Saving the planet: Businesses go green

Climate change and global warming are no more speculations now. They are hard realities facing mankind.

By Muqbil Ahmar

Climate change and global warming are no more speculations now. They are hard realities facing mankind. According to NASA figures, global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree since 1880, while 9 of the 10 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. In 2012, Arctic ice shrank to its lowest ever level. Global sea levels are rising at 3.4 mm per year. It is just a matter of time before large swathes of human habitat would get submerged in ocean water.

It is now or never. Remedial measures have to be put in place before the crisis spirals out of control. While governments continue to host seminars and international conferences over the issue, each one of us has to pitch in to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet by arresting the tide of planetary degradations.

In a bid to make their own contribution to making the Earth a less dangerous place to live, enterprises, especially the small and medium ones, have been going in for innovations and adopting clean technologies. Several small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have come up with novel solutions, using renewable sources of energy and least polluting resources.

A number of such enterprises have also been recognized by the government for their efforts in promoting clean technology. The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has identified several such innovators, recognized their contribution, and has put them in incubator programs to nurture and develop their creations. The Ministry has featured the innovators in an e-Book titled “Cleanovators.”

Out-of-the box approach to help reduce carbon footprint

Who doesn’t want to get rid of plastics—so much an integral part of our lives—in a way that it doesn’t clog drains and cause deep-seated pollution. Kolkata-based Neogi Technologies converts waste plastic into fuel oil! While the innovation removes harmful plastics from the environment, it also results in a pollution-free method of producing fuel oil—resources that are depleting fast.

“We have realized that plastic bags are a necessity today. No amount of sanctions or restrictions can limit their use. We can however recycle them or use them in some way that does not harm our environment. We have succeeded in producing diesel from plastics that has 10,000 calorific value, very close to the diesel obtained from petroleum,” said Samir Kumar Neogi, Managing Director, Neogi Technologies.

“Apart from introducing innovative technologies, we are also looking at other ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We are introducing mobile diesel dispensers which will bring down pollution by taking diesel to big units and doing away with all fuel loss during commutation to and from gas stations,” added Neogi.

When asked how else he proposes to reduce carbon footprint, he replied: “We as an organization are concerned about the environment and we have adopted a number of measures to keep our environment clean. As much as 90% of our employees use the bicycles to come to work. By the end of this year we plan to be 100% solar operated. We also have a water harvesting mechanism for our daily needs,” he concluded.

We have all gone through frequent power cuts during Board exam preparations? Patna-based enterprise Astric Computers attempts to solve just this very problem. It helps thousands of students across the state of Bihar to continue their IT education, in spite of power cuts—a major constraint in the state—by using renewable energy resources and utilizing shared computing. The enterprise has assisted the Government of Bihar in implementing the technology in approximately 2,000 schools. The innovative idea has been able to help achieve more than 50% energy savings and Zero Carbon Footprint through its computer labs.

“We are basically trying to bridge the gap between technology and governance. We have succeeded to a great extent but a lot more needs to be done. We are also focusing on innovations involving solar energy, which is plentiful in the state. This will help us reduce our carbon footprint,” said Prabhat Kumar Sinha, founder, Astric Computers .

“We are particularly targeting rural areas as they don’t have access to new technologies. Besides, we are also focusing on computer-learning settings which are energy intensive. Through our technologies, we have been able to reduce energy consumption by as much as 50%,” he added.

Who is not troubled by the ever increasing power bills resulting from fuel-guzzling ACs? Similarly, Fabonix Technologies has developed a viable temperature control equipment that produces a refrigerating effect inside houses and shops and other buildings using solar and wind energy accessible at the roof top. The Bhuvaneshwar-based start-up, which was founded in 2013, is a design and innovation company that designs, develops and sells products of social and societal values.

“We try to blend technology, creativity, engineering and innovations to solve problems from industries to households,” claimed Dhiraj Choudhary, CEO and Managing Director of Fabonix Technologies.

There are also industries and businesses contributing to reducing carbon footprint and a cleaner environment in an indirect way—by helping SMEs adopt green technologies. For example, Deskera, a business software developer in the Asia-Pacific region, helps SMEs by creating applications that remove the necessity of paper-based conventional modes of accounting; thus helping the planet go green. Such ventures should also get the support of the establishment and big capital.

“Now, you don’t have to do manual accounting or customer relationship management. All such processes are highly energy-intensive, leaving a large carbon footprint. We have automated a lot of those processes that are part of the natural life cycle of a company. With proper nurturing and support from the government and the private sector, ventures like ours have the potential to turn the tables,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera.

Economic feasibility of green innovations

There has been criticism that clean technologies are unaffordable for the man on the street. Reacting to such criticism, Sinha said: “It is true that initial capital investment may be on the higher side, but that is true for all industries and that is where the role of the government and other policy-making bodies comes into the picture. We are pushing for the government to subsidize clean technologies and provide at least 80% subsidy on innovations initially, till the products become stable.”

Are the government’s initiatives enough to promote clean technology?

The Central Government recently announced that all 26 million micro, small and medium enterprises in India would adopt clean technology measures by 2025. The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises made the ambitious announcement through an e-Book launched on its website recently.

“We believe that solutions do exist and can be enacted with the right combination of political, social and financial will. Agencies, governments, investors and business need to proactively collaborate as forces facilitating this transition towards a sustainable energy future on a global level. Technology start-ups provide one of the most important vehicles to meet these challenges,” said Surendra Nath Tripathi, Additional Secretary and Development Commissioner, Ministry of MSME.
While many experts have welcomed the Government announcement, many also expressed their reservations. They are skeptical of the implementation of the policy. They feel that the scale and magnitude of the task is too daunting as the MSME sector is highly amorphous and widely diverse.
Asked as to whether Sinha is satisfied with the government’s efforts at promoting such technologies, he replied in the negative.

“There are a lot of new technologies out there that are clean but the problem is that people and enterprises are not aware of them. The Government has been taking initiatives but they are not enough. More needs to be done to reach out to the people and convince them to impart momentum to clean technologies and make them a part of every citizen’s household,” asserted Sinha.

The government on its part claims that it is doing all it can to promote and nurture clean technologies.

“It is important to assess the depth, breadth and quality of Cleantech innovations in the Indian SME sector. I hope, it will catalyze our development sector professionals, policy makers, and researchers to understand, create and support many more valuable innovations with clean technologies in the Indian landscape,” said Kalraj Mishra, the Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

In the hope of a clean and pollution-free future

Astric, Fabonix, and Neogi are among a growing number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) dedicatedly developing and using clean technology innovations by harnessing energy resources as diverse as solar power, wind energy and sea waves.

Well, several innovators in the small and medium enterprise sector have solved these seemingly insurmountable hurdles through solutions that are not only novel but also green. Such efforts are commendable and it is hoped that the governments, civil society groups and citizens at large would come together to tackle the biggest problem ever faced by mankind.

With over 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, the author is a Senior Editor at Deskera, a business software company. 

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