Interview

Changing to stop climate change

It might be impossible to come across anyone today, who hasn’t heard of Greta Thunberg. When the teenager sat in front of the parliament in Sweden, protesting what she felt the world was doing wrong by not caring about the planet, she gave rise to a global movement that has today become a weekly protest – Fridays for Future – by thousands of youngsters across the world.

50 years ago, something similar had happened.

Following a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in January 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson gathered a group of fellow youngsters and suggested an organization of campus teach-ins to spread the awareness about the deterioration of the environment.

As a result, on the 22nd of April, 1970, 20 million young, and conscious Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development that was leading to deeply negative impacts on the environment. They might not have known it then, but they had initiated a modern environmental movement to voice the need to protect the planet. This day, every year since, is celebrated as Earth Day.

Two decades later, in the year 1990, Earth Day, which was until that time a more local revolution, went global, reaching as many as 200 million people across 141 countries. The movement since then has gathered more and more strength every year, and today it is considered as one of the world’s biggest observances supporting the protection of the planet.

While the history of the resolution to protect the climate is in place, however, today the world is at a point where immediate action is of great essence.

Standing at a critical junction

NASA states that climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local, regional and global climates.

This change is real, and is very much in the present. There are numerous environmental events that are taking place today, and changing weather patterns, with rising water levels in one part, and droughts in another part are all becoming extremely commonplace. The recent bushfires in Australia, and the fires in the Amazon Forests are all indications that climate change is accelerating.

Not only is there a grave need for people to take individual action, there is a greater responsibility on bigger organizations to take concrete steps, and play a significant role in the climate crisis.

At Infosys we realized this early on, when we started on our journey towards sustainability, and took steps towards stemming climate change.

"Our leaders were convinced that climate change is a real threat, and that we have a responsibility to act," says Bose Varghese, Head – Green Initiatives, Infosys. In the year 2008, the company formed a structured climate action, and sustainability program. And, as a first step, Infosys published its carbon footprint.

This was to be the beginning of the many steps that Infosys would take over the years, as we moved towards being a more environmentally responsible organization. What started with reducing resource utilization to minimize environmental impact, eventually evolved into something much bigger.

It was in in 2011, that Infosys took a big decision. “We made a voluntary commitment to become carbon neutral,” says Varghese.

Carbon neutrality is essentially the stage where there is no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and to achieve this Infosys put down a framework.

“We used three pillars – energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon, or emission offset for our carbon neutral program,” notes Varghese, adding that the company is well on its way to achieve a carbon neutral status today.

The steps that the company took included things like reducing energy and water consumption every passing year, moving towards sustainable energy sources such as solar power, and working on technologies to support the movement to reduce carbon emissions, among many other things.

This resulted in Infosys becoming the first Indian corporate to be awarded the UN Global Climate Action Award in the ‘Climate Neutral Now’ category, in 2019.

The journey has just begun

Coincidentally, the very same theme of Climate Action is also the theme for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

There is a lot more to be done to keep the global warming under 1.5C, and Infosys is stepping up.

“Our first priority would be to reach the first pitstop, which is to turn carbon neutral,” says Varghese, adding that the other focus area is renewable energy transition.

“Today we are about 45 percent of our energy basket. We definitely want to move towards a 100 percent,” says Varghese.

As people and organizations find their own way to figure out how best they can contribute to the cause of climate action, there is a need to generate meaningful discourse, and encourage environment-conscious thinking at all levels in our social structures.

As Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Never has this been more relevant than it is today.