Interview: ITC Hotels believes in being illustrative and not prescriptive in addressing ecological challenges

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In this next interview in the ‘Corporate Sustainability Series’, Niranjan Khatri - General Manager of Welcomenviron Initiatives at the ITC hotels talks about the use of eco-designing concepts in their hotels, their sustainability initiatives and practices for greening their supply chain.

Niranjan Khatri is the General Manager, Welcomenviron Initiatives at the ITC hotels. Mr. Khatri pioneered the concept of eco designing and has worked as the Head of the CII Renewable Energy Cell as well. His eco rating for the Delhi Government has been distributed to 1200 schools and translated into Marathi and further distributed to 6000 schools. He has been taking sessions for various leading institutions on eco designing. He is the recipient of the prestigious Helen Keller Award 2006.

Why is eco-designing so important in product driven corporations, like ITC?
My definition of eco design is that “it is the art of identifying opportunities where none exist.” The actual definition is the art of bringing environmental sensibility to anything that you are doing – commuting, walking, cooking or cycling. Eco design tools are used for analyzing life’s cycle and what it costs.

Eco design is important because when you focus on various aspects of life and question the processes, the data helps in addressing inefficiency of existing processes and helps to remove the negative load that is being put on the environment.
For example when you are building a new office, ensure that it is designed to receive sufficient daylight. ITC Hotels has been  practicing eco design for nearly 2 decades and it has been an important exercise because the challenges that we face today in regards to environment,  need to be addressed differently in whichever sphere of life we are in - whether it be in the corporate sector, SME  or at a domestic level.

ITC is the only company in the world which is water, carbon and solid waste management positive; and currently 35% of its energy comes from renewable sources. We follow the triple bottom line concept – economic, environmental and in the social dimension.  In our efforts to reduce consumption of water, the water that we use in our facilities is recycled through a sewage treatment plant and reused for horticulture, air conditioning plants and toilet flushing. We have built about 3000 dams in rural India in different states, to help farmers – who are primarily dependent on the monsoons - to grow three crops instead of one with the help of water harvesting structures.

The generation of more water than that consumed by an enterprise is referred to as being water positive. Similarly, we are carbon positive, by reducing our energy consumption through energy audits at all  locations, and have also undertaken afforestation  drives over an area of 1,10,000 hectares to sequester our emissions. On the social dimension, we have augmented the yield of 4 lakh buffaloes in rural India, so that we can increase the earning capacity of the farmers. We engage with farmers in about 40,000 villages in India through e-choupals by imparting knowledge on the best farming practices, weather forecasts and price movement.

Even though ITC hotels has been in the eco design for a comparatively long time, what is your observation on how other hotels are catching up to the trend?
As I mentioned earlier, the challenges are new and solutions are evolving. What ITC has done over the last 22 years, we now find being adopted by many stakeholders. It is a good sign, because everyone has to work collectively and contribute on the eco front. The scale of the contribution differs from one organization to the other.

Do you have any specific ways to ensure that the ITC hotel guests are aware of the green practices that are being followed?
As you can understand, being a business – the practices are showcased through our service design. And from an eco-design perspective, the initiatives are often visible. For example – we use water less urinals and spray taps, like those in the aircrafts, for our sinks. The traditional taps waste 95% of the water and only 5% is being used -the spray taps conserve water through intelligent design.

Our offices use natural light sufficiently and hence avoid the use of bulbs and artificial lighting during the day. We use reflective paint on the roof, which reflects 47% of the heat back into the atmosphere, therefore reducing the amount of energy used for air conditioning.

The   guests who have visited us emulate our good practices in their respective organizations. We call this the viral approach, however not in a pejorative sense.

Our green building was recognized as the world’s first green building, and today some 450 green buildings are coming up under the LEED category. Our approach in hotels is to conceptualize, create pilots and then share our best practices with all stakeholders. We have an environment section on our website with content that can be used by any stakeholder.

Does ITC Hotels have any practices for promoting green initiatives across their supply chain? What are the feedbacks on ‘greening the supply chain initiative’?
It is important for our supply chain partners to conduct their business in a sustainable manner.  Since 2003, ITC has been sharing its best practices with suppliers - they are being shown what we are doing in terms of sustainability and then asked to learn from our practices and apply it in their respective organizations.

We cannot be prescriptive for our suppliers; we can only nudge by examples. The suppliers infer from our learning, and depending on the investment they can afford, they incorporate sustainability initiatives in their own business practices.
Most SMEs’ do not have the knowledge that is available to large corporates. And it is the responsibility of large corporations to educate and share such knowledge with their SME business partners.

Any future projects or initiatives related to sustainability that is being launched by the ITC group in the near future?
Four ITC hotels are currently operating on wind energy. We are transitioning   towards a low carbon economy in line with the prime minister’s national action plan on climate change. ITC Maurya in Delhi has installed the world’s largest solar concentrator technology, whereby steam is generated through solar energy for use in the kitchen and laundry. It generates steam at the rate of 120 kilos per hour, which means that we are replacing approximately 12 liters of diesel per hour.

 

This interview has been conducted by Roselin Dey from the India Carbon Outlook team.

Image(s) Courtesy:
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Charles & Hudson
Horia Varlan

 

Author: Roselin Dey