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Climate change a crisis of epic proportions, role of corporates critical: ITC CMD Sanjiv Puri

Climate change a crisis of epic proportions, role of corporates critical: ITC CMD Sanjiv Puri

The way to deal with it is to do everything at scale and this makes the role of corporates pivotal.

Puri was emphatic when he outlined that India could see extreme heat that will be several times more than today.  (Image courtesy: Chandradeep Kumar/India Today Photo) Puri was emphatic when he outlined that India could see extreme heat that will be several times more than today. (Image courtesy: Chandradeep Kumar/India Today Photo)

The challenge of climate change is real and right here. In fact, Sanjiv Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC warns that it is a "crisis of epic proportions." There were many warnings that came starting from the 1970s, but it is now that people are waking up to it. In Puri's mind, the corporates have a hugely important role in addressing this issue, and his company is leaving no stone unturned.

Addressing the audience at the India Today Conclave 2021, Puri was emphatic when he outlined that India could see extreme heat that will be several times more than today, apart from the yield of wheat dropping by half. "The way to deal with this is to do everything at scale and that is where the role of the corporates is pivotal. In our self-enlightened interest, we have to lead the way," he said.

He admitted that many companies are apprehensive about the equation between how much it would cost for the initiatives for mitigating climate change and their economic viability. There are many things required to have a comprehensive climate change mechanism and Puri explained what his group has done so far.

"We have committed ourselves to building green infrastructure," he said. It includes initiatives such as green buildings. "All these make for good business sense and in our case, energy costs have dropped 40-50 per cent. Now, costs will drop as scale increases."
 
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According to Puri, water is another key aspect of the story, with 20-30 cities likely to face a serious problem by the end of this decade.

"At ITC, our approach has been a focus on water harvesting and water consumption. It calls for a community-based way of doing it, which is both possible and essential," he explained. Puri opened up on how his group, which has a wide-ranging presence across sectors and scale, has transformed the agriculture value chain. "We have worked on climate-smart agriculture. What is good for the planet is good for farmers," he said.

While the pandemic hit the businesses hard, it also threw up an opportunity through digitisation. The reality, he said, is that what might have taken a couple of years earlier, has actually come down to a few weeks. "It is an enormous opportunity in a situation where there are a large number of farmers accompanied by fragmented holdings. To us, it is farmer empowerment where they can be reached out through WhatsApp groups," emphasised Puri.  
 
Of course, the role of science and technology in a world as dynamic as ours can never be overstated. "We have seen how the speed of execution during the pandemic was helped by this. Speaking for ITC, we are looking at various substitutes in our packaging business. For instance, version 1 is already in the market and we will be doing a lot more," he pointed out.

According to him, there have been a lot of positive developments, such as the Paris Agreement. "When the railways predict a net zero scenario by 2030 or the way the LED story has scaled up, make it very inspirational stories for corporates." The way to do it will be a more comprehensive approach with greater public-private participation. "We owe it to future generations to leave behind a secure world," summed up Puri.     

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