Sameer Garde, president, Cisco India and SAARC
Sameer Garde, president, Cisco India and SAARC

What’s good for the planet, is good for business: Sameer Garde

Sameer Garde, president, Cisco India and SAARC, tells how organizations, racing to leverage digital capabilities, can no longer ignore an underlying factor that will determine the success of tomorrow’s businesses—sustainability

To mark the dawn of a new decade, Mint has been inviting thought leaders and heads of corporates to share five ideas for the future. Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India and SAARC, tells Shuchi Bansal how organizations, racing to leverage digital capabilities, can no longer ignore an underlying factor that will determine the success of tomorrow’s businesses—sustainability.

From buying more to buying better

The advent of machines so many decades ago, while simplifying and streamlining the manufacturing process, also inadvertently birthed a culture of fast buying and wastefulness. However, this behavior of fast buying is changing. Conscious consumerism is taking over; consumers are using, choosing and loving products from businesses that make it easier for them to support the environment.

From ownership to usership

Sharing of resources, especially workplaces and vehicles, is going have a profound impact on India’s economy and the environment. As we take active steps towards a more environmentally sustainable future, we are at an inflection point of developing mobility systems that support a burgeoning urban population while reducing our ever-growing carbon footprint. With innovative technological advancements, a large millennial population that prefers availing Ola and Uber to buying cars, and rising internet penetration, India is primed to become one of the largest shared mobility economies in the world, which will eventually migrate from fuel-based vehicles to electric vehicles.

Transformation of the workplace

Over the last few years, there has been a clear shift in the workplace, moving from a 9-5, cubicle construct to flexible hours, coupled with agile, open and shared workspaces, made possible by advancing technologies that allow seamless communication between teams. Many corporates are also choosing to hire part-time employees who can work remotely, leveraging India’s expanding gig economy. This has led to increased productivity, lower attrition and high employee morale, as well as reduction in carbon emissions due to shrinking commute time, and lesser water and fuel consumption as demand for physical spaces declines. In fact, a recent study by Regus, a leader in virtual workspaces, has found that flexible work may diminish carbon dioxide emissions by 214 million tonnes per year by 2030! By simply changing the way we think about work, we can greatly contribute towards environment sustainability goals.

Startups making a difference

With our natural resources depleting and the earth getting warmer, radical, scalable innovation is the need of the hour. Startups across the globe are coming forward with systems and products that address our biggest problems. Aarohana Ecosocial, that turns plastic into fabric, Pappco Greenware, that produces eco-friendly food packaging, Beyond Meat, that is creating plant-based meat substitutes to reduce climate change within agriculture, and so many others are striving to alleviate environmental damage. Enterprises have to identify and start investing in these startups so they can scale their operations, making their solutions accessible to a much larger demographic.

Competition to collaboration

The age of individual genius is over. All over the world, collaboration – between individuals, organizations, even nations – is benefitting the environment at scale. Consider the Versova Beach clean-up that started with one man and quickly became a movement involving the government, corporates and citizens, and resulted in 5,000 metric tons of trash being cleared; or The Ocean Cleanup project, founded by one 18-year old, and now consisting of over 80 engineers and scientists from different countries working together to rid our oceans of plastic. The world’s problems are much too complex for any one person or even company to solve. We need to work with even our competitors to innovate ground-breaking solutions that can restore balance in the environment.

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