“Did you see the snow?” Sudhansu asked. A peculiar question for a hot spring day in Bengaluru (or Bangalore), 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 meeting in Bengaluru and Mumbai for a team meeting. This meeting also gave us the opportunity to volunteer and document the impact of our global digital inclusion initiatives, in particular, India’s signature program, 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.
I should provide some context. I run SAP’s sustainability social media channel (Shameless plug—please follow us: @sap4good). So, over the past two years I’ve have gotten to know our volunteer ambassadors and global initiatives that help the world run better and improve people’s lives. While most of our volunteer activities, 55% in fact, are skills-based supporting education and workforce readiness, in India we see an incredible number of activities that focus on environmental sustainability. I couldn’t really comprehend the importance of their actions, until I saw the pollution first-hand.
And this is where our interview begins, with the remarkable Sudhansu Mohanty.
Sudhansu 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 SAP India Labs employee engagement through sports, and was recognized as the 2017 India employee of the year! Last but certainly not least, Sudhansu is a corporate social responsibility volunteer ambassador, spearheading SAP India Labs’ environmental sustainability initiatives, both on campus and around the Bengaluru area, together with some of the most dedicated volunteers at SAP. I had the opportunity to ask him about his volunteer efforts at SAP and around the community, and I’m confident you’ll find him as inspiring as I do.
(Sudhansu pictured in back the back right in the yellow t-shirt, next to his incredible virtual team of SAP India and SAP Labs India Corporate Social Responsibility volunteer ambassadors)
On volunteering, partnership, and environmental sustainability in the workplace
Why is it so important to you to focus on climate action in your community?
We all know SAP is a great place to work. It 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 is a great read about the issue, and shows how our city has gone from the green city to the gray city.
How / why did you initially get started to make the 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 Bangalore campus was already green in terms of gardens even before I joined. And regarding the sustainability initiatives, it was the need of the hour. Once I realized the city 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. In fact, we have replaced all the single use cups and bowls used during lunch/dinner with ceramic bowls and glasses. We use only reusable cutlery.
- Food waste from the campus is now composted in-house with an OWC (Organic Waste Composter). We were the first ones to do it in Whitefield, the part of the city where the SAP office is located. The organic compost generated is used in gardens, and is given away free to any interested employees. The compost has also been used in many of our SAP volunteer tree plantation events. Many other companies have visited SAP’s 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 of the water taps to keep a control over the fresh water usage. This has saved a significant amount of water. Our used water/sewage is then recycled in a STP (Sewage treatment plant), and then the treated water is used in the flush tank and are used to water our gardens.
- The new buildings have now started using solar panels as well.
- We continue to plant trees around the city in areas that need it through volunteer projects like these.
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 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 very small team and comprised of mostly employee volunteers. Moreover, many of the volunteer projects we do need additional teams’ support. For example, In the last SAP Family Day, we had a lot left over food, which is usual for many large events. I coordinated with a non-profit that works with the slums in Bangalore. The left-over 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 teams (i.e. facilities, FnB, etc.) come back and ask, “What’s Next?” ☺
Did you ever hit any roadblocks when trying to implement any of your sustainability solutions?
Yes, quite a few. Sometimes it is very difficult to explain to the execution partners the benefits which sustainable operations can bring [to you, your community, your business]. And moreover, it is always about thinking about the external world than worrying about your own cocoon. But our Facilities team and food and beverage team are very cooperative in the executions once they are convinced of the benefits.
Why is volunteering at work important? Important to you?
Volunteering for a social cause is much more than just investing 2-3 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?! Volunteering has made me a more confident person and a better leader. My time management and project management skills have improved a lot. At the end, I can say I have become a better person.
Earth Day is 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 can take responsibility to make their work place more sustainable. Here are a few ideas:
- Although we have reusable cups and glasses, washing them again takes water. One can just have a 1 litre bottle for water. It is also good for your health to have enough water at your desk and not just have 200ml of water in a glass. In other words, BYOB (bring your own bottle).
- Control the amount of food waste. We know that many of our fellow humans in not so privileged places who don’t even get two meals a day. Food waste contributes to landfills, energy usage, water waste, and land deterioration. What is wasted, 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 or towel goes through a huge cycle which is again a burden on the environment. Try using a hand dryer instead.
- Car Pool – Many of our employees do it. This definitely 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, I continue to ask myself where does he get 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.
- While he may spark the initial idea, he never does a project alone. Together with SAP volunteers and staff, they take small steps every day to protect the world that sustains us.
- SAP empowers employees to take action on projects that matter to them. Whether it’s environmentally sustainability or quality education and workforce readiness, we have the infrastructure in place to support your volunteer efforts.
- While I may not be able to start a corporate composting or solar energy program, I have the power to make small changes in my own life. If we all make small changes to support our planet, the ripple effect might just create the changes needed to achieve the UN Global Goals by 2030.
Thank you Sudhansu and all of the SAP India volunteers for everything that you do every day! You are the ones who are making the world run better and improving people’s lives – and inspiring others to do the same.
Share your personal sustainability commitment on social media along with our UN Global Goals web book and tag #sap4good by Earth Day, and help SAP reach its goal to plant 5,000 trees.