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The Synergy of Technology and Sustainability: How HCLTech is Leading the Path to a Greener Future

Summary: In the modern world, the entwined narratives of technology and sustainability are rewriting the rules of business and progress. Companies like HCL Tech, with their steadfast commitment to sustainable practices and innovation, are pioneering a path towards a more ecologically and socially responsible future.

In a world profoundly influenced by relentless technological progress, the marriage of technology and sustainability emerges as a transformative force. HCLTech, a prominent player in the global information technology (IT) industry, stands at the vanguard of this pivotal convergence. This amalgamation has been shaping industries with innovative solutions that address ecological and societal challenges.

“At HCLTech, we look at the convergence of digitalization and sustainability in two distinct ways: Sustainable Digitalization and Digitalization for Sustainability”, said Santhosh Jayaram, Global Head – Sustainability, HCLTech. Jayaram explained both concepts in-depth giving examples.

Sustainable Digitalization or Sustainable IT: The relentless data consumption of our digital age is propelling us into an era where sustainable IT is becoming indispensable. As we pivot towards artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), the thirst for data storage is insatiable. There is an environmental underbelly to cloud storage. As per an Imperial College London researcher, data centres today require 1 per cent of global electricity demand for the servers to function. This demand may increase to approximately 15 per cent by 2030. Growing electricity demand implies an increase in energy consumption further implying an increase in carbon emissions. Thus, the environmental footprint of storage solutions necessitates an eco-conscious approach.

Digitalization for Sustainability (IT for Sustainability): Exploring the reverse relationship, Jayaram said, “Technology will be required for fast pacing the sustainability journey. There are multiple ways by which this can happen. For example, the whole change around the energy mix towards renewable energy would require a lot of IT support”. Another example which Jayaram elucidated achieving sustainability through data transparency. From gathering and disclosing data required for sustainability regulations to enabling the creation of transparent and eco-friendly products, technology is instrumental. It empowers consumers to make informed choices while facilitating businesses in achieving their sustainability targets. “While purchasing a product, the consumer can easily identify whether or not a product is sustainable. And this has been achieved through digitalization”, said Jayaram.

HCL’s Mission & Sustainability Principle: Act, Pact & Impact

Recognizing collaboration as the cornerstone of sustainability, Jayaram elaborated on the organization’s sustainability principle of ‘Act, Pact & Impact’ which encapsulates its dedication and mission to sustainable transformation.

Act: This first pillar emphasizes the significance of practising what one preaches. The company aims to lead by example, operating in an environmentally conscientious manner and maximizing resource efficiency. “It is the realization that it starts with us. We need to walk the talk. We cannot go to a client and talk about sustainability unless we practice it ourselves and have reached a certain level to talk about it.”, said Jayaram.

Pact: Recognizing that the journey toward sustainability cannot be undertaken alone, HCLTech seeks to expand its collaborations beyond formal contracts. This extends to a global commitment to limit emissions, identify opportunities for broader impact, and actively participate in initiatives like the Climate Pledge. Water conservation is an area of prime focus for HCLTech when it comes to sustainability initiatives. This is in line with the HCL Group’s vision for sustainability. Elaborating on the company’s initiatives in this regard, Jayaram explained, “HCLTech has joined the CEO Mandate and is the first Indian company to be a part of the Water Resilience Coalition. As a member of the coalition, the company is focused on the water basin levels. As part of another initiative towards water conservation, HCLFoundation, the CSR leg of HCLTech, is working with the communities to improve water availability. We have been able to replenish 26 times the water we consumed”.

Impact: As per HCLTech vision, ‘Impact’ is the result derived from the ‘Act’ and ‘Pact’. Effecting change necessitates not only quantifying outputs but also measuring the real-world impact. It’s about the tangible effects of the collaborative efforts on society and the environment. “It is not enough to measure the output; what matters is the outcome we achieve through the output. For example, when we talk about training and development, the number of employees trained and the number of hours of training are mere outputs, what results they bring out is the outcome that we should focus on”, highlighted Jayaram.

Creating Change Agents for Sustainability

HCLTech acknowledges the pivotal role the employees play in shaping the sustainability landscape. The company’s proactive approach to measuring the emissions from working from home during the COVID-19 period demonstrates its commitment. “Our emissions declined significantly from the financial year 2019 – 20 to the financial year 2020 – 21. We soon realised that this decline was because the emissions had shifted from the office to employees’ homes”, highlighted Jayaram. He further added, “It was an arduous task to measure emissions related to Work-from-Home since there were no standards in place. We made estimates and improvised them regularly. We put a system in place to measure and monitor the emissions. The biggest challenge faced here was the segregation of emissions related to work and other things. As per the data of the previous year, 60% of emissions are scope 3 of which 30% belong to work from home which forms a significant part. Our first step was to make the employees aware and make them think about the kind of change which is required.”

Given the above facts, HCLTech launched its online sustainability school in November 2022, offering a course on climate change. The course comprises three modules, which are:

  1. Module 1: Focuses on explaining the concept of climate change – What is climate change and what is its impact?
  2. Module 2: Implementing the concept by explaining how the employees can measure their carbon footprint, what framework can they adopt to reduce emissions, how can they contribute in their individual capacity, and how can they create a roadmap for themselves.
  3. Module 3: Customized to the role, such as marketing, finance, IT, etc., of the individual in the organization

“The idea behind creating a sustainability school was to create change agents. HCLTech has 225,00 employees approximately. Each employee is a change agent. They will help create a ripple effect since they will influence their family, the communities in which they live and their clients”, explained Jayaram.

Addressing Greenwashing Practices

Sustainability is a matter of intent and action, and to bridge the gap between the two, standards are vital. Each company is culturally unique, and this diversity is reflected in its values and sustainability practices. The development of standardized practices help ensure a level playing field and prevent ‘greenwashing’, where companies may appear more environmentally responsible than they are in reality.

“People don’t want to do anything bad. There is a miss between the intent and action – the way the intent is understood and implemented. This is where the strength of standards lies. Even in nature, nothing is equal. You will find those differences unless you have a way by which you standardize what stakeholders want and that is what the regulation trying to do now.”, said Jayaram while expressing views on greenwashing and ways to combat it.

In closing, Jayaram offered a fundamental piece of advice – “sustainability is not a stand-alone concept, but an integral part of every profession and every level of an organization. Passionate professionals can leverage their expertise to make a significant impact on the world.”

The Synergy of Technology and Sustainability: How HCLTech is Leading the Path to a Greener Future

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