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Green Corporate Social Responsibility>> Jan 9, 2014: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a thought stream in which corporate organizations carry out some tangible actions towards society in response to the intangible benefits it receives from society such as a peaceful atmosphere for business operation.

In India, industry forums such as CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM are encouraging their members to pursue Corporate Social Responsibility through various means and methods. Corporations fulfill their CSR by helping the physical infrastructure in its area of operation, imparting training to youth, planting trees, etc.

But in addition, as a matter of utmost importance, corporates need to give increased attention to Green Corporate Social Responsibility (GCSR) in this era of global warming and vanishing biodiversity. GCSR can be loosely defined as an initiative to offset the adverse impact created by business operations on the environment. So what are these effects? They can be classified as structural, consumption and operational impacts.

1) Structural impacts are created by making changes to the environment like building infrastructure, factories and roads. We do have guidelines such as IGBC which guide us in constructing buildings with minimum ecological impact, altering the earth’s character in the least possible way.

2) Consumption impacts are due to resources that a business operation consumes such as raw material, water and electricity. Raw material must be procured with minimum ecological impact and must be sourced as locally as possible. Water should be recycled / reused and rainwater harvesting should be made mandatory, electricity should be sourced from greener sources such as solar, wind and hydel as much as possible.
There should be efforts to minimize consumption (while maximizing usage of solar power) and reduce wastage as much as possible. The above two impacts can only be addressed in a limited manner as of now as it requires a long-term process to stabilize as mature practices.

3) Operational impacts are the ones where corporates can bring in a huge change by framing good policies within their organization. Three practical points are given below.

a) Offsetting emissions caused by a business operation.
We have standard methods to calculate the carbon footprint for an organization. Corporates should take initiatives and construct greenfield forests within 100-150 km of their operation to offset their emissions. It is a step towards conserving biodiversity and will result in moving businesses equitably inside India so that the problem of urban-rural divide is alleviated.

b) Helping employee reduce emissions by methods like promoting usage of company transport instead of personal transport. Corporates must make their bus services very attractive (by setting up a transportation fund) and really flexible so that maximum employee patronage is enjoyed. The hub and spoke model for bus services from busy city points can be used as it works well, rather than end-to-end bus services.
Carpooling must be encouraged by giving exclusive slots in car parking. The parking fee for cars should be routed to the transportation fund which will in turn make bus transportation cheaper and very attractive.
Encouraging bus transportation has downstream benefits for employees and society, such as improved work life balance, fewer accidents due to fatigue, less maintenance and fuel costs and lesser time spent caught in vehicular traffic.
c) Use less resources such as paper for prints, tissue paper and save energy while not using machinery or computing systems.
The overarching philosophy here is to avoid wasteful expenditure. Corporates should take more steps to be GCSR compliant to create and maintain a greener earth!

Anoop Varghese Kuriappuram, Technopark

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