance. Without any one of these, any sustainability initiative will not be able to deliver the desired results. The industry has also come to accept that business growth and sustainable development are interlinked and inseparable. By intensifying focus and commitment to sustainability, industry will also set the course for future economic success.
Information technology has seen tremendous growth in recent times, be it in the spread of IT per se or the applications that it has in everyday life. From computers, to internet, mobile phones, televisions, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has permeated every aspect of human life enabling fast and easy information exchange. Though over the past few decades, this industry has put India on the global map, however as with the rapid advances of any industry some environmental related concerns have emerged. Industry estimated figures say that ICT sector accounts for less than 2% of the global emissions, and contributes to reduction of environment impact of other sectors that cause close to 98% of all emissions. However, it is still critical to ensure that the benefits of this sector not just limit but far outweigh the environment impact of all sectors.
The issue of sustainability is extremely complex. To mitigate human impact on the environment we require human initiated remedies that impact all sectors of society. Initiatives that reduce the impact of global warming; recycling, reusing etc are important. However, these alone will not be enough. . It is critical to put sustainability into our daily actions as a business, and as an individual. Equally important is to ensure that the products we produce as an industry and use as consumers are sustainable. It is very encouraging to see that today’s informed consumers are increasingly seeking out products that fulfill sustainability values such as transparency, social responsibility and environmental protection. Responsible use of resources is a key factor in our ability to conserve precious energy and raw materials, and to offer customers top-quality products.
Looking at the policy aspect, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has recently published new rules called the E-waste (management and handling) Rules, 2011 aimed at improving the safe management of electrical and electronic wastes. These rules will be effective from 1st of May 2012, which will make it mandatory for all IT equipment manufacturers and producers of consumer electronics to ensure that their products are not hazardous. These rules will also set out very clearly the responsibilities of consumers, dismantlers, waste handlers, recyclers and also the authorities.
The ICT industry has driven and continues to effect some very positive changes in this field. One of the most immediate contributions of this sector in reducing environment impact is its potential to negate unnecessary use of paper. With electronic information flow, ICT has contributed to not just a paperless environment but also reduced greatly one’s travel needs. From video conferences to tele-calls, virtual presence has ensured a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of institutions and individuals. Production of energy efficient electronic equipments like refrigerators, air conditioners, phones, computers etc, recycling and safe disposal of end of life ICT products are other areas where a lot of progress has been made by the industry at large.
An important aspect to take note of is all the waste generated from used electronic devices and household appliances. It is another threat to our environment that cannot be ignored. It is a well-known fact that PC components contain toxic materials and non-biodegradable components, including PCBs, lead, cadmium, mercury, flame retardants, etc. Industry estimates indicate around 470,000 tons of e-waste will be generated this year in the country. A cause for great concern is that e-waste handled in an unscientific manner, can lead to toxic chemicals seeping into the ground and water bodies, leading to hazardous environmental impact. Also, e-waste when burned in the open, generates toxic chemicals that pollute the environment. Proper e-waste disposal can remove these threats as well as can be used as a potential resource for the industry, if this waste is converted into re-usable material.
At HCL, we see sustainability as one of the most important opportunities for both the future of our business and the future of our world. HCL adopted various initiatives to reduce its operational impact on the environment. These included various energy saving initiatives at our offices; IT infrastructure efficiency improvement; environmental practices at manufacturing plants; and green products and services for customers. For example, HCL is the first company in India to launch a laptop (HCL ME Laptop M54) that complies with the BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) standards, even in the absence of any mandatory norms on energy efficiency for electronic products.
Some of HCL’s other Green Practices include:
• HCL Green Data center awarded the 1st LEED platinum certification in India
• Reporting GHG emissions and reducing it year-on-year
• HCL was the first Indian ICT manufacturer to have all its products RoHS compliant
• HCL is the first company in India to launch a PVC & BFR Free laptop in January 2010
• HCL is the first Company in India to launch a Antimony & Beryllium Free laptop in addition to being PVC & BFR Free
• HCL was the First ICT company in India to Voluntarily Support EPR Extended Producer Responsibility
• HCL extend its take-back service to customers for disposing off their equipment through HCL Green Bag Campaign, and recycling collected E-waste in an environment-friendly manner.
Management of environmental impact and ensuring sustainable development has to be an ongoing and evolving activity. While we focus on existing and new energy efficient initiatives by the industry, it is also extremely critical to standardize environment impact assessment parameters and grant carbon credits to encourage companies that are working towards the o objective of a greener tomorrow. With industry and individual commitment and efforts into making our environment greener, we are sure to build a sustainable future for our future generations.
The author Mr. Harsh Chitale is the Chief Executive Officer at HCL Infosystems.