The Spectrum of Corporate Responsibility by Ryan Rex

Click to access Cooling_India_January_2015.pdf

Cooling India – Annual 2015 – Featured Article Page 90

Corporate responsibility is an important factor to recognize when thinking about sustainability and the amount of money that goes into large-scale energy reduction projects. Companies, both large and small, sink barrels of money into projects for a single purpose: to live better. Although the media portrays these one per centers as enemies of the lower classes, “well to do” people around the world are working hard to do their part.

Globalization has forever affected humanity. As more countries go online, they will need to be connected to the grid. That means more consumption, more waste and more energy usage. How will we find these extra resources? What if a continent the size of Africa decides to unite and come online tomorrow? Will we be facing one of the greatest challenges in our known history? The answer is highly likely. There won’t be enough resources to go around. The air and water will be far worse than anything than we can imagine. Fortunately, those days are still ahead of us and only one possible future. Companies see this as well, and are gearing up for a change.

The answers to our problems will lie in a broad scope of technologies, not just cutting the cord from fossil fuel. It will be more of a fair and balanced solution that spreads resources around in a sensible way. The transition will not be easy, because let’s face it, nothing is ever easy. However, the approach is what matters. The solution will come from the effort of those involved, and the collective agreements by forward thinking people. Not necessarily those who always agree, but people from other ends of the professional spectrum who are willing to put aside the political and scientific arguments for the sake of …again… living better.

Let’s face the facts. We as humans need three things to survive: Air, water and food. Everything else is arguable. If any one of those becomes tainted, poisoned, or unusable, we’re in deep (you know what). People are not stupid. They know these things need to be preserved, and at the end of the day, corporations do too.

Take India for example – the largest democracy in the world and a budding superpower. India is a country that takes their role in globalization and corporate responsibility seriously. I know this because of the valiant effort their people are pushing forward to live sustainable, reduce waste, and conserve resources.

There are a number of large-scale sustainable projects that are currently being implemented in states all across India. These projects involve net-zero Universities, harnessing wind power, recycling raw waste, and even a potential ban on plastic. These are only a few examples, but enough to paint a fair picture of the effort put forth to make a change. Even though I believe this is the way we should conduct ourselves accordingly to move forward in a progressive and positive manner, there is something missing from this equation. What about the small-scale effort? Projects for the people that implement similar strategies that would not only benefit the greater good, but also be broken down on a micro level to benefit the common man where it matters most – at home.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that Nalanda University, the oldest University in the world, is going green by becoming a net-zero campus. This is a huge change for all involved, and a wonderful example for schools of the world to follow. Yet, I feel the company implementing the net-zero design could reach a bit further. If they stretched their reach to the surrounding communities and went for true corporate responsibility, the building of net-zero homes for the locals would have a greater impact on the surrounding area. By setting an example and following through to show how their projects work on both a large and small scale, the people would see the truth – that living better and creating a sustainable world is both possible and plausible for all classes.

Take New Delhi for example. This is place where the top students from the Universities are leading the charge for future generations by harnessing the winds created by the high-speed railways and converting it to electricity. It’s a free power source and even better, a byproduct of a necessary means of transportation for millions. Now, instead of just focusing on the obvious, there could be sub-teams of students using the same calculations to set up affordable wind mills on homes in the area to help residents of the area rely less on that same grid.

So great. Now corporations and common people alike are less dependent on the grid. What about the mountains of waste produced by these same individuals every day that pile up on the streets and continue to degrade the standard of living in India? This is a valid concern that is difficult to overlook when talking about corporate responsibility, and one that is no laughing matter. When looking at the mountains of garbage, two major contributors stick out: Raw waste and plastic. Both are recyclable, both are important.

Raw waste is an interesting form of garbage because of its methane producing qualities. Companies are harnessing this methane on a large scale to use as a fuel source, but when it’s diverted from landfills it can be used as an equally effective means to solve the problems of the people. As I stated earlier, food is one of the three things we can’t live without, and cooked food is the preference for most – unless you’re a fan of the raw diet, which I personally am not. By setting up cooking stoves and similar technologies for local homes and business that would operate using raw waste as a fuel source, you can prove to the masses that there are viable solutions to fuel shortages that have practical applications. There are alternatives to harmful wood fire stoves that pollute the air and deplete our forests. There is a way to change, and it’s up to our leaders to take charge and let the people of the world know that they have our backs in our united fight for a healthier world.

There are other ways for our leaders to fight. Some are not so fun, and quite heavy handed as well as difficult to implement, such as the proposed plastic ban in Pune. This is radical change, but still a strangely practical alternative to the rivers of plastic bottles that flow through the streets of Pune on a daily basis. It’s my understanding that the solution for less plastic in Pune is to find alternative means for the storage and transportation of goods. One method people are coming to embrace is something called, Biolice, an organic material made of cornstarch. It can be manufactured into bags and storage containers. This is good. It’s a positive solution, but still, how do you spread word to millions of people that are hesitant to such a radical change? It’s left up to those in charge who are willing to perform an additional public service. They are the only ones who can only solve this effectively. By giving free lessons to people in their homes and businesses that will physically show how to reduce their dependence on plastic while imparting them with the knowledge they need to change their lives for the greater good is the only way I see it possible to make the required change, and it’s up to those who lead to make it possible.

Looking at these examples, albeit if only a few pieces of a much larger puzzle, there are effective ways to reach the masses. Corporations who are working hard to live by their social and environmental responsibilities have, hopefully, not bit off more than they can chew. If they want people to change and want to show the world that they can change too, then the corporate brass should focus on broadening their scope. They need to reach people where it matters – at home and in their pockets. If the corporations could show people that they can implement the same strategies on a budget, the same strategies that are being made famous by big money investors with seemingly infinite wealth, there can be a change. There can be a shift in global awareness, but it will depend on the will of the people in charge. I for one choose to believe in the power of good in all of those people. I’d like to believe that they are using that power to benefit the common man.

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