Welcome to our eighth sustainability report, for the year 2014-15. The theme of this year’s report, ‘The shifting normal’ highlights the fact that the nature of social and ecological issues facing us is changing so rapidly that yesterday’s outliers are becoming today’s normal.
Let me cite some examples: 2015, already declared as the warmest year on record by the scientific community, was witness to several extreme weather events – severe drought in California, intense heat waves in India, Iran, Iraq and Europe followed by record breaking rains in Chennai and coastal Tamil Nadu in India as well as in Texas and Oklahoma in the U.S.A.. In parallel, we have been witnessing gradual but deep structural shifts on crucial socio-economic factors – for example, the record low oil prices with unpredictable consequences for the global economy or the gradual desertification of North Africa contributing to migration to Europe.
The common thread across these examples is that economic, social, environmental and geo-political factors are invariably interlinked. Solutions to such complex and deep-rooted issues will have to be systemic and enduring. Quick fixes or silver bullets will not address these issues.
For business, the critical imperative is recognize the nature of this shifting normal and to continually rethink its role. Let me present below some examples from Wipro’s sustainability journey in 2014-15 that illustrate our efforts in this direction.
Climate Change and Water:
The climate change problem stemming from the global fossil-fuel economy has been made more complex due to its linkages with other critical issues like water scarcity, food security and biodiversity loss. At Wipro, our engagement with efforts to tackle climate change goes back several years, with 2014-15 marking the completion of our first five-year targets on greenhouse gas reductions. Over this period, our renewable energy footprint has increased four-fold comprising 22 % of our total electricity consumption today. Our energy efficiency initiatives during the same period have helped save 51 million units cumulatively. These measures have together helped avoid 92000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. While this is significant progress, we recognize acutely that these are just a few steps and a lot more needs to be done. Our targets for the next five year cycle and beyond will incorporate learnings from our journey so far and will be set on the basis of climate science templates that require the world to stay within the 2 degree temperature rise limit as enumerated in the recent Paris agreement on climate change.
The impact of a warming climate on the water cycle can result in intensified drought-like conditions, changes in rainfall pattern and extreme weather events. India has been seeing examples of all the three, with the unprecedented rains and flooding in coastal Tamil Nadu being the most recent.
I have written to you in my earlier letters of our integrated approach on water management that includes our proximate communities and other stakeholders. During the year, we completed a very detailed map of the groundwater aquifer spread over 33 sq km around our campus in Sarjapur, Bangalore. This is part of our larger program that seeks to evolve a citizen led model of water governance that will be informed by groundwater science, empirical data and rich exchange of good practices.
Good Education and Wipro – earthian:
I have reiterated on different occasions that good education provides the foundation for a good society by helping build the capacity of individuals to think critically and to act responsibly.
Our work in education spans a wide spectrum across school and higher education. One of our key programs, Wipro-earthian is driven by the vision that a critical dimension in addressing the challenges of sustainability, is about making sustainability integral to education in schools and colleges.
The program has been growing in scale and scope since its inception, now with an outreach to over 12000 schools and colleges. These institutions participate in a set of learning activities that help them understand the issues of water, biodiversity and climate change better. In addition, we work closely with a smaller set of schools and colleges, to deepen their sustainability thinking and learning.
Our engagements in Wipro-earthian and in other areas of education is reflective of the kind of sustained and deliberative work required in this space.
Employees as agents of positive change:
In the world of IT Services and Consulting, employees are at the heart of a company’s progress. This holds true for Wipro. Our progress is entirely the result of the effort of the more than 160,000 Wiproites, and that of employees of our partners.
We believe that all individuals, and that includes Wiproites, can be powerful agents of change for the better – as members of families, communities and as responsible citizens. A powerful illustration of this is Wipro Cares, a not-for-profit-trust, which runs our community programs on primary health care, education for the underprivileged and disaster rehabilitation. Aside from Wipro’s continuing significant financial support to this trust, the other source of funds is what Wiproites contribute to the trust, and which is also matched rupee to rupee by Wipro. Wiproites can also choose to work with our NGO partners on issues that concern them and they feel for. More than 51000 Wipro employees are currently active contributors to Wipro Cares, making this perhaps one of the largest such programs in the world.
The imperative of continuous improvement:
We have designed our sustainability program to be strategic and to be continually evolving. In doing so, we are acutely aware of the need to hold ourselves up to scrutiny and to keep improving.
For example, while our progress on energy efficiency, and renewable energy has been good, we think it is imperative to accelerate the growth of use of renewable energy and to aim for newer standards in energy efficiency. On energy efficiency, we are targeting standards above and better than all current global benchmarks, for all our new campuses starting with our proposed facility at Kodathi in Bangalore. Key details of our performance on multiple sustainability parameters are available in the summary dashboard that follows this letter, as well as in the detail sections that follow
Among other things, the year 2015 will be remembered for two significant global agreements that got ratified and signed by a majority of the 191 countries of the world.
The first is the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. The second is Paris agreement on climate change or COP-21, which seeks to establish a binding agreement that will keep our planet’s average temperature rise within 2 deg C as compared to the 18th century.
Together, these agreement frameworks represent humanity’s collective effort to make the planet a vastly better place to live in, and the society to become a humane, just and equitable society.
We must be clear however that while such international alliances or national agendas play an important role, real change is determined by what happens on the ground day after day…….in schools, health care centers, businesses, citizen groups, policy bodies or just in us as individuals. And it’s we who must make this happen.
With Best Wishes
– Azim H Premji