I had the opportunity to talk with the employees of WIPRO about the dangers of Plastic wastes in Feb 2019. CITI bank was conducting a say NO to plastic drive powered by ELCOT at the Coimbatore premises. WIPRO Coimbatore has various green initiatives and I was so happy to see the employees' enthusiasm towards activities despite the fact that most of the events were conducted on weekend. This was one of the most impressive facilities I have seen as the female employees outnumber male employees ! One of the key reason for the high turnouts for social activities is because they include / invite their employees' children to participate as well. In a world where our kids are more addicted to screens, this surely is a breather. They have multiple initiatives to make the city a greener place; sapling drives, empower farmers, help in lake restorations & waste management. However my key message was about plastic use.
Plastic usage is unavoidable nowadays. We rely on it to pack our food and other things that require water resistance and it is a cheaper packaging option than any other material we know of. But the facts still remain the same.
"Since its invention, there is over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced and only 9% is recycled. Recycling is not even a sustainable solution because not all types of plastics can be recycled into valuable products and it still requires virgin plastic in the production process, and it is expensive ! So the 91% , estimated 6.3 million metric tons of plastic still floating in our oceans, in our soil and in US ( News flash: our table salts have micro-plastics ). We need to stop plastic consumption now. Each one of us. Not just office premises, but every employee, their family & others they inspire"
It is mandatory for most IT parks & corporate offices to adapt certain green measure to reach their CO2 emission goals. The IT industry in India has done a great job, as a matter of fact they are the first to introduce green initiatives to India, over 10 years ago, before "going green" started trending. WIPRO is a leader in sustainable practices, they have won all the top awards globally. From growing their organic vegetables in the premises and banning plastic bottles to waste segregation to use of solar power, they have inspired their employees for years. Sapling drives are very popular among many Tech parks, but here is my concern.
" An average life span of tree is 60 years (if lucky) & it takes plastic 400 years to break down...break down into smaller micro-plastics, not bio-degrade. So is planting more trees any effective if we keep polluting our planet with excessive plastic use? "
The sustainability reports have metrics based on per employee CO2 emission in the office premises, now this same employees could emit twice the amount they do in a week over a weekend. Companies focus on founding values when they speak about their brand identity, they make various efforts to instill these values in their employees, as the employees represent the brand outside the premises as well.
Inspiration is more powerful than imposition
We learn a lot more when we teach, we practice what we preach ( well, most of us) We need to focus more on engaging activities like exchange drives ( get x no.of plastic products & get a ecofriendly alternative in return; like bring 10 plastic bags and get 1 cloth bag free) Clean-ups & awareness campaigns in schools. Events that require interaction with children where employees teach sustainability to young people, in the process they get more involved in the message. Children are our future leaders & innovators, and what is more inspiring for them than highly educated engineers and corporate employees teaching them the importance of sustainable living & ecological responsibilities ?
Growing more trees is certainly a necessity. It makes our surroundings greener & cleaner. But we must also focus on ending the use of plastic items. 50% of the total plastic items ever produced were done so in the last 15 years, technological developments have also seen a tremendous growth in the last 15 years, yet there is only increase in plastic consumption & pollution. If we adopt sustainability as a our core value, we must make more effort to inspire our employees to carry these values home.
I am so thankful to have spoken to these young change makers of the company, and hope we work on more awareness drive.