Wednesday, September 09, 2009

(Dark) Green Initiatives

I have never been a real fan of the green agenda or the green initiatives which most companies in India are hurrying towards. No, it’s nothing to do with my personal likes and dislikes of the companies, but rather the DARK green agenda of the companies as I see it, which puts me off. Colloquially a company is an entity which survives by making profits. So everything a company does is to make profit. Any other objective is mostly secondary unless it’s a NGO or a government company. [[Any referral to a company in this blog will be a profit making company and not a NGO or a government company]]

Every time I hear or read about a green initiative taken up by a company, I get these questions - What is the real motive behind this initiative? Why is the company trying to do this? Is it really green or is there a dark green layer beneath this? If you have noticed, the number of such initiatives have increased manifold in the last 1–2 years. No global catastrophe has occurred (fortunately) in this timeframe. It has been known for decades that human activities have lead to adverse effects on the environment. When no impressively visible action was taken by any major company in the last many decades, it’s a little surprising that companies are suddenly swarming with green initiatives.

The reason as I see it is the global recession which is shrinking the profits of most companies. In the face of shrinking profits the thought is, - a rupee saved is a rupee earned. If savings can be achieved by cutting down the amount of water flow in the taps, limiting the number of printouts taken or limiting toilet rolls and tissue in the rest rooms; every company will dive for it. They just have to paint it green; green with a darker shade. This is precisely what most companies seem to be doing.

Most companies build big campuses by converting agricultural land or cutting down forests, miles away from the city. Roads are built by destroying the vegetation further. Glass buildings dot these campuses and these buildings are cooled by using huge coolers as majority of southern India reels under severe heat for most days of the year. Thousands of people travel every day burning fossil fuels affecting the environment further. Why don’t companies think of green initiatives while building these campuses? The answer is actually another question – why should companies think of all these? If they start thinking about these things they will not be able to make profits. If companies don’t build huge campuses with glass buildings how will they be able to attract their customers? So going green is never on the agenda until the company wants to cut costs.

The most disheartening part is the agenda of these green initiatives. Instead of pulling down the glass structures and changing the outer walls of the building to suit the hot climate, companies go for cost effective options like installing efficient AC’s or replacing incandescent bulbs by CFL’s. It’s a known fact that solar and wind heating and lightning units need 6-10 years after the initial heavy investment to show a return on investment. So a majority of companies turn a blind eye towards these solutions. If limiting printing paper or toilet rolls can be a go green option, so does stopping newspaper, magazines, company brochures etc. Switching to E-Books and closing the library and recycling all the books in the library can be a good option. But how many companies have you seen or heard which has done this? If you shut down the library what will you show to a prospective client? Aren’t the annual performance reports which public listed companies send to their share holders, an environmental hazard? Voluminous books are printed and sent to every share holder which can be replaced by e-books. Has any company taken proactive steps towards this?

It’s a marvelous world we humans live in. If a company is not making good profits it will attract the wrath of the share holder. To prevent this, the chairman or the CEO who represents the company must make sure that his/her subordinate is working and this chain continues till the lowest level in the company. In most cases the people at the lower levels might also be the share holders of the company i.e. the same person is both at the start and end of this chain. So it’s we people who are to be blamed for the evil. We are painting our past green, as we inch closer towards a dark future.

~Narendra V Joshi

1 comment:

Phalguni A.V said...

Very thought provoking article Narendra!!