Interview: “Nokia's environmental work is based on life cycle thinking"' says Head-Sustainability of Nokia-India

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“Nokia's environmental work is based on life cycle thinking” – What are the focus areas and initiatives that Nokia has undertaken in-line with this philosophy? How has been the response so far?

Nokia bases its environmental sustainability initiatives considering the entire lifecycle of the product. We start right at the raw material selection stage, as many materials may have social and environmental issues around them. We take a precautionary approach to substance management. This means that, where we have reasonable grounds for concern over possible damage to health or the environment, we will not allow a lack of full scientific evidence to be an obstacle to action. Nokia maintains a ‘Nokia Substance List’ which identifies the materials we plan to phase out from our products . We provide this list to our suppliers ahead of time, so that they can phase out the harmful/unacceptable material inputs from Nokia products. This list is much beyond the regulatory requirements of any country. This is a key differentiator, and makes us a market leader in this industry. 

There are programmes designed for component manufacturers also. Nokia’s Supplier Guidelines is a detailed document which discusses ethical, social and governance issues and code of conduct that every Nokia supplier has to abide by. Beyond this we look at how we are moving different manufacturing components to Nokia manufacturing units, and hence working with the logistics partners in the process. We are currently working with our largest logistics partner to find ways for optimizing our supply chain not just from a cost perspective, but also in terms of carbon emissions. We have developed a model in association with some reputed universities which allows us to define align carbon emissions with the associated cost as also offer ways to optimize the process. 

In the manufacturing units, the core idea is to achieve neutrality in the long run – carbon, water and more. In India, which happens to have one of Nokia’s largest manufacturing plants, we strive to be water neutral by recycling and reusing water thus off-seting the entire water intake. As more options become available to us in India, we are also hoping to switch to renewable energy sources completely for all our energy needs. 

Consumer engagement is where most of Nokia’s sustainability initiatives are happening now. Besides designing the products, we want to educate the customers about how it was made, how to use the products in the best possible way, and then finally how to dispose it off in the most eco-friendly way as also providing the consumers with the means to do so as well. We have set up programmes to work with retailers, even though the drive to sell green products in the Indian retail market does not exist. Even today, the demand for green products from Indiann consumer is non-existent. However, we are still trying to generate the drive of green products among the consumers by educating them of the benefits of eco-friendly products and their history. 

The area which Nokia-India is most active in is the e-waste recycling. E-waste management has been ignored in the past, but we are determined to change that. The idea begins with engaging consumers and explaining the concept of ‘recycling’. People confuse recycling with reuse and refurbishment. Since 2008, we have been working with several consumer engagement programmers, where the objective is to grow the awareness on e-waste recycling. 

Can you highlight some of the sustainable consumption drives and initiatives that Nokia has undertaken over the past year?

We started our e-waste recycling campaign in 2008 with a basic infrastructure. We established recycling points in all our care centers and Nokia priority dealer stores. Then we built upon this basic infrastructure by adding layers to it. 

The next step was to create the awareness through several consumer campaigns. The first campaign was a pilot in 4 cities just to understand how the process would work. The initial belief was that across the ecosystem was Indian market was not mature enough for such initiates and consumers won’t recycle unless you pay them for it. However, Nokia’s belief on recycling is built on a view that consumers should adopt it as a habit, and therefore it didn’t make sense for us to encourage a barter system. Another important aspect of this campaign has been that we only ask for mobile products of any brand. 

In the first phase, we collected 68000 phones in 48 days from these pilot campaigns, which was a significant number, considering that we were not giving any special incentives. 

After the pilot campaign we expanded our scope to 28 cities across India, and eventually made it a national level campaign. A TV commercial was made, featuring Sharukh Khan as the brand ambassador for the campaign, and that was when the campaign really picked up momentum. In 2011 alone, we have collected over 10 Lakh units of phones and accessories Till date we have collected over 80tones of phones and accessories for recycling, and this number is growing every day. 

While we were experimenting with ways to further scale up the campaign so as to reach out to various consumer sectors, we came up with another campaign targeted just for the corporates – Corporate Engagement Initiative. The idea was for Nokia to tie up with like-minded corporations across the sectors, and not just IT. Under this campaign, Nokia acted as the knowledge partner, and provided these corporations with all the resources, and ran the recycling campaign in their respective offices. We have covered almost 300 corporate offices via this campaign. 

Then we decided to work with the youth of India, and started a pilot campaign with schools and colleges of Delhi. The 50 odd schools that we reached out in the pilot phase in mid 2010 responded in a fabulous way and now the campaign is being expanded to over 3000 schools across the country. The message was unique to the young students, and they were very enthusiastic about e-waste recycling. However, the colleges did not respond too favorably, as it was more about engagement versus education. 

Upon executing a number of campaigns, we are starting to see the change in consumer mindset now. We are still working on how to improve our outreach to college students, and we still have to run a few test campaigns to hammer down the engagement process. 

How would you define sustainable consumption in context to India?

The word ‘consumption’ says it all. If you look at how businesses have traditionally approached sustainability, it was through a pipeline process – factory related process for making a product, then switching to eco-friendly products altogether and then finally the end of life recycling of the product. Consumption can redefine the ways that products are produced, demanded, and the quantity of consumption. The thought that we want to instill in the mind of our consumers is – why you are consuming, how much are you consuming, is it the right thing to consume, and finally what do you intend to do with it after you are done with consuming. 


What role does the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) play as an enabler in influencing and greening consumption patterns?

ICT sector minimizes the need for multiple products by combining multiple product features and packaging it into one. People don’t have to have separate music players, alarm clock, calculator etc. anymore. One can find all these in a mobile phone itself. There is tremendous potential in this ICT based system. Today a billion people are using Nokia products. A simple car-pooling or a green travel portal application on their phone can trigger a habit which saves tons of carbon emissions in the process. The hope is that these services and features trigger the power of mobility, which eventually will help people to change their lifestyle in entirety. Nokia has worked with developers to develop few applications in this regard namely GreenRiders, EcoGuRu, Green Explorer, Climate Mission (a game which helps one learn about climate challenge while playing).

What are some of the key challenges that you would identify for encouraging sustainable consumption in India?

Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge. In following with the west, the idea of consuming more has been directly linked with the development of the societyso the thought of consuming less or consuming right has not been raised sufficiently. The broad picture of the impact of over consuming is missing. 

The second challenge is the lack of infrastructure and opportunity for sustainable consumption. For e.g People who want to buy green products or to recycle are unable to find a service provider who offers them the choice and the resources to do so.

Third challenge is a lack of a proper policy framework. Sustainable consumption starts at the production level. On the production side, manufacturers refuse to build and marketsustainable products due to a lack in demand from consumers. Similarly, consumers justify their disinterest in consuming sustainable products due a scarcity of such products in the market. We need a framework which can bring both the production and the market side together and foster a healthy consumption habit. 

What are some of the targets that Nokia-India has set for itself in terms of environmental sustainability, and how much of these targets has been met?

One of our key focus areas for India is e-waste recycling. We had set ourselves a target for providing an easy option to every mobile phone user to recycler his/her mobile phone. We believe that we are meeting this target by providing over 1300 permanent recycling points across the country where people can drop mobile phones and accessories of any brand for recycling. In addition we had also committed ourselves to raising awareness on recycling of mobile phones across India. Several recycling campaigns launched by us are helping  reach this target. 

This interview was conducted by Pramita Sen, a member of the India Carbon Outlook editorial team.

Image(s) Courtesy:
Cindi Matthews




Author: Pramita Sen