'Did you see the snow?' Sudhansu Mohanty asked. A peculiar question for a hot spring day in Bengaluru, India, but I knew exactly what he meant - he was referring to the river.
It was my first trip to India. The global SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team and I were in Bengaluru (or Bangalore) for a team meeting, which also offered the opportunity to volunteer and document the impact of our global digital inclusion initiatives like Code Unnati.
I pressed my face to the car window as we made our way from the hotel to an India Code Week event across town. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be a snowy river flowing along. Only it wasn't snow; it was white, toxic foam.
Over the past two years, I have gotten to know our volunteer ambassadors and global initiatives that help the world run better and improve people's lives very well. While 55 percent of volunteer activities are skills-based, supporting education and workforce readiness, in India we see an incredible number of activities that focus on environmental sustainability.
And this is where our interview begins, with the remarkable Sudhansu Mohanty.
[Attachment] Mohanty is a senior software development leader for SAP. He is a husband and father, loves photography, and is a part-time traffic police volunteer - and you should see the traffic in Bengaluru! He helps promote employee engagement at SAP India Labs through sports and was recognized as the 2017 India employee of the year!
Mohanty is also a CSR volunteer ambassador, spearheading environmental sustainability initiatives at SAP Labs India, both on campus and around the Bengaluru area, together with some of the most dedicated volunteers at SAP. I had the opportunity to see his work firsthand, and to ask him about his volunteer efforts. I'm confident you'll find him as inspiring as I do.
Q: Why is it so important to you to focus on climate action in your community?
A: We all know SAP is a great place to work. It's time to make the nearby places where we work great as well. Bengaluru, also known as the garden city of India, has been losing the green cover significantly over the past decade. The unplanned urbanization has come with a cost of trees and lack of proper mobility. This article, 'Satellite images show green cover of Bangalore reducing alarmingly fast,' is a great read about the issue, and shows how our city has gone from the green city to the gray city.
How and why did you initially get started in making the SAP Labs office more green?
Since the city is losing all the greenery, it is refreshing to have a green work space. But honestly, the SAP campus in Bangalore was already green in terms of gardens. And regarding the sustainability initiatives, it was the need of the hour. Once I realized the city was struggling with garbage and lack of water, I had to take the first steps.
What types of sustainability projects have you led together with volunteers at SAP?
We have removed all single-use paper cups at the coffee corners with ceramic cups and glasses, and we have replaced all the single-use cups and bowls used during lunch and dinner with ceramic bowls and glasses. We use only reusable cutlery.
Food waste from the campus is now composted in house with an organic waste composter. We were the first ones to do it in Whitefield (part of Bangalore). The organic compost generated is used in gardens and is given away free to employees. The compost has also been used in many of our SAP volunteer tree plantation events. Many other companies have visited our campus to see this operation and have gone back and implemented the same program on their respective campuses.
Last year, we installed flow control aerators in all the water taps to keep a control over the fresh water usage. This has saved a significant amount of water. Our used water and sewage is then recycled in a sewage treatment plant, and then the treated water is used in the flush tank and are used to water our gardens.
Additionally, the new buildings run on solar energy and we continue to plant trees around the city in areas that need it through volunteer projects like planting trees.
[Attachment]What is the importance of the partnerships you've built with SAP facilities groups in creating lasting, trusted solutions for your campus?
Partnership is very important. I have worked with teams from Facilities, Food and Beverage, IT Support, and even with the higher management for various activities. It is very important to have internal partners across the business, as CSR is a small team comprised of mostly employee volunteers. Moreover, for many of the volunteer projects we do need additional teams' support. For example, In the last SAP Family Day, we had a lot of leftover food, which is typical for large events. I coordinated with a non-profit that works within the slums in Bangalore. The leftover good food was transferred by the organization to another part of the city and they were able to feed more than 500 people. This was a very successful initiative we worked on alongside our food and beverage team.
The good news is, many of those SAP teams come back and ask, 'What's next?'
Did you ever hit any roadblocks when trying to implement sustainability solutions?
Yes, quite a few. Sometimes it is very difficult to explain to the execution partners the benefits that sustainable operations can bring - to you, to our community, to the business]. But our Facilities team and Food and Beverage team are very cooperative in the executions once they understand and agree with the benefits.
Why is volunteering at work important?
Volunteering for a social cause is much more than just investing two or three hours for an event. Sometimes it is a life-changing experience. If you haven't volunteered, you are missing out!
Volunteering has helped me build contacts and partnerships to help execute projects that are very close to my heart. I meet people from various lines of businesses and different business entities, which otherwise would not have been possible. It gives me a sense pride and satisfaction. When I lead a social responsibility project, I get to make new friends and support my community. What more can I expect? I'm more confident, my time management and project management skills have improved a lot, and at the end, I can say I have become a better person.
With Earth Day right around the corner, what advice do you have for employees who want to volunteer or take action to help their office space become more environmentally sustainable?
All employees, at SAP or any company, can take responsibility to make their work place more sustainable. Here are a few ideas:
Although we have reusable cups and glasses, washing them takes water. One can just have a larger bottle for water at their desk instead of using multiple glasses-in other words, BYOB (bring your own bottle)!
Control the amount of food waste. Food waste fills landfills, uses energy, wastes water, and contributes to land deterioration. What you do waste, try to compost.
Use the water judiciously. We should not waste water unnecessarily.
Watch the number of tissues or paper towels you use. Each paper tissue goes through a huge cycle, which is again a burden on the environment. Use a hand dryer instead.
Carpool - many of our employees do it and this both helps the traffic situation and reduces carbon emissions.
Save energy by switching off your computer monitors once you leave work. If you are the last one on your floor, be sure to switch off the lights.
After getting to know Sudhansu Mohanty, I continue to ask myself where he gets the time and energy to do all of these things in one day in addition to his regular job and spending time with his family. I've come to learn a few things: he never works alone. Together with SAP volunteers and co-workers, they take small steps every day to protect the world that sustains us.
SAP empowers employees to take action on projects that matter to us. Whether it's environmental sustainability or quality education and workforce readiness, we have the infrastructure in place to support volunteer efforts globally.
We don't all have the capacity to go big and start corporate composting programs, but we all have the power to make small sustainable changes in our own lives. And if we do, the ripple effect might just create a huge wave of positive change in the world.
Be Part of the Journey
We invite you to be part of SAP's sustainability journey. Click below to share your personal commitment to a sustainable future alongside SAP's commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) with your networks and add hashtag #sap4good.
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The more we spread the word and inspire others to join in, the better. Let's collectively reach 5,000 posts by Earth Day on April 22 and SAP will plant 5,000 trees.