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Sustaining Sustainability: Navigating climate action

Big 4 CornerSustaining Sustainability: Navigating climate action

Pallavi: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of Sustaining Sustainability podcast series presented by EY India Insights podcast. For the upcoming Environment Day, we are focusing on climate action, which is the adoption of renewable energy, the pursuit of reduced carbon footprint and innovation in creating climate resilient infrastructure. I’m your host, Pallavi, and joining us today is a pioneer in sustainable practices. Saunak Saha, partner at EY India’s climate change and sustainability services. With nearly two decades of experience, Saunak specializes in ESG strategy development and low carbon transition in manufacturing and services sector.

Saunak, it’s a pleasure to have you with us on such a crucial day for global environmental awareness. Thank you for joining us for this podcast.

Saunak Saha: Thank you for inviting me to this podcast. it’s really an honor to be a part of this esteemed conversation.

Pallavi: Thank you. Our first question to you would be how do individuals contribute to carbon footprint? That contributes to climate change. And what are the effective ways that we can do to reduce them?

Saunak Saha: It’s a very interesting question, Pallavi. And, today, I’m sure you know, we all are aware that, you know, the actions that we are taking on a daily basis and the choices which we are making on a daily basis that contribute significantly to our individual carbon footprint and also add to the impact of climate change.

But trust me, there are very simple actions which we can take, which can make our life also a little bit more sustainable and contribute significantly to the reduction of our individual carbon footprint. Just to give you a few examples, let’s say we can start considering walking or, let’s say, biking for a shorter distance traveled. Similarly, we can start thinking of using more of public transport, for example, metro services, which we experience a lot in the Western countries, or even carpooling when we go for a long distance travel.

We also make a lot of choices when we buy our home appliances, right? And we can think of all energy-efficient appliances. Just to give you an example, if you are buying a refrigerator, look at whether it is a five star rated refrigerator or if you are buying any other conditioning. Again, look at what is the star rating of the air conditioning.

Similarly, for the lighting part, we can all switch to a LED lamp, which will significantly reduce the energy consumption of our household and again lead to a lot of reduction in carbon footprint. So again, just look at you know, we are we are approaching the peak summer and the demand for air conditioning will significantly increase. Now if we set the temperature of our air conditioner at, let’s say, around 24 or 25 degrees centigrade, instead of, let’s say, setting it at 18 or 19 degrees centigrade, we will save a lot in terms of reducing the energy consumption.

Look at our food consumption. Now, if we start having more of locally grown fresh food, fresh vegetables and reduce our dependance more on, let’s say, packaged food, canned foods, again, we can contribute significantly to reducing the energy consumption. Because all this packaged food, canned food requires a lot of chilling, for all of which we need to consume a lot of energy.

Our apparels, clothing habits. And I see now there is a trend that, you know, we have started using more of clothes made out of natural fiber and that definitely, you know, keeps us cool eternally and our dependance on, let’s say, air conditioning will significantly reduce. Last but not the least, of course, we all need to revisit our own consumption pattern and we need to look at consuming products, you know, which are essential.

And at the same time, we would also need to focus on how we can reuse more, how we can recycle more just to reduce our dependency on the virgin materials. And all of this would fundamentally lead to a significant reduction on individual carbon footprint. I hope that answers this question.

Pallavi: Thank you, Saunak. Now, adding to the first question, what role can governments play in motivating individuals and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint?

Saunak Saha: Right. See, government has the institutional power to nudge a single individual or a community or a business or an organization to adopt sustainable practices. And I would be honest, like, you know, the Government of India has been playing a very crucial, pioneering role. You know, for this and a lot of initiative which have been taken by the government in the past, I’m sure you know, those initiatives can be also adopted by many developing countries in the future.

Just to give you an example, the government has introduced a lot of incentive mechanisms in the past. We have this performative mechanism, which was mainly to incentivize industries to go for energy efficiency. We had the carbon trading market mechanism in the past, which kind of promoted all organizations to adopt sustainable technology, sustainable practices that will significantly reduce their carbon emissions.

We also have the Green Credit program, which is also for voluntary adoption by the companies, by organizations. Government has also a significant focus on changing the energy sector, which is currently a lot more dependent on fossil fuels. And there is a lot of focus on renewable energy. If you look at in the last few years the kind of capacity that we have added on solar power, on wind power, that is quite commendable.

Government has also come out with a lot of regulations and lot of policies around. It’s a green hydrogen, biofuels, electric vehicles and all of which will collectively help to reduce the carbon footprint of the country. I would also look at, you know, the kind of initiatives government has taken in the past to create a very strong ecosystem of sustainable manufacturing through, let’s say, Make in India and sustainable supply chain so that each and every product that we are consuming today comes to us with a lower embedded carbon footprint.

My only suggestion or recommendation to the government would be that it’s time for us to also formalize sustainability education in the formal education mechanism, and we should also enhance public awareness campaigns specifically for community based sustainable development.

Pallavi: Thank you so much for your valuable input, Saunak. Now, shifting towards the climate resilient topic, what policies do you think are needed to encourage businesses to invest in climate resilience?

Saunak Saha: See, in my opinion, I don’t think it today it is a choice of an organization or a business to decide whether they want to invest into a climate resilient business model or not.

It is absolutely a requirement of every single business or organizations to identify what are their climate change risk? How do they manage this risk? What should be the climate resilient business model for them, just to ensure they can continue with their operations sustainably in the long run, they can manage growth and they can manage profitability for their shareholders.

The government has already taken a lot of actions in the past. They have introduced a lot of regulations. There are a lot of policies, a lot of incentive mechanisms which have been rolled out in the past. I think the government can, of course, focus a little bit more on how to create an incentive versus penalty mechanism. For example, companies which are being proactive and they are taking a lot of initiatives to build a climate resilient business model.

I think those are the companies who can be which can be incentivized by, let’s say, tax breaks or by making access to low-cost capital. On the other hand, companies which are not taking proactive measures to become climate resilient, they can be penalized, say, in the form of carbon taxes. But having said this, the ultimate responsibility will always lie with the organizations.

It is important for them to identify their climate change related risks and develop a climate resilient business model. In this regard, I also see the role of Public-Private partnership to be very, very significant. Looking at the country’s growth model, the kind of economic growth which we are projecting for the country, we all can understand that there is going to be significant investment coming in the infrastructure sectors.

And this is where the public-private partnership, the collaboration between government and private organizations to develop this kind of climate resilient infrastructure will take us a long way and will help the economy to become a net zero economy by 2070.

Pallavi: Thank you. Saunak. And lastly, what do you think are the roles of education and public awareness in fostering a culture of sustainability?

Saunak Saha: See, the role of education and public awareness is very, very crucial. You know, to kind of generate more awareness on sustainability. See, I have entered into this sustainability domain back in 2004, and in the last 20 years, I have seen a massive requirement of seasoned sustainability professionals, skilled professionals who have a proper understanding of the subject matter.

There are many factors to it. I think we have a lot of regulations within the country today. There are a lot of global regulations also, which are coming up, and there are many Indian companies which have a significant export footprint, and they would need to comply with such regulations. Your investors have started asking about what we are doing on sustainability. Your customers today want to know that how we are manufacturing the product that is being consumed by them, how sustainably we are doing that. So therefore, we need a significant amount of skilled sustainability professionals in our workforce, but we still do not have that many number of formal education programs in the country. Of course, there are a few universities which has now started introducing, sustainability courses, but I feel that this education should start from the school level only be that primary level, be it at secondary level, be at the undergraduate level, or even at the post-graduation level.

I think formalization of sustainability education is going to be extremely, extremely useful to create this pool for sustainability professionals. Now, having said that, we also need to depend a lot on public awareness campaigns because we must admit that there will be a portion of population which will be deprived from formal education. And therefore, we need to enhance the public awareness campaigns so that they can be educated on specifically community based sustainability initiatives.

Pallavi: Thank you. Saunak. And that brings us to the end of today’s conversation. A sincere thank you to you for sharing your valuable insights and also reminding us that the health of our planet relies on our collective efforts.

Saunak Saha: Thank you very much, Pallavi.

Pallavi: Thank you, Saunak and thank you to all our listeners. And for more insights and resources on climate action. Please do head over to our website and also follow us on social media handles. Let’s make everyday environment day. Thanks for tuning in. Goodbye for now.

Story from www.ey.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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