afaqs! news bureau

Sustainability and the circular economy: The way forward for business

The conversation between key decision-makers.

It is important to work alongside the environment for a sustainable future. But are brands walking the talk? ‘Sustainability and the circular economy’ was the theme of the second-panel discussion of day one at the Star FLOW festival, a premier marketing and communications event from The Times of India held at The Leela Ambience in Gurugram, today. Panellists included Prabodha Acharya, Chief Sustainability Officer, JSW Group; Santosh Iyer, VP, Sales and Marketing - Mercedes-Benz India; Ritesh Ghoshal, CMO, Croma. The session was moderated by Chandra Bhushan, CEO of International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST).

(L-R) Santosh Iyer, Chandra Bhushan, Prabodha Acharya and Ritesh Ghoshal
(L-R) Santosh Iyer, Chandra Bhushan, Prabodha Acharya and Ritesh Ghoshal

Bhushan initiates the conversation by saying that sustainability is not about doing good anymore but about managing risk and grabbing the opportunity in the era of climate change. He states that a marketer unaware of sustainability will not be a marketing expert and will lose his job eventually.

He starts by asking JSW’s Prabodh Acharya if sustainability is still ‘greenwashing’, “Not anymore. It is all about business risk and opportunity. The five biggest business risk identified today are environmental. Steel and sustainability are related and steel is imperative for sustainability. But it requires a lot of resources to produce steel,” he responds.

Asked about the issue of fossil fuel-based cars, Mercedes’ Iyer says, “Auto industry is usually in the news for wrong reasons. We have committed to a carbon-neutral society, and that’s a goal for 2039.”

Speaking about the initiatives at Croma, Ritesh Ghoshal says, “We stumbled about sustainability while looking at ways to create shorter replacement cycles for phones. We came to a fundamental problem that technology phases out really fast. Most responsible brands have their own e-waste management programs but lack the collection agent partner for scale. Our stores now not only sell new products but also collect old electronics.” Speaking of Mercedes, Iyer says that it is the only brand where 85 per cent of a car is recyclable and the brand’s e-vehicles are coming soon.

“But does it make economic sense?” asks Bhushan. Ghoshal replies, “We are part of a larger ecosystem. What we do is collect items from customers and our partners take from it.”

Shifting his focus to the steel industry, Bhushan maintains that there isn’t a way of producing steel without releasing carbon and asks if it is an agenda for the steel industry as a whole. Acharya responds, “For 1-ton steel, we produce 2 tons of carbon and iron is produced by releasing carbon. We are looking at reducing hydrogen usage as a major step. We also capture carbon and use it.”

Directing his question towards Ghoshal, Bhushan asks how does the company that needs to sell more curb consumption. Ghoshal explains that one cannot come in the way of consumption. “People are demanding more from technology, and a phone starts phasing out in 12 months. We have been ahead of the world in the telecom sector. Driving product consumption and utility duration is the way forward and how you recycle is important,” he adds.

Stating that there is a growing need for services, say selling mobility instead of cars, Bhushan says that there cannot be endless consumption; there is a pressing need to find ways to satisfy the need while also creating business.