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Shifting to top gear on the ESG track

By Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji Viswanathan

Private-sector commitment to climate action is gaining momentum, with companies increasingly focused on strategies aimed at creating a better planet

This November, world leaders met in Egypt for the UN Climate Summit. There was a palpable sense of urgency, all round. We’re now living through more and more extreme weather-related disasters.

North India is experiencing one of its coldest winters ever. Gale force winds and cyclones have battered India’s East Coast multiple times in 2022. California, the GDP of which makes this single US state the No. 5 economy in the world – ahead of India and below Germany – experienced both heat-induced raging wildfires and flooding from unseasonal rains, within a 12-month period. And this is the state that hosts the most valued companies in the world.

The time has come for visionary leadership – from governments as well as the private sector. And considering the sheer scale of the Climate Change challenge, the time is also ripe for fruitful public-private partnerships to put a brake on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. CEOs and company boards can even opt to move far beyond regulatory requirements. After all, investments in R&D to explore new sustainable product categories or market opportunities can deliver immense value – just consider the early-mover advantage Tesla enjoyed because of Musk’s first-off-the-blocks approach in the EV sector.

Thankfully, leaders within the corporate world have stepped up and placed ESG front and centre of all future plans. Companies across Asia, particularly, believe there’s no time to lose in the race to achieve Net Zero emission levels.

·     By 2030, 200 million Indians will face lethal heat waves, if net-zero emissions aren’t achieved.

·     Across China, South Korea, & Japan, carbon emissions will lead to a 400% increase in deadly typhoons

·     Asia stands to lose over US$ 4 trillion by 2050, just due to GHG emissions

While the last point underscores the cost in monetary terms, there are other, more tragic repercussions. Like the innumerable lives lost or the poor quality of life. One only needs to experience the grey haze that blankets New Delhi during winters, or the poor air quality in Beijing that led to various foreign embassy staff sending home their families, to understand how urgent ESL strategies need to be.

Where we are today

In 2022, a Harris Poll was commissioned by Google Cloud, during which a cross-section of 1,491 C-level executives/VPs from 16 countries were surveyed on how their companies addressed sustainability.

The good news was that 80% of respondents believed that their company is doing a good job around sustainability. Far less impressive was the discovery that only 36% of respondents said their organizations had the tools to measure their sustainability efforts, and just 17% used those measurements to optimize systems for better sustainability.

Expleo is a global consulting, engineering and technology service provider with a legacy of over 40 years. We help companies in over 30 sectors to fast track innovation. In India, our primary focus is BSFI, automotive, aerospace, and life sciences.

With innovation being one of our core offerings, it’s but natural that we stay ahead of the curve when adopting new technologies to address the Climate Change challenge too. So bringing down GHG emissions to Net Zero is as much our corporate goal as it is for most for our customers – particularly in automotive and aerospace.

Tech drives ESL initiatives

Hydrogen fuel cells in the automotive sector: As per the International Energy Agency, 25% of CO2 emissions come from the transport sector. This makes the hunt for alternate fuel sources more urgent. Along with EVs, hydrogen too has emerged as a promising option to combat climate change.

European governments, particularly France, the UK and Germany have formulated their strategies to ramp up hydrogen powered mobility. In 2021, the Indian government too launched its green hydrogen mission and at the UN Climate Summit in Egypt India announced its ambitious target of an annual production capacity of 25 million tonnes by 2047. 

In this context, at Expleo we began studying opportunities in this space extensively. During our research across Europe, 70% of respondents from the auto sector said they’re currently producing hydrogen vehicles or the components for them. Their investments in hydrogen vehicles (31% of respondents) matched their investments in EVs (32%) with 11% assigned to other alternates.

In Paris, there are already 100 hydrogen-fuelled taxis on the road. The French Government aims to take that to 10,000 by 2024.

According to Frédéric Ludet, a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expert at Expleo, there’s a substantial ramping up of investment across the ecosystem amongst our customers, particularly to industrialise fuel cells and auxiliary units, to reduce their size, weight and cost. Investments from industry are also being matched by governments.

Expleo partners with Faster for hydrogen-powered 4×4 at Dakar Rally: With our experience collaborating with clients in automotive, aerospace, marine, rail and utilities, Expleo is uniquely positioned to support companies and industries transition to hydrogen power, to meet their own ESL targets.

Today, we are actively involved in a wide range of hydrogen power applications and R&D projects. Expleo experts are contributing across industries, including the integration of a hydrogen fuel cell and the power train for a rally 4×4 to participate in the world-famous Dakar Rally

Working in partnership with Faster, a key partner to the event for the past 3 decades, means that Expleo’s learnings from this R&D project will help our customers across the world.

Expleo’s green initiatives in the aerospace sector

Back in 2018, we at Expleo joined the BAMCO (Bamboo long fibre reinforced bio-based Matrix Composites) consortium involving 7 companies. Our aim is to develop new green composite materials made of bio-based resins and bamboo reinforcement, for the aviation sector. Apart from being biodegradable, the lightness, thermal resistance, absorption of shock, etc, of these bio-composites, match those of certain polymer composites currently in use, but which are environmentally hazardous.

Green Computing

While the transportation and the aviation sector account for high GHG emissions, and hence are under greater pressure to act fast, with the aid of tech and R&D, there’s a lot that each one of us in other sectors can also do. For instance, software development has, till recently, remained below the radar. It’s only now that organisations are looking at how bad coding practices can lead to a higher carbon footprint.

Examining development processes and reducing energy by optimising the way we build software and automate the testing process, can lower energy consumption and dramatically reduce GHG emissions.

Next, technologies and platforms that are wasteful can be phased out to reduce carbon emissions. Expleo Solutions’ partnership with Neutrino Technologies, that leverages the latter’s Low Code platform, is a good example of how optimised use of code and resources, reduces operating times by over 60%, leading to tremendous energy savings.  

In short, every company’s approach to ESG needs to be holistic – optimise operations to cut energy usage and reduce waste, while simultaneously invest in R&D to develop sustainable products.

Balaji Viswanathan is the MD & CEO of Expleo Solutions. In a career spanning 27 years, he has been with the Banking and Payment Card Industry for over 16 years and with Technology and Process Outsourcing for over a decade. He has played a pivotal role for 12 plus years in developing two start-up Banks (HDFC Bank and YES Bank) and 3 years with a Global Payment Franchise (MasterCard) supporting their Operations and Technology for the South Asia market.

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