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Green is the colour
Economic Times - 18 Oct 2009

The need to turn environment-friendly is not just fashionable, it makes business sense too. And India Inc is cashing in on the trend and going green in a very big way, finds Gaurav Sharma quite likes the electronic bike that he bought three months ago. Not only does it save him a Rs 1,000 a month on commuting, he also feels proud to be doing his bit for the environment. The 24-year old employee of a leading IT company in Bangalore was initially reluctant to replace his petrol powered 150-cc bike but is happy that he made the shift to cleaner transport. “It’s the need of the hour. We all ought to chip in with our bit for the planet,” he explains.

Perhaps this is the larger sentiment in Corporate India also. Noticing a compelling need to go green, one that is more pronounced than ever before, some of the biggest corporations across different sectors of economic activity are switching to provide greener solutions to a rapidly increasing set of consumers who wish to lower their carbon footprint.

Going Green has become fashionable and a business mantra, these days. There are newer business models coming out of it. From green clothes, which mind you, are expensive to green offices, which consume lesser electricity, turn off their lights automatically and have their own water and waste recycling plants, even generating their own power, green is the way to go.

Thus Hyderabad Airport, ITC-Welcomgroup, Infosys, TCS, Agilent, HP, IBM, all claim to be going green. It adds to the feel good factor too, and marketers make buyers feel good about the fact they will contribute something to the environment by buying this product.

So, Pepsi and Coke are working on recyclable plastic, while Sun Microsystems and Cisco, offer green data centres, even as Google produces its own solar power. Now even the Indian army is going green, as many Army cantonments run on their own green power, produced from wind sources.

With carbon trading becoming lucrative on many exchanges, it becomes an attractive business model too. Companies like Uniglobe offer green travel. Thus Rs 100 is deducted from your ticket, as you travel from Delhi to Mumbai. Further, Rs 70 is given to a green initiative, like a renewable energy project and consumers earn carbon credits for this. The carbon credits, in turn, can be monetised. Large travel companies like American Express Travel also offer services to corporates whereby they can monetize their green travel on stock exchanges and become carbon neutral. In times to come, only carbon neutral companies will be allowed to bid for certain large projects, the EU has already moved a bill suggesting as much. Clearly, green is the way to be. Cars are going green and so is your electricity. In the upcoming Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government plans major environment-friendly initiatives such as producing power from garbage. So, your cell phone might soon run on green power. Banking is also going green, and so is the food you eat.

SOME companies - such as FMCG major ITC - have gone a step ahead and included their green initiatives as a part of their performance evaluation system. The cigarettes to hotels conglomerate claims to be carbon positive for the past four years, isolating twice the amount of carbon dioxide it emits. It also claims to be water positive for the past seven years, generating two times more rainwater harvesting potential than what it consumes.

“We have a corporate culture of staying green. For over ten years, we have been evaluating our performance on based on our financial, social and environmental initiatives during the year,” says Nazeeb Arif, official spokesperson of ITC. Similar is the case of Pepsico India, which is aiming to rely on renewable sources for 25% of its energy requirement within the next two years by using wind energy, solar energy and biomass. The company claims to have set up India’s first remote wind turbine in Tamil Nadu last year which contributes a carbon emission reduction of more than 3,500 tons annually and helps meet more than 75% of the electricity requirements of its Mamandur plant. Pepsico also claims the conversion of all its own bottling plants from furnace oil to biomass- powered boilers. The switchover will help offset a much larger amount of carbon emission. Five of the company’s plants use solar power for lights (tubular daylight devices). Solar water heating will save enough energy & electricity in the plants.