The 5 Elements of Nature – HCL’s Sustainability Mantra

HCL has come out with a new sustainability report which builds on 4Rs – Responsible Business, Redefine Workplace, Renew Ecosystem and Repay Society. This article takes a look at the objectives governing HCL’s sustainability journey, and how far the firm has come along on these.

“Taking cue from the 5 elements of nature, HCL’s new sustainability report dwells on the classical elements of nature - earth, fire, water, air and wind. Explaining the rationale, Shrimathi Shivashankar, VP of Diversity and Sustainability at HCL, illustrates this as the organization’s outlook on nature’s role in existence of mankind and the need to preserve nature. She highlights, “It is not possible to repay the planet for all we take from it nor can we truly understand the impact of it on our everyday life however, as organizations and individuals, we can consciously support efforts to make responsible investments in ensuring its sustenance”.

HCL’s sustainability report tries to bring to the fore more easily identifiable angles to the sustainability conversation. Interspersed with anecdotal stories by the former CEO, Vineet Nayar, the report is easily digestible. HCL’s strategy is better labeled a Responsible Business strategy more than anything else.

Shivashankar says that HCL’s sustainability vision is to lead forums to shape public policies that are science based and impact social and environmental issues positively. She highlights the firm’s commitment to  “innovative IT solutions for climate and community efficiencies, embedding sustainability objectives into existing policies and practices to guide day-to-day decision making, promoting inclusive growth - employee and supply chain, nurturing employee wellbeing and safety, reducing carbon footprint, investing in renewable energy and improving water efficiency."

One of the imprints of having Shivashankar in charge of its sustainability office is company’s deep commitment for gender inclusion in the workplace. Human rights and safety audits are also built into vendor-community engagements. 

Focus Areas and Challenges 

HCL’s focus areas in accelerating sustainability are the extension of their sustainability vision. In addition to reducing carbon and water footprint, promoting inclusive growth and investing in renewable energy, HCL is also focused on meeting world class green standards for buildings, and is working towards providing a dignified life for 100,000+ beneficiaries through community outreach programs.

According to Shivashankar, the biggest challenge for an IT company like HCL to be sustainable is non-availability of adequate resources like renewable energy in locations they operate in. This not only increases costs for the company but is also an impediment to sustainable growth.

HCL has also initiated several waste management measures. Dry waste is segregated at the campus itself broadly into four main categories i.e. Food waste, disposable waste, Paper (tissue, paper cup) and Plastic (Poly bags, bottles). The collection team from the authorized contracted agency collects it every day from the designated waste collection points at the campus and further segregates it at their work site for recycling.  The company has also started collecting tetra packs separately in special collection boxes which in turn are made from recycled tetra packets only. Recent measures include making note pads from recycled paper collected from company’s various offices.

At few of their locations in India, HCL has started recycling food waste and plastic waste. These non-hazardous wastes are segregated at the source level by placing designated bins. And then the waste is sent for next level of processing / conversions such as food waste is converted into bio-gas (bio-gas is also used to generate electricity), garden waste is converted into manure, plastic waste is converted into handloom products and paper waste sent for recycling. 

Shivashankar also says that as a way to discourage employees from wasting food, daily food waste data is displayed at the cafeteria. According to her, food waste has been controlled in the last one year since they began this activity.

Connecting Sustainability to business offerings 

One of the innovative solutions that HCL has come up with, to build out a blue-print for gauging sustainability in the manufacturing industry has been the GreenEdge tool. Green Edge is an Automated Assessment Framework that addresses the complete lifecycle to achieve green and sustainable business in manufacturing. It addresses the high rate of carbon emissions and non-standardized way of waste disposal. To this effect, the company offers a set of solutions to enable industries to consume minimum energy to recycling materials in everyday processes. 

Global IT clouds and Big Saving

The introduction of GIT clouds has reduced hardware requirement which has led to power savings in a big way. The last financial year saw significant enhancements on the GREENER pastures, with the Global IT team adopting System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) tool, enhanced mobility in the form of Lync and RMS, initiating VDI deployment and biggest of all - the launch of (GIT) CLOUD.  Alongside these, the Green Datacenter Improvement plan and Upgrade that HCL rolled out, were also able to save company revenue worth $3.25MN. This saving not just brought about ease and comfort for the customers\end-users, it also brought a huge saving from IT standpoint which otherwise would have led to extra space procurement, costly hardware and therefore more electricity consumption.

HCL in the Public Eye

Reporting under the Global Reporting Initiative, HCL’s sustainability report is aligned with the requirements of Business Responsibility Report as laid out in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Social Responsibilities. Shivashankar says that reporting under such a format helps the company benchmark its efforts along with its peers. “It helps us to capture stakeholder communication and concerns and responding back to them by apprising them of what all we are doing in this space”.

HCL is engaged with several advocacy organizations:  It is part of the Gender Parity group of the World Economic Forum, is on the leader board at Greenpeace, and on the advisory council on Global Reporting Initiatives, Gender and Diversity Steering.

Shivashankar says that in terms of operational and resource savings, sustainability has brought out massive business benefits for the company. “Sustainability measures and Green IT solutions help us in establishing our approach towards a balanced ecosystem because ECO as we put it is Environment + community. Benefiting any one of these will automatically reap benefits for the other”, she adds.

The author, Anindita Chakraborty, is part of the Sustainability Outlook team.

Image(s) Courtesy: