Sustainability in Every Language: Driving a Global Low Carbon Economy

Image source: Adobe Stock.
Sustainability in Every Language: Driving a Global Low Carbon Economy

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of people in urban areas worldwide are exposed to excessive air pollutants. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries, where 98 percent of people are exposed. India is one of these countries.

Long touted as a promising, emerging economy, India’s huge population and capable workforce makes it an attractive destination for businesses. But the pollution in the country means changes for companies.

While the country may be one of the world’s leading polluters, it is taking steps to change this. India has pledged its commitment to the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change. To meet that commitment, the country must reduce carbon emissions by as much as 35 percent by 2030. That means sweeping changes for the country. Companies that want to do business in India also must embrace these changes.

India faces several challenges when it comes to sustainability, but Adobe and other companies are making commitments to help the country achieve its sustainability goals. Our efforts are making a difference in India, and highlight why a global commitment to improving the environment is crucial for businesses and for the customers they serve.

“By becoming more energy efficient, you purchase less energy,” Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist at Adobe, says. “That saves businesses money, and in turn, that means you’re buying less from the grid. And that equates to less emissions. Less emissions mean cleaner air (and water) and likely healthier lives for those in the areas where we live and work. It’s the ‘triple bottom-line’ or a win-win-win for environment, society, and business.”

India’s pollution challenges

For decades, India has had problems with pollution. Its air and water are considered toxic in many parts of the country. India has one of the world’s highest rates of pollution and pollution-related deaths — 1.1 million Indians die annually because of toxic air, according to one large joint study.

In addition to loss of life, the pollution poses long-term environmental consequences for the country — including rising temperatures and reduced crop yields. Areas in the country are experiencing increasingly disastrous droughts, desiccating farmland, and leaving people without clean water to drink.

A valiant fight

To combat these problems, the country has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Going beyond the government’s pledge, several local communities in India are making efforts to eliminate their carbon footprints over the next few years. Initiatives like renewable energy, reforestation, and public education are working to reduce and offset carbon emissions, taking entire communities toward net-zero.

An advantage of emerging markets like India is that the country isn’t bound to an existing infrastructure like more developed nations. With this in mind, the Indian government is focusing on developing renewable energy production going forward.

Companies that operate in the country can also commit to building out renewable energy. Letha Tawney, director of utility innovation and Polsky chair for renewable energy at World Resources Institute, urges businesses to embrace the change.

“Start the journey,” she says. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Start talking with peers about how to move forward.”

Adobe’s renewable energy efforts

Adobe has significant operations in India and has accelerated our shift to renewable energy. Recently, we secured a power purchase agreement (PPA) in India to buy 3,750 megawatt hours of solar energy from a new production facility — enough to power our entire Bangalore facility for a year.

Vince would like to see similar projects in the future. He says, “The developers came to us, set up the agreement, and then went to install the solar panels. In other words, the project wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t agreed to purchase energy from it. Now that renewable energy is helping clean up the air and lower emissions, we’d like to be able to this do for all our sites. We’re already looking to reproduce it in our site in Noida [India].”

The commitment to renewable energy in India isn’t an isolated strategy for us. Being part of the RE100, we have pledged to run our operations and deliver our products with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

In addition to renewable energy sourcing, we have partnered with the Science Based Targets Initiative to set and act on emissions targets for each of our sites. As an important part of maximizing our positive impact, we will do so without using unbundled renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offsets.

RECs are a way to buy the claim for using renewable energy without also buying the electricity — an approach that opponents argue doesn’t do enough to expand renewable energy production and achieve the greatest impact.

“To make the claim of carbon neutrality,” Vince says, “all we would have to do is buy unbundled RECs or carbon offsets equal to the amount of emissions from our global energy usage. It’s cheap, legal, and there is no long-term risk in doing it. But its impact is minimal — at best — and we know we can do much better.”

Letha says beyond addressing environmental concerns, businesses benefit from sustainability in other ways. “It affects profitability because sustainability drives discipline,” she says. “When you’re looking longer-term, you’re evaluating risks and impacts of the business over more than a quarterly earnings horizon, and that gets you ready for future challenges.”

Your renewable energy mission

Renewable energy is a great way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint and shift to a sustainable business model, but making a real change takes more than simply throwing on a switch. Four steps can make the shift to renewable energy much easier.

  1. Determine your existing carbon footprint. As with most business initiatives, the starting point is a benchmark. To know if you’ve improved, you first need to know where you are.
  2. Develop reduction efforts. It’s easier to pull your power from renewable sources when you pull less power. Before worrying about sourcing, focus on reducing your needs by increasing efficiencies and internal awareness.
  3. Innovate low-carbon technologies. Related to efficiency, look at your operations and identify points where technology advances — whether it’s introducing more digital, paperless tools or using energy storage technology to reduce energy costs and consumption — can decrease carbon emissions.
  4. Reduce fossil fuel dependence. Shift your remaining consumption from fossil fuel sources to renewable ones by installing renewable production or by working with your power supplier to set up a renewable PPA, like Adobe’s Bangalore facility.

“The first thing to do is maximize energy efficiency,” Letha says. “Then work with the local utility to ensure that the new electricity demand is going to be met with renewable energy. Doing that also makes a clear path for other customers to pursue renewable energy.”

By leading in sustainability, you blaze a path for others to follow.

Read more content from our complete Sustainability and Social Impact series here.

On Friday, March 2, Vince Digneo will be speaking at the Climate Leadership Conference in Denver, Colorado on implementing Science Based Targets. See his panel information here.

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