Wipro Academic Thought Spot: A Discussion with Indranil Bose, Associate Professor, The University of Hong Kong, A Wipro Council for Industry Research Initiative
In December 2007 Gartner published an article entitled “Green IT The New Industry Shock Wave.” Its report revealed that the information and communications technology (ICT) industry accounted for two percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. This is equivalent to the airlines industry, which most people assumed was the largest single contributor. The report noted the emissions primarily came from data centers housing monitors and servers.
This study intrigued Indranil Bose, an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong, who strongly believes “companies need to care about sustainability.” He was also motivated by Al Gore’s movie, “An Convenient Truth,” which won him both a Nobel prize and an Oscar. “Winning the peace prize spoke volumes about why sustainability is important,” the professor says.
So Bose began to study companies that displayed some corporate responsibility in how they implemented green IT. Most of the companies making a difference were in the Americas or the Europe. However, Wipro was a frontrunner in Asia.
“India and China typically believe it’s not their responsibility to protect the environment,” observes Bose. “They believe that’s the role of the developed world.” Because Wipro was bucking the trend, in 2008 he decided to study the service provider’s green IT initiatives, many of which “were the only measures of their kind in India,” points out the professor. “I wanted to study why green is such a big strategy at Wipro,” he adds.
What is green IT and how did Wipro get involved?
Bose adopted Gartner’s definition of green IT: “The optimal use of ICT technology for managing the environmental sustainability of enterprise operations and the supply chain, as well as its products, services, and resources throughout their life cycles.”
Wipro began as Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd in 1946 to manufacture hydrogenated vegetable oil. It got into the IT business in 1980. The company currently has four businesses:
- IT services
- IT products
- Infrastructure engineering
- Consumer care and lighting
In 2008 Wipro set up a governance council called EcoEye. Seven senior managers, including three who report directly to the chairman, make up the council. To date the council has endorsed 120 projects aimed at carbon neutrality.
Wipro entered the green IT world with its “Greenware,” a series of computers that reduce waste when their users get rid of them. “It was perhaps the first Indian company to manufacture computers that don’t damage the environment as much,” says Bose.
The professor discovered the manufacture of green computers was just one of many efforts. “Wipro identified green IT as one of its ongoing innovation themes meant to unearth opportunities for getting into businesses and product lines that will make a big difference to its customers,” Bose reports. And the service provider made a big promise: it wanted to become carbon neutral by 2014.
Wipro’s green initiatives
Bose’s best practices study outlines the various ways Wipro has changed its operations to “make its businesses more environmentally friendly.” The company turned its 50-acre campus at Electronic City in Bangalore into a “test bed,” according to the report.
On his visit to Wipro’s campus in Bangalore, he discovered the company is committed to recycling. The company takes food that is wasted in its cafeterias and converts it into paper pulp; the service provider then manufactures writing pads from this pulp. It also uses the methane gas produced for lighting burners.
It uses windmills to generate power to light bulbs along the perimeter of the campus. And it harvests rainwater to supply water to its campuses. Currently rainwater harvesting and recycling of used water meets 52 percent of the company’s water requirements, the professor found. Since 2003, Wipro has cut its water usage in all its offices across India by 65 percent.
When it comes to its own suppliers, Wipro prefers to work with suppliers which have their own green initiatives, the professor discovered.
Bose says the company realized “it needed to move from green IT to IT for green.” The service provider wrote its own software tool to estimate its carbon emissions, called the Carbon Management Solution.
It developed an electronic document management system, Hosted Intelligent Document Management, which seriously cuts down on paperwork since it stores the documents electronically. It designed software to run as rapidly as possible to be the most energy efficient. Its Virtualization Policy cut power, cooling, commercial space, and maintenance costs.
Its e-Freight cargo suite of tools provides a single interface connecting airlines, freight forwarders, and customers, enabling paperless interaction.
Wipro slashed travel costs by emphasizing video conferences. It cut auto emissions by encouraging people to work from home, continues the professor.
The Hong Kong professor is impressed with Wipro’s determination to have no carbon footprint. “To me this is a challenging goal,” says Bose. He says meeting it is possible because the service provider “is approaching reduction of carbon emissions from a variety of angles.”
The study found Wipro’s net energy consumption per person came down from 360 kilowatts per year to 309 during the period he studied, 2001-2007. “This happened even while the headcount went up 400 percent during that period,” the study says.
Ecoeye Deployment Framework
|†||Wipro||Extended circle of influence|
|†||Goal||Road-map||Metrics||Time line||Internal Ops||Employees||Community||Suppliers||Partners||Customers||Advocacy groups|
|1||Becoming carbon-neutral||Reduce usage
Use renewable resources
|March 2014||Holistic engagement|
|2||Becoming water-positive||Reduce usage
|Net water consumed||March 2014||Initiatives to be targeted in each area for different stakeholdersLeveraging and building on traditional focus on energy and water efficiency at WiproMultiple initiatives in-progress simultaneously60 on-going projectsPhased implementation
|3||Setting new standards in recycling waste||Reduce
|4||Achieving bio-diversity footprint||-||Area||-|
|5||Reporting on sustainability||-||-||-|
|6||Managing climate change||-||-||-|
|7||Reducing personal footprint||-||-||-|
Bose says Wipro as a company is succeeding in its green approach because “it’s a top-down effort.” He says it was the Chairman, Azim Premji, who realized the company needed to take this tack. However, management has had to be conscious that its green initiatives do not disrupt productivity. “You have to create green initiatives that don’t make your workers unhappy with green. Wipro has done a good job balancing the two,” reports the professor.
The professor says Wipro’s “focus on corporate social responsibility” had one more effect: it created a new line of business for the service provider. Now Wipro helps other companies become greener. “Green created a new revenue stream based on green products that is likely to grow in the future,” he reports.
“Wipro led the way for Asian companies,” Bose says. Both the earth and its balance sheet have benefitted.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- Executives need to adopt a top-down approach when trying to implement enterprise-wide changes like green. They also have to balance the need to be socially responsible with the pressures of productivity.
- Green initiatives span the gamut from collecting rainwater to storing documents electronically. Companies can cut their carbon footprints on a variety of fronts to be successful.
- Developing countries are becoming environmentally conscious. Up until now, this was largely a developed-world initiative.
- IT companies produce as much carbon dioxide as the airline industries, a little known fact.
About the Wipro Council for Industry Research: The Wipro Council for Industry Research comprising of domain and technology experts from the organization aims to address the needs of customers by specifically looking at innovative strategies that will help them gain competitive advantage in the market. The Council in collaboration with leading academic institutions and industry bodies studies market trends to equip organizations with insights that facilitate their IT and business strategies.
For more information please visit www.wipro.com/industryresearch.