The concept of corporate responsibility has evolved considerably over the past two decades, now encompassing such foundational ideas as the Triple Bottom Line, the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)-based investing. More than $40 trillion of assets under management worldwide are based on ESG criteria, and analysis shows that companies that score high on ESG criteria outperform the market.
It’s increasingly apparent that ESG criteria are important in evaluating not only a company’s governance and leadership, but also its longevity. These trends reflect what survey after survey have shown: that growing numbers of stakeholders—employees and senior leaders, as well as customers and partners—want to work for or deal with sustainable companies.
Yet when it comes to sustainability initiatives, one thing that’s often forgotten is the power of collaboration. Any company that has succeeded in its sustainability efforts knows that these efforts take an unwavering commitment from the top. Many companies, Wipro included, have managed to embed the commitment to sustainability in their culture and value system. But this alone is insufficient. To sustain their sustainability aims, companies must look beyond themselves to enlist others in what is truly a global endeavor.
Sustainability is a Group—and Global—Effort
In July 2020, Wipro joined forces with nine of the world’s largest companies, including Unilever, A.P. Moller–Maersk, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, and the Environmental Defense Fund, to found Transform to Net Zero. By sharing best practices and knowledge gained from our collective experimentation and experience, this cross-industry coalition aims to inspire companies to action and help them advance in their efforts toward achieving net-zero emissions.
One best practice we’ve gained from our long track record in sustainability is to think outside our four walls. For many companies, internal operations actually represent a fraction of their total emissions. At Wipro, for instance, nearly 75% of our carbon footprint comes from outside our own operations. Herein lies the challenge: companies can only achieve carbon reduction across their value chain by looking at the full lifecycle of their products and services. Transforming to net zero is quite literally a group effort.
Addressing the value chain footprint is a complex business, more so today because of the interconnectedness of the global economy. Conversations have moved beyond “offsetting” negative impacts and towards “insetting”—investing in initiatives in your own value chain. With this approach, companies need to honestly assess their total footprint, upstream as well as downstream, and consider what changes they might make in how they design products. That includes designing for refillability and recyclability.
Whether launching a sustainability program or expanding an existing one, the following four takeaways—all of which have borne fruit for our company—can easily be applied by others.
Competition may be hard-wired into the business mindset, but sustainability depends on cooperation and collaboration within and across industries. The practices of every company, regardless of industry sector, have a bearing on the well-being of people as well as of the earth. Much as we live, work, and play on the same planet, we must think and act collaboratively to build and sustain sustainability programs for the long term.
Group Manager Corporate Sustainability Program
Dinni leads the sustainability charter for Wipro and, with the sustainability initiatives program team, collaborates with industry and the government on various ecological, social, education, and community programs. The team anchors disclosures based on global frameworks like GRI, CDP, DJSI, IIRC, and OeKom among others.