As part of our ongoing interview series, we recently had the opportunity to ask P.S. Narayan, Vice President and Head of Sustainability at Wipro Ltd a few questions on the topic. A big thank you to Narayan for taking the time to share his thoughts!
1. Can you provide a brief overview of your role and how it relates to CSR and Sustainability?
I am the Vice President and Head of Sustainability at Wipro Ltd, a $ 6 Bn+ company with predominant interests in IT Services, Infrastructure Engineering, Consumer Care and Clean Energy. I am responsibility for Wipro’s sustainability charter that includes the following
2. What are the top 3 challenges facing you as a CSR/Sustainability executive over the next 12-18 months? Why?
The top three challenges over the next 12-18 months are
3. Given the emergence of CSR/Sustainability as a strategic imperative over the last decade, how do you see it continuing to evolve in the future?
The way I see sustainability evolving is that it will slowly but gradually become a mainstream issue on the business agenda; and this will happen because of the conflation of multiple external forces – resource shortages, government regulations, market incentives, direct and indirect pressure from customers, industry peers and NGOs, the progressively strengthening correlation between a company’s brand reputation and its actions on sustainability etc.
While there will be a small circle of companies that lead the way by going beyond the requirements of compliance and the pressures to look ‘green’ to the external world, the rest will fall in line more slowly. By 2020, thinking strategically and acting decisively on sustainability would have become a sine qua non for companies.
Earlier this year, Wipro launched the ‘earthian’ program, an India-wide initiative that addresses the challenge of sustainability education – or ecological literacy – in schools and colleges across the country. The vision of the program is rooted in our realization and conviction that sustainability has to become axiomatic to the education process thereby getting internalized in the way one learns to view and address social issues and eventually translating into a larger multiplier effect in the way policy makers, business leaders, academia and government decision makers start incorporating ecological considerations into their decisions. Complete details of the program are available at www.wipro.org/earthian
We measure the success of the program by the scale and extent of participation from schools and colleges across the country. In Phase 1 – which consists of submitting a ‘Paper’ from which 10 winners will be chosen from across India – we have had more than 600 final entries. We think that for Year 1, this is a good start and that it will provide a good platform for scaling even higher in the years to come.
5. If you had one piece of advice to give companies beginning their journey in corporate social responsibility and sustainability, what would it be?
Do not get into Sustainability because it will make you look good or because it will do your reputation good. While that is a good thing, it should happen as a byproduct and not as the main objective.
A company should act on sustainability driven by the larger vision of its desire to make an impact and difference on some of the most pressing sustainability challenges that faces us. In doing so, it should focus on not more than three areas – for us in Wipro, it is Education and Ecology – rather than spread itself too thin.
The company should see its involvement in sustainability as a long term exercise without being blinkered by short-termism that one often sees in the business world.
And finally, a company should get into sustainability only if it is ready to match its intent with the readiness to invest – money, resources, leadership attention etc. Tokenism is an absolute No-No.