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Transforming societies, one light at a time

96

By VS Shridhar

Climate change, amongst many others, is one of the world’s biggest challenges. We are feeling its impact through rising sea levels, more species of wildlife facing endangerment or extinction, and extreme weather events wreaking havoc across our planet. It’s widely agreed by leading experts, including NASA scientists, that global warming is at the heart of these events and the situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of immediate intervention.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1972, the first World Environment Day was held two years later, with the theme, “Only One Earth.” Since then, World Environment Day has been raising awareness and taking action on urgent issues from marine pollution and global warming to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime with the aim to impact national and international environmental policy.

The need of the hour is, for people all over the world to reflect on how they could contribute towards a more sustainable future, both individually and collectively. The challenge is Herculean, but the time for change is now.

Don’t change one thing by 100 per cent, try to change 100 things by 1 per cent
The 2017 Paris Climate Summit brought together 196 nations to establish pollution remission goals. While its objective was ambitious, aiming high is necessary to get on the right path. Despite some countries backing out of the agreement, marginal gains can go a long way to achieving a greener planet.

The Chinese Gobi Desert transformation – turning sand into soil that enables plants to grow on previously barren land – is an example which other nations can follow. Meanwhile, Germany’s Energiewende initiative includes a bid to reduce carbon emissions on its rail network and roads.

While the absence of large-scale changes is frustrating for some, we can take inspiration from Sir David Brailsford’s leadership lessons from his time as performance director of Team GB Cycling, based on Matthew Syed’s book Black Box Thinking. After Team GB’s multiple Olympic successes under his stewardship, Brailsford spoke of how his winning formula was based on “the aggregation of marginal gains” concept. To paraphrase, the theory is rather than trying to change one thing by 100 per cent, try to change 100 things by one per cent.

This concept can be applied to business, but also bigger issues such as climate change. Small changes by people and organisations can collectively add up to a big difference.

Streetlight at the end of the tunnel
One such step was recently taken when Tata Communications and Motwane partnered up to deploy 300 smart streetlights on a street in India, using an Internet of Things (IoT) network based on Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology.

This has significantly reduced this small area’s carbon footprint as well as led to cost savings of around Rs 700 per light, per year, which can be reinvested in sustainable infrastructure.

One street at a time, we endeavour to establish 15,000 smart streetlights by the end of 2023. Applied to one street, the impact may be nominal, but applied to thousands it is ground-breaking.

This initiative is a great example of the kind of marginal gain which, multiplied a thousand times over can have a major impact. On World Environment Day, we must all consider ways in which we can transform our societies and businesses to be more sustainable.

(The author is the Senior Vice President and Head – Internet of Things, Tata Communications)

 


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