Innovative Carbon Solutions

29 May 2024 - // Interviews
Rashneh Pardiwala
Founder & Director of the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE)

Learn how companies in India are embracing carbon management systems

Transitioning to sustainable systems poses challenges for companies, particularly Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, due to financial constraints, limited expertise, and regulatory complexities. However, support at the policy level is growing, with regulatory pressures, training programs, and government policies like Perform, Achieve, and Trade (PAT) incentivizing energy efficiency improvements and green transitions.

In this interview for REVOLVE, Dr. (Ms.) Rashneh N. P Pardiwala recommends investing in employee training, adopting affordable solutions like energy efficiency measures and sustainable waste management practices, and fostering partnerships with stakeholders to promote sustainability throughout the value chain, enabling companies to reduce their carbon footprint and work towards a more sustainable future. Through initiatives like the Centre for Environmental Research and Education’s (CERE) Carbon Map & CapTM (CMC) program, companies can set reduction targets, enhance transparency in reporting, and adopt various carbon management strategies such as renewable energy installations, energy efficiency optimizations, and circular economy principles to minimize waste generation and resource consumption.

What kinds of carbon management systems help companies become more sustainable in India while also meeting their business objectives?

One of the best strategies companies can adopt to become more sustainable and reduce their climate impact is to undertake a simple carbon footprint assessment. This assessment serves as an invaluable tool, offering a comprehensive understanding of an organization’s carbon emissions and consumption hotspots throughout its operations.

By scrutinizing various operational aspects such as energy consumption, transportation practices, waste generation, and supply chain activities, businesses can gain nuanced insights into their environmental footprint. Using this data, companies can pinpoint areas for improvement, allowing for targeted interventions and strategic adjustments with employee engagement. Through the identification of emission hotspots and inefficiencies, organizations can streamline their operations, enhance resource utilization, and implement tailored mitigation measures.

Carbon footprint assessments serve not only as diagnostic tools but also as catalysts for transformative change.

In essence, carbon footprint assessments serve not only as diagnostic tools but also as catalysts for transformative change. They allow companies in India and around the world to navigate their transitions to greener and more responsible organizations by thereafter widening the scope of their Environmental assessment to Social and Governance (ESG) factors while achieving their business objectives, such as cost reduction, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliance.

How are carbon management systems being incorporated by companies/industries across India? Could you share some innovative examples?  

Companies have an array of tools at their disposal to implement carbon footprint assessments effectively. They can utilize robust methodologies such as the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, or ISO 14064, to guide their assessment process. The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is the most widely used framework for businesses looking to measure and report their GHG emissions. It comprises three scopes covering direct emissions (Scope 1), indirect emissions from purchased electricity and energy (Scope 2), and other indirect emissions along the value chain (Scope 3).

These frameworks provide standardized approaches for calculating emissions across different scopes, ensuring consistency and comparability of results. Companies can engage several different consultants and experts who work in the field of sustainability to help them assess their climate impact and design a carbon management roadmap. Additionally, companies can leverage software solutions specifically designed for carbon accounting, which streamline data collection, emissions calculation, and reporting tasks.

Once companies have identified emission hotspots within their operations and value chains, they can begin to adopt and implement a variety of carbon management strategies.

The Centre for Environmental Research and Education’s (CERE) Carbon Map & Cap (CMC) program offers companies a comprehensive solution for carbon footprint assessment and management and is based on the guidelines set out in the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard. Through this highly successful program, CERE works with organizations to identify emission hotspots, determine climate risks and opportunities, implement mitigation measures, set reduction targets, and enhance transparency in reporting.

Once companies have identified emission hotspots within their operations and value chains, they can begin to adopt and implement a variety of carbon management strategies. This can include the installation of renewable energy sources like rooftop solar, optimizing energy efficiency through technological upgrades and operational improvements, adopting circular economy principles to minimize waste generation and resource consumption, optimizing logistics and transportation routes to reduce carbon emissions in the supply chain, and exploring initiatives like carbon pricing and internal carbon trading mechanisms to incentivize emissions reductions.  Companies can also look to offset their carbon emissions through afforestation projects or by investing in renewable energy certificates.

Understanding one’s carbon footprint starts with an energy audit. Photo: Getty Images / Canva

CERE has helped companies transition to greener electricity sources by implementing grid-integrated solar rooftop systems. For example, we have worked with HDFC Ltd (now merged with HDFC Bank) to set up rooftop solar installations at all their company-owned premises across India. Our Urban Afforestation Project (UAP) also helps companies offset their emissions through tree plantation in urban and peri-urban areas. Since its inception, UAP has planted over 285,000 large native trees in 26 cities across India, and these plantations are expected to sequester an estimated 62,000 metric tonnes of CO2 over 15 years.

Going green has helped companies build confidence amongst their employees, shareholders, and stakeholders who value ​corporations​ taking their ESG responsibilities seriously in the face of climate change and global warming.

What are some of the challenges companies face when they transition to more sustainable systems? Especially the Small and medium-sized (SME) sector and start-ups. Is there support at the policy level?

Transitioning to more sustainable, climate-friendly systems can present immediate challenges for companies, especially Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups. These include financial constraints, limited expertise, and access to markets and funding. Businesses may struggle to invest in sustainable technologies or navigate complex regulatory landscapes, hindering their ability to prioritize long-term sustainability goals. Moreover, challenges such as securing support from senior leadership, a lack of awareness among employees about climate change, and finding time to focus on sustainability outside core business operations add to the complexity of the challenge.

There is growing support at the policy level to address these challenges.

CERE’s CMC program recognizes these challenges and has helped companies navigate them by developing and conducting employee training and awareness programs around climate and environmental sustainability through our Green Champions Program, hand-holding companies through the process of risk assessment and climate disclosures and helping companies identify opportunities for mitigation that are both cost-effective and practical to implement.

There is growing support at the policy level to address these challenges. In terms of driving companies to adopt sustainability, regulatory pressures are making it more and more difficult to ignore climate and environmental sustainability. This includes enhanced non-financial reporting measures driven by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Organizations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) offer some training and capacity building around sustainability. And finally, the government is supporting some green transitions through policy mechanisms such as Perform, Achieve, and Trade (PAT), which is aimed at incentivizing energy efficiency improvements in industries, business-friendly renewable energy policies, an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy that mandates producers to manage and ensure environmentally sound disposal of their end-of-life products, and evolving electric vehicle and green hydrogen policies to mention a few.

What are your recommendations for creating an environment more conducive to the uptake of climate-friendly practices? Are there affordable solutions that can already be adopted to reduce a company’s carbon footprint?

First, investing in employee training and capacity building around sustainability, across all strata of management, is essential to enable a broader and tangible sustainability program at any company. Empowering employees to champion eco-friendly initiatives within a company can help in the implementation of low-hanging fruit solutions such as behavior change campaigns, promoting energy efficiency measures, and optimizing resources which can result in immediate reductions in a company’s carbon footprint.

Empowering employees to champion eco-friendly initiatives within a company can help in the implementation of low-hanging fruit solutions.

Once a company has leadership and an employee base that is convinced and committed to the idea of sustainability, it can adopt several affordable solutions to mitigate climate change and chart a long-term vision plan to become net zero. Energy efficiency can be achieved through a range of interventions which could be major policy decisions involving capital investments like low energy/net zero plants in the manufacturing sector, or green building expansion plans for service sector companies, or very simple solutions like upgrading lighting systems, optimizing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) settings, thin computing, and implementing smart energy management technologies.

Companies can also promote work-from-home practices and videoconferencing to reduce emissions from employee commuting and business travel. Furthermore, implementing sustainable waste management practices, such as recycling and composting programs, can minimize waste sent to landfills, further reducing waste-related emissions. It is also vital for companies to foster partnerships with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders to promote sustainable practices throughout the value chain. These partnerships can also easily reduce emissions by promoting green procurement and enabling responsible behavior by suppliers and customers.

Discover Sustainable India
Rashneh Pardiwala
Founder & Director of the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE)

Join Planet

We strive to communicate sustainability for a better world for the next generations.

Support us by becoming a member of REVOLVE Planet today.

Become a Member