Posted on 02 February 2011.
By Martin Conboy
President – Australian BPO Association
I am prompted to write this after seeing the incredible damage done by the flooding that is currently happening in Australia. We keep hearing about once in a century weather events, however they seem to be happening more frequently than every hundred years. There is definitely something wrong with the planet and only those with their heads in the sand can deny it.
Going green is a lot more involved than simply turning off the lights; changing to energy efficient light globes; using double-sided photo copy paper; not throwing waste into the sewage system; recycling; or designing buildings that work with nature to heat up or cool down as the case maybe, although that at least is a start.
We are seeing positive initiatives in some quarters as a ground swell of concern is racing ahead of political debate. There are many green initiatives around efficient utilisation and conservation of energy, water and natural resources. Key features include climate responsive architecture (using natural daylight); recycling of sewage; drip water irrigation; solar water heating systems in place; air quality monitoring with CO2 sensors; use of materials with low volatile organic compound emissions for interiors and maximum use of eco-friendly recyclable materials.
David Suzuki, the much admired environmental scientist and broadcaster in his final “legacy lecture” says that as humans, we must realize that “all other species are our kin”. We are not the only species on this planet; we do not just have a relationship with the environment, ‘we are the environment’. He stresses, “We have to come to grips with how powerful we’ve become. As a species, we are not any more dominant than the other creatures we started out with in Africa. The only thing that sets humans apart is our memory, our curiosity, our inventiveness and self-awareness. We have foresight to imagine the future, whereas other animals do not. Over the years we have expanded and multiplied at a staggering rate, so that we now occupy every continent on the planet”.
According to Joel Cohen, Professor and head of the Laboratory of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University, It took hundreds of thousands of years for the human population to reach 1 billion, around the year 1800 and another 200 years to reach 6 billion and by 2050 it is estimated to be 9 billion.
Suzuki reminds us that it is because of the size of the human herd that we need to realize our impact on the planet. “We don’t know our own strength. So many of us have become disconnected to the earth. Our future depends on choices, on the choices we have made in the past and those we will make today and in the future. We cannot continue the exceptional growth of this last half of the 20th century without experiencing consequences. Think about this, every time that the global population doubles there are more people currently alive than the sum of all the people who ever lived.“
Also consider this for a moment; the combined wealth of the 200 richest people on earth is more than the combined wealth of the bottom 2 billion.
“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it”, stresses Suzuki. He provides examples of Native Peruvian school children that revere a nearby mountain as a god, and therefore respect and honour it and that determines how he or she will interact with the environment. The juxtaposition is the modern suburban child who sees the nearby mountain as unimportant or unessential in his or her life. They will just see the mountain as a place that contains materials that can be exploited? We are consuming too much and using our environment as a toxic dump and it’s simply not sustainable.
Suzuki reminds us that in previous centuries, farming was a main source of income and was the livelihood of most people. Therefore, most people lived in rural areas. Nowadays, most of the people in the world live in urban cities. According to Suzuki, this has shifted our focus from environment to economy. What we have forgotten though, is that “an economy is made possible by the biosphere.”
Being ‘green’ is not just an option any more; it has become a necessity, especially as more and more organisations prefer to do business with companies who have initiatives in place to reduce the carbon footprint of an operation. Many business deals in the coming years will depend on the carbon neutrality credentials of an enterprise. Be that as it may, if we have the ability to change the way we treat our environment, surely then we have a responsibility to do something about it. It’s all very well being rich, but all the gold in the world will be useless if you cannot breathe!
Thinking green has become an important part of an organization’s corporate social responsibility. Slowly but steadily we find companies taking positive steps towards setting up operations that comply with environment sustainability points.
“We define a green company as doing three things such as integrating corporate responsibility — including green — directly to the business strategy; making it easy for customers to buy, operate and dispose of your products in an environmentally responsible way; and being as transparent as possible about your green initiatives and operations, and very public about your environmental goals,” says Mahesh Bhalla, executive director, and GM, consumer division, Dell India.
“To be environment friendly, the company has to have efficient power consumption; recyclable/reusable packaging; recycling offers for older equipment; use of non-toxic materials; and making investments in future green concepts such as alternative materials,” says Bhalla.
Proper use of outsourcing and cloud based IT lowers carbon emissions by allowing people to work from anywhere without having to commute, these days they ‘Telecommute’. By shifting business processes away from environments that require workers to use private transport to get to work, to environments that have fully utilized mass public transport systems must have an over all impact on carbon footprints. If a company is outsourcing some of its business processes, it will require less real estate as it will have a reduced work force and thus will have lower heating/ cooling bills.
Fellow citizens of the planet and members of our global BPO community, I challenge you to find ways to minimize your carbon footprint and via this forum to share these ideas with us all. Let us take the lead on this important matter.