How human’s dopamine craving is making the planet unsustainable?
What is dopamine and how does it work in our brain?
Our brain works by transmitting information between nerve cells. Dopamine is a chemical that is secreted between nerve cells and it acts as a neurotransmitter. Our body creates dopamine and our nerve cells use it to communicate between them. Dopamine plays a vital role in how we feel pleasure, this chemical is unique to us as human beings in how we think and take action. When our brain is expecting a reward, dopamine gets released. When we think about a particular food item, sex or an activity that we enjoy doing, dopamine gets released.
According to James Clear as mentioned in his book Atomic habits, the Dopamine cycle works on the cycle of cue, craving, response and reward. Imagine you come across your friend eating your favorite chocolate, the sight of you looking at your friend eating it and you smelling the chocolate acts as a ‘cue’. The ‘cue’ makes you crave for having the chocolate for yourself. When you are craving for the experience of having chocolate for yourself, dopamine gets released in our body. The craving for having chocolate, motivates you to take the action of asking for the chocolate or buying a new one for yourself which becomes the response and when you taste the chocolate, it becomes the reward for your response. This cycle then keeps on repeating itself. Our brain then creates a neural pathway and it continues to work in a similar fashion for any activity that you enjoy doing, any activity that gives you pleasure from exercising to seeking sexual pleasure.
Why do humans crave Dopamine?
Dopamine is mostly regarded for humans as a ‘feel-good’ hormone. It drives us to seek pleasure and reward. It plays a significant role in motor function, mood and even our decision making. Dopamine plays a significant role in the evolution of humans as a species, it plays a role in survival and keeps us motivated to do things throughout the day. Craving for dopamine is natural and it is about how we use it in a healthy way. With low dopamine levels, you will not feel motivated to do things, with sufficient levels of dopamine you’ll be motivated to get things done.
Let us consider that you want to get work done for the day, you will need the motivation to get the work done. A sufficient amount of dopamine needs to be secreted in your body that will create the craving for you to achieve it. Without dopamine secretion it’ll be difficult for you to motivate yourself to do the things you want to do. There always has to be a proper balance of the dopamine secretion to help you survive and get through everyday chores of your life.
With digital advancement and technological innovation, the human race seems to have been on the loop of infinite advancement. The world around us has changed much but we continue to still live inside the mind of our ancestors. The brain that was craving and getting dopamine through natural fruits and things available naturally is now getting exposed to a boom of dopamine everywhere it looks in the digitally advanced world. With a digital device in hand we carry a grenade that can explode with Dopamine every moment. Let us consider using social media. Everytime you get a like and look at your notifications you get a dopamine spike in your head. It just makes us make more interactions in the social media platform as we get more attention and perhaps more likes. Let it be eating the fast food in the restaurants, the moment you eat it you get a dopamine spike. It gives you a pleasurable feeling and you’d always seek more of it.
How is dopamine-related to sustainability?
Every advertisement is designed in a way to make you constantly buy more. It’s an infinite loop that you’ll get stuck to. You buy a new cloth and you’ll find something else even more interesting and you’d want to buy another new one. While the older one you bought might still be fresh perhaps you would have worn it only once or twice most of the clothes that you own. You end up having a cupboard full of clothes with most of them you’ve worn only once or twice. Take buying food, now it’s very common to deliver food to our houses. The amount of packaging it involves to get food to your table is really high. You keep ordering food everyday and a new package is being dumped onto the landfill everyday. You look at a brand new product being launched and you buy it though your old one would be functioning perfectly alright.
So what’s wrong with this way of living? Buying more and spending more only adds more transactions and helps in growing the economy. Well that’s not the case. Everything that you look around as a product that we use in our lives everyday is made of a resource taken from the earth. Let it be a plastic chair that we sit upon, the wooden table or the electronic devices we use. The earth has limited resources available for our utility. The earth’s resources are not just meant for our usage but to be shared with all the species that live along with us sharing this planet with us. Each time we buy a new product several resources of the planet are taken as raw materials to produce the product we use. It will take a sufficient amount of time for the planet to replace the resources when we take the resources at a faster rate, then it means it is highly unsustainable and we will reach a point where we can no longer use the resource as it will be replenished by the planet.
We need to change the way we utilise the resources of the planet. What we can do at an individual level is reduce the need to use natural resources from the planet. Try to use products as much as we can so we don’t have to make new ones. But the current way of how we lead our lives doesn’t work that way. We are constantly being bombarded with ads from all directions to make us buy more. These ads trigger our dopamine craving, motivating us to buy more. The more you buy, the more things that are taken from the planet. We need to stop our craving to get new things to make us feel pleasurable. This craving is what is causing us to keep getting more things leading to unsustainable ways of taking resources from the planet. The craving that’s part of our evolution which helps us to survive is being triggered by multiple ways through fancy car ads, jewellery, fast food, fast fashion clothing and what not for this matter.
Nature is slow, it is patient and it does work on it’s own pace. The craving that we get needs immediate attention so we look for immediate ways in which we can give in to the craving thus creating a human society that is looking for quick ways to satisfy the craving. The craving doesn’t stop just once it needs are satisfied, it keeps asking for more. You have a burger and you’d long for more the next time you get this craving, then get a good looking shirt for yourself the next time you find something better looking you’d want more of that as well. This loop keeps ongoing and you’d be wanting more and more.
Can we solve sustainability if we can control our dopamine?
So would we be able to solve the problem of sustainability if we solve the problem of our ancestral craving? It is quite complex to think about. We cannot stop craving, doing so would eventually only harm our existence. We have to make systematic changes that need to start from individuals, be adopted by companies and strictly enforced by the governments. Humanity as a whole should keep the planet and the ecosystem in the centre. We must perform things in such a way that we take resources from the planet and we provide the planet with the time for it to replenish its resources. We should adopt the pace of nature, it is always slow and sustained. As we can’t change how the dopamine in our brain works we can use the dopamine cycle to be positive for us and the environment. We can start rewarding ourselves with things that are sustainably produced. Instead of getting carried away by the craving for our dopamine, we could use our intelligence and act responsibly. Before we make a choice, we just have to think for a moment where it is from, how it is made and where will it go when I throw this away.
Okay, climate change is happening. What can my company do about it?
What is the problem?
Climate change is the most daunting problem that the entire human species is facing in the current decade. The effects of climate change have only been increasing day after day this year from the forest fires in Australia and Greece, Flooding in Canada and Germany, High intensity floods and cyclones in India, sea level rise sinking islands like Kiribati and the glaciers melting in record time. No place on Earth seems secured from the effects of climate change.
While we talk more about how we can mitigate the effects we need to understand and fix the cause. We no longer can go with Business as usual. We need to consider the long term sustainability of the planet. We need to change our personal and business plans to save our planet.
No form of business is secure from the effects of climate change either. Covid has taught us how fragile our businesses are and we need to adapt our businesses to the effects of climate change. We need to also solve the cause of climate change so the effects are reversed and we fix the problem.
The cause for climate change is the greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases are carbon, methane, nitrous oxide and several such gases we emit into the atmosphere. We need to stop these gases being emitted into the atmosphere or nullify them by carrying out offset projects. If we don’t do so by 2050, we might increase earth’s average temperature by 1.5 degrees and that will lead to irreversible climate change effects and many ecosystems will be broken forever .
So what can companies do?
The first step is to understand what processes in the company’s operations have a carbon emission. While most processes will have a carbon emission, it is important to quantify and measure. It is difficult to manage what we can’t measure. Once we are aware of the carbon emissions and have the number quantified, we shall then focus on how we can reduce these emissions.
The company can then set up a plan to mitigate the carbon emissions and think of making changes in their processes that’ll reduce their carbon emissions. Going sustainable isn’t a costly affair. By reducing waste the company saves cost, by optimising the processes to reduce emissions the efficiency improves and on the larger picture the company is looked upon as responsible and credible by investors, customers and competitors. We’ll look in detail at how businesses can save costs by taking climate action.
What is carbon offsetting?
Not all the carbon emissions could be reduced, we need solutions and research to transit to a zero-emission world. We could offset our emissions through ecosystem restoration projects like planting trees, restoring coral reefs, mangroves etc. We could also offset this by investing in a solution that’ll reduce carbon emissions like a solar energy plant or a wind energy farm etc. Protecting nature and the ecosystem could lead to not just taking the excess carbon from the atmosphere but also repairing the damage done by restoring the climate. The offset isn’t taken as a band-aid. The company should keep plans to reduce carbon emissions while offsets help to mitigate the carbon emissions that couldn’t be reduced.
Will my business save money by taking climate action?
Most businesses work on balance sheets, they look at the top line and the bottom line of the finance sheet. Whatever is being implemented within the company should improve the revenue of the company or reduce the cost, that’s a basis at which most companies operate. Would you believe me if I told you that Tesla makes more money by selling carbon credits than selling cars. We’ll look at some of the options that results in saving cost or generate new income by adapting sustainable solutions
1)Moving to a renewable source of energy — Though it comes with an initial investment. The amount of money it saves on energy bills is huge.
Considering a case of a manufacturing factory in Tamilnadu that decides to produce their own energy through solar to meet their demands. The company with a monthly demand of 20,000 KWh per month shall build a solar rooftop of 200 KW to meet their demand.The company pays close to 6.5 rupees per unit for their grid energy resulting in a monthly cost of 1.3 Lakh rupees which is yearly cost making upto 15.6 Lakh rupees. Building a solar plant for this capacity would result in an initial investment of 70 Lakhs with a yearly maintenance charge close to a lakh. The company also gets support from the government in form of subsidy close to 60% of the initial cost being covered through subsidy. In less than 5 years, the company could cover the investment for solar and the solar could function effectively for close to 25 years.
2)Energy efficiency — Designing an energy management system to reduce your energy bills could be the most effective way of reducing the carbon footprint and saving cost. It could be done with very little investment. The company could also sell the energy conserved as carbon credits. For example, the company saves 10000 Kwh of energy from their previous year’s consumption. The equivalent emission saved could be converted into carbon credits and the credits could be sold on the carbon markets.
3)Reducing waste — By recycling and repurposing the waste, you reduce the demand to buy new raw material. Practicing 3R,4R or 5R waste principles in the company could help in re-purposing the waste eventually reducing the demand for buying raw materials
4)Offset projects — Planting fruit trees to offset your carbon emissions could result in your making profits in the long run by selling the fruits of those trees.
For example, Reliance during the year 1997 had planted mango trees in Jamnagar to offset the pollution it was causing. The mangoes produced from the area were exported and Reliance is currently one of the biggest exporters of Mango in India. Several NGOs in India are helping companies to carry out offset projects similarly in rural villages helping farmers with a source of revenue.
What if we go about our business as usual?
Several ecosystems are facing tipping points because we’ve been going with business as usual taking no action for the past few decades. The planet is already drowning and it’s no longer a matter of living but a matter of survival for our species on earth. We are the cause and we should take responsibility for the damage we’ve done. Every ton of carbon emission put into the atmosphere has a social cost of $86 in India and $50 in the US. For India, this will mean close to $210 billion dollars loss in the economy every year for the carbon emissions that the country emits. Sustainable development putting profit, planet and people should become the core focus of growth for companies if we intend to live on this earth. It has to be done today with urgency else we’ll have let the damage be done and we could hardly repair the damage in the future.
Does your company have a climate adaptation plan?
Covid exposed how fragile most business systems and processes are. If we can take one lesson from the Covid is that we need to make our processes antifragile, be prepared for what could be coming in the near future. It is evident that climate change is already affecting all businesses at different levels. The effects of climate change are only going to be increasing in the upcoming decades, the demand for raw materials is going to increase leading to an increase in the cost of procurement.
Key takeaways from this article:
1)No place on planet is safe from climate change
2)Businesses play huge role in saving the planet
3)Know your company’s carbon and environmental footprint
4)Find ways to reduce your carbon emissions and offset through ecosystem restoration projects
5)Taking climate action has huge potential in saving cost and generating new ways of revenue
6)Make a climate adaptation plan to sustain and protect your business from climate change
What livabl does?
We at Livabl help companies to reduce and offset their carbon emissions making them become climate neutral. Get in touch with us to know how you can make your company climate neutral.
Why can’t the human mind comprehend climate change?
Human life is all about survival ?
As humans have evolved over the years, we’ve adapted well to the environment around us. We see humans live in the coldest regions of the planet and we see humans live in the hottest places of the planet as well. Human life is all about survival. You survive first, protect your life, everything else comes next. And we’d do anything under the sun to survive. When you are in survival mode, you hardly think about what is next or what is in the near future. All you are focussed upon is this moment to be alive now. Our brain is reactive. It reacts and responds to the environment around, adapts according to the environment because that is the best way to survive.
Using our abilities to survive
Fire protected us from animals and cold weather. We then learnt to use the natural environment around us to help our survival. We learnt to make structures out of wood and live inside them. We build tools and materials to help us with hunting, transport and making life easier with our creativity to use things around us. Our lives have always been designed based on the environment around us, we just learnt to adapt with them like any other animal. Innovation has been part of human survival on this planet and in the current age innovation is digital technology has advanced much and we are able to do unimaginable things beyond human ability like flying in the sky, going deep into the oceans, extracting water and minerals from thousands of feet under the ground. We have developed our creativity and skill so much but our physical evolution and the environment around us is still like how it was centuries back. The human being who was dependent on the environment to survive is finding it impossible to believe that he can alter the environment because of his abilities and large scale of resource extraction across the entire planet.
Energy to sustain life , humans learn to live beyond survival
All energy to earth comes from the sun. The plants and animals when they die completely decay and go into the atmosphere in different forms. The plants and animals that don’t decay or partially decay go under the ground which stays there and becomes fossils because of the pressure from the soil. We found a way to extract these fossils and get energy out of them. This energy we extract from them is in the form of oil which is basically the petrol, diesel and various forms of fuel we use to run life on earth. There is a problem with this. All species on earth are living or surviving according to the atmosphere of the region they live in. They have evolved over centuries to become the life form that they are now to become the species that they are now. When we pump this excess energy that we obtain from underground, this becomes excess energy leading to an imbalance of energy in earth’s atmosphere. This imbalance of energy alters earth’s atmosphere leading to changes in the climate which we term as ‘Climate change’. Climate change has effects like melting of glaciers, sea level rise, drought in places close to the equator, increase in cyclones etc.
Why a normal human being finds hard to perceive climate change ?
To a modern human being who is living in Africa in the hot weather, who is short of food and water will want to find food and water because only then can he survive his life. He will think only about his survival, it is difficult for him to interpret how someone in another part of the world causing carbon emissions is leading to drought in his region. For an American or an European who is living a comfortable life when he goes to a supermarket he can find same food items throughout the year irrespective of the seasons and who could find clean water just by opening a tap would be least bothered about how his actions cause carbon emissions or how it is affecting the planet. For him, he is just living a life that he wants and makes best use of the environment around him. It will be difficult for him to understand how his lavish lifestyle is causing a cyclone in Asia because of the carbon emissions that he produces in the Northern hemisphere. The impacts of climate change is difficult to perceive for a normal human being who is focussed fulfilling his needs and building a life for himself and his family on this planet
Climate change is not immediate.
Also that climate change isn’t an immediate effect. It takes time, years and decades for a slight degree change and the effects to be felt. Though it is a burning problem it is not an immediate problem to solve for most individuals. The current world is built on quick wins, immediate need fulfillment and distracting things which take away our attention in seconds. Because we don’t feel the effects right away we also don’t care to take action about it right away. We feel we have time or we find it difficult to change our lifestyle that would require long-term sustained efforts to lead a sustainable life on earth. Most humans just do not focus on it.
What we can do about it?
Seeing, hearing about the effects of climate change like burning of forest, glaciers melting, sea level rise or flooding is different to experiencing it in real life. We find it difficult to empathise with animals in the middle of a burning forest because we just see it on news or comfortably sitting in an AC room and viewing it on our social media. Standing in the middle of a burning forest and running for life to protect yourself and your family will give a real experience of climate change. For someone who can buy any food he wants in the supermarket across the street will find it difficult to empathise with someone living in Kiribati whose home sank to sea level or someone dying of no water because of drought and heat waves. Until an individual experiences the effects of climate change in real life, everything he sees or hears is going to be like a movie. Not everyone is going to feel inspired to take action feeling effects like a movie and they continue to lead their lives like they used to.
We don’t have time for people to feel the effects of climate change in real life and then take action. The planet is already sinking and we need immediate action. Art can play a huge role in communicating this to humans. Art in different forms, painting, stories, documentary movies, AR and VR with realistic depiction of climate change effects could help in making individuals aware of the effects of climate change and how the ecosystems are degraded by our everyday actions. This will not solve the problem but could help us with spreading awareness and inspire people to take action. This could be the first step.
How to make individuals comprehend climate change ?
-Numbers , numbers and numbers. Numbers of the past, present and future and how it will affect us. After all, numbers don’t lie.
-Compelling stories. Our human life is all about stories. Telling heart-touching emotional real-life stories can move individuals to take climate action
-Art in form of painting, digital art and graphic designs could help people picturise the effects and convey effective ways to handle the crisis
-Movies and documentaries on real effects of climate change. This could transcend language to deliver the real scenario of our current climate situation.
If we need to solve this crisis, we’ll need a combined effort of scientists, story tellers, song-writers, movie makers, painters, orators, digital designers, AR & VR developers to communicate and inspire people to take climate action.
If Fox News were your main source of information on climate change, you would believe that sustainability is the antithesis of industrial and economic development. Intuitively, this makes sense — capitalism is the process of top-down consolidation of controls and systems of business development to extract maximum value out of a business idea, whereas the word sustainability evokes a sense of restriction. Between environmental regulations and the cost, logistics, and payoff (or lack thereof in revenue) of offsetting, incorporating sustainability into your company’s business plan seems like a burden. Yet, there can be no smoke without fire — if sustainability sciences, technology, and consulting are growing at the rapid pace they are, surely there must be a reason why many entrepreneurs and market leaders are focussing on making their businesses ‘sustainable’. But before we look into how there is a good business case for sustainability, especially for MSMEs, we need to ask the basic question, “What is sustainability?”
While many interpretations exist on what the term and its many auxiliaries mean, and some of these are contradictory. In many layman’s versions, environmental protectionism is the first thing that comes to mind. Immediately, many negative connotations are associated with it, including energy audits, environmental impact analyses, and carbon footprints which can on the surface seem like a financial burden that further requires investment and disruptions to operations and logistics. These views, while valid, miss the big picture — for there are great opportunities in production, energy, operations, branding, and marketing to increase revenue.
Reflecting this, the United Nations (UN) itself defines sustainability through the lens of three P’s — Planet, People, and Profit. Sustainability is not just seen as a set of measures to reduce the impact we have on our ecology, but as striving towards a self-sustaining system of interactions between social groups, the environment, and economic concerns. The goal is to optimally extract economic resources, information, and energy value from the system while reducing the magnitude of the consequences of this pursuit. This is further reflected in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which promote a focus on improving specific indicators of both social and environmental development and spreading the economic benefits of enterprise across the population in a way that does not affect the right or ability to gain economically. In fact, only Goals 11 to 15 relate to the environment; Goals 1 to 10 are socioeconomically oriented. While admittedly, Goals 11 to 13 are the ones that are in the sphere of businesses and industries.
Since it is unfair to expect action without incentive, we now turn to discuss the various methods through which a strong sustainability action plan can create opportunities. While there is no one-shoe-fits-all recipe, there are still quite a few avenues to leverage sustainability measures by businesses to increase revenue.
How are emissions calculated?
While there are many ways through which emissions can be calculated, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol is the most prevalent, internationally agreed framework with standardized methodologies and tools for companies, cities, and countries to calculate and keep track of their progress with respect to their emissions goals. The GHG Protocol’s Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard  provides requirements and guidance to companies for developing inventories of the seven GHGs mentioned in the Kyoto Protocol. There are standardized tools devised by the office of the Protocol for companies, including cross-sectors, country-specific, and sector-specific tools, and tools for cities and countries as well. The main carbon emission accounting is done through the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting . It is a comprehensive tool that does not depend on the policy landscape of the region the company is in and contains the various rules and guidelines through which reductions in GHG emissions can be calculated. Both the Standard and the Project protocol, and their respective tools, are currently used by corporates, NGOs, universities, and government agencies to provide quantitative analytical insight into reducing GHG emissions and improving sustainability.
Carbon credits are a system that gives companies credits for saving on carbon emissions. By reducing 1 ton of CO2 emissions (tCO2) from business activities or by taking up carbon offsetting, the company receives 1 credit. GHG emissions are measured in ton-equivalents, as there are seven classes of GHGs, which have the capacity to trap different amounts of heat. For instance, methane has 84 times the heat capture ability of CO2, and hence, 1 ton of methane released is the equivalent of 84 tons of CO2 released.
Carbon offsetting can be done by afforestation, energy reduction, carbon capture technology, protection/restoration of blue carbon sinks, renewable energy, and electric mobility. These credits are not only a certification of sustainability but are tradable like commodities to companies that require carbon credits. By trading carbon credits through compliance-based or voluntary markets, overall carbon emission can be reduced by the potential of the credit as a carbon commodity of sorts. This can lead to additional sources of revenue. Like many commodities, its value declines over time, and therefore, companies must innovate to reduce CO2 emissions.
Before trading, a company has to meet certain certification standards, such as the Gold Standard  (co-established by WWF), Verified Carbon Standard (most used in voluntary markets), and the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance Standard, among others. These certifications lend trading credibility to projects and businesses. Such certifications also include an estimate of the amount of CO2 saved, and depending on the category of savings (i.e., through energy savings, renewable energy, or carbon capture), are assigned a certain value of credits. These credits, under Indian law, are treated as commodities, which can be traded.
While the current demand for carbon credits is nascent and in surplus, with more makers of credits than purchasers. This is reflected in the pricing of the credits being around $8-$15/tCO2 , which needs to improve to obtain significant investments for green projects. By August 2021, the market value of just voluntary markets is around $750M USD in revenue for around 240 million credits. This is a 58% year-to-date growth in revenue with a 27% credit volume increase. With revenue projected to grow faster than credit volume, McKinsey & Co. , the University College of London, and other forecasters expect demand to skyrocket, with the surplus expected to be depleted very soon, given that many large companies are looking to become net carbon neutral to around $50/tCO2.
Even small steps, in cases of scale, can help generate high quantities of credits. For example, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation became the world’s first railway project to start generating carbon credits, through regenerative braking technology, which stores the energy lost during braking. This reduced upto 30% of electricity consumption, leading to 400,000 certified emissions reduction (CER) units from 2008–2018 . This roughly lead to around Rs. 1.2 Crores per year in revenue just from the regenerative braking system.
Another stunning example of how an industry we see as not so planet-positive can also quickly help generate carbon credits, is that of mid-sized refrigerants company Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd. (GFL), which had way back in 2006 sold carbon credits worth Rs. 1,000 Crores to Noble Carbon Credits over 3 years . In the first year, GFL earned Rs. 350 Crores, almost two times its then revenue of Rs. 182 Crores and 3.5 times its then profits. GFL reportedly saved around 6 million tons of CO2 annually through various technologies.
What’s even better is that carbon trade can be independent of a corporate structure. For instance, a group of Gond tribals producing pongai or karanj oil from the seeds of Pongamia pinnata to power generators to electrify their village (Chalpadi in Adilabad district, now Telangana) exported carbon credits to a German environmental group, 500ppm all the way back in 2003 . The system is quite unique — to ensure power supply, each family had to provide 1 Kg of Pongamia seeds. This ensured that some 20,000 Pongamia saplings were planted, thereby saving around 900 tons of CO2 emissions from 140,000 Kg of oil they produced. They were then able to sell the 900 credits generated — ten years worth of carbon reductions — to 500ppm at $4,200. This strategy of planting Pongamia seeds has also become a way out of poverty for many in Chalpadi. A similar strategy was touted in the Handia Forest Range in Madhya Pradesh, through which villagers could earn upto $3,000 per year by restoring around 10,000 hectares of community forest land .
This trend is picking up in India, due to the low cost of reducing carbon emissions in the country. EnKing International, a leading carbon credit developer and supplier, became the world’s first carbon markets company to file for an IPO in November 2020, with them making over Rs. 100 Crores ($13.4M) from carbon trade .
There is a case to be made for being early on this bandwagon — unlike NFTs and even cryptocurrency, the technology and systems improvement required cannot be executed overnight. This means that to be ready to reap the rewards of the increasing prices, companies need to begin planning for this as soon as possible. Since this is an industry where newer technology for carbon reduction, avoidance, destruction, and capture, is proliferating rapidly, ‘technology-chasing’ could indeed lead to higher credit production. While the extent depends on whether the carbon credits produced will outweigh the costs of the installation of new technology and systems, there does seem to be significant scope for afforestation, renewable energy, and non-logistical electric mobility.
Brand Equity and Marketing
Of course, if one is looking to go green, it is sensible to market oneself as green. There are four categories of green marketing strategies, depending on the extent of sustainability and differentiability of ‘green-ness’ — viz., Lean green (intend to be good citizens and do not advertise their green actions), Defensive green (reactive measures to either mitigate a crisis or actions of competitors), Shaded green (taking green measures to improve sustainability and competitiveness, while green-ness is not an objective, but a choice/secondary factor), and Extreme green (green-ness is an essential or central part of philosophy of production and business) . It is important to understand where your company lies in this matrix, to tailor how much you market your green-ness. Of course, this has significantly to do with how early the company decides to focus on sustainability, the scale of improvements it can make towards sustainability, and the sector in which the company is.
It is important to know how ‘green’ the company, product, or service looks to people — as this can depend on public perception, market surveys can help understand how to rebrand/improve branding. Nudges such as logos indicating green-ness, colour scheme choices, and most importantly, certifications from veritable sources, can go a long way in building trust with consumers of the company’s sustainable intentions . Yet, it is important to understand where the line between green marketing and greenwashing (the use of green marketing to misrepresent, mislead, or provide false information on product/service sustainability) lies. Among the most important ways through which sustainability and its marketing can be improved are by rejecting planned obsolescence, fast fashion, and unsustainable packaging. Thus, it lies on marketers, who can be seen as cultural influencers, to push planet positive messaging through to the public.
Being more sustainable can also attract a larger customer base. By exploring niches such as veganism, plant-based products, organic products, biodegradable packaging and clothing, recycled products, and the like, the brand can not only continue to draw in its main target groups, but also new, sustainability-conscious groups. This is especially true of today’s youth, who prefer eco-positive consumer brands in an effort to reduce their own footprints. Moreover, rebranding to more luxurious equity can help even cover for reduced production volumes by commanding higher prices. With the cost of process and supply chain innovations to reduce GHGs and environmental degradation being quite low in India it is much easier to instigate change across brands and sectors in the country .
The finance sector plays a large role in incentivizing sustainable development. By providing capital to businesses and activities that reduce impacts on the environment and society, financial institutions (especially ones aligned with the Paris Climate Accord) are increasingly encouraging businesses to better manage their carbon emissions, among other factors and indicators. By being transparent, i.e., reporting social and environmental risks on a timely basis, and showing willingness towards incorporating sustainability into the decision-making process, companies can take advantage of funding from a variety of banks, financial institutions, and collaborative initiatives. Some examples of prominent collaborative initiatives include the Net Zero Banking Alliance, the Principles for Responsible Investment, and the Principles for Responsible Banking, which include many well-known banks and financial institutions across the world.
This is also where sustainability advice from a consultancy can help — by collecting and analyzing data on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), audits can help chart a sustainable roadmap for all kinds of key activities including procurement, production, operations, logistics, marketing, and management. When further backed with the certifications mentioned above, there is an added level of credibility to the businesses’ sustainability efforts. By sharing this data and roadmap with financial institutions, businesses can therefore obtain financial products, such as conditional loans, grants, and Sustainable Bonds, specifically Green Bonds, which also come with tax incentives and a similar credit rating to that of other debt obligations . These come under the umbrella term of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issuances.
Green Bonds are a financing option that works like loans for environmental companies or projects to raise money for environmentally-friendly projects in exchange for a pre-decided interest rate. This is available for companies that have had their IPOs and are listed on stock exchanges . Green Bonds can be broadly categorized into organization-backed bonds, asset-backed bonds, or hybrid/dual-recourse bonds. There are many types of bonds under these, including ‘Use of Proceeds’ bonds/revenue bonds to finance/refinance of green projects, Project Bonds, Covered Bonds, Securitization Bonds, and Loans, the lattermost of which can be secured against assets . For more information on how each bond works, do refer to the references section. While ESG bonds are more expensive from the issuer’s perspective, due to the the need for external reviews, regular reporting, and impact assessment, the benefits include visibility of green assets, positive (green) marketing benefits, and the diversification of the investor base (especially for companies not conventionally identified with sustainability) . In India, rules for green bond issuance were outlined by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in the Disclosure Requirements for Issuance and Listing of Green Debt Securities circular in 2017 .
Ever since the first one was issued in India in 2015, Green Bonds have shown tremendous growth in India, with upwards of $16B being issued by companies . 94% of these bonds were issued by non-financial corporates, showing that value creation companies can equally partake in the issuance of green bonds. With India looking to be carbon neutral by 2070, it is estimated that the country must invest over $10T (yes, trillion) by then .
A prominent example is one issued by the Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam (Rs. 150 crores for 10 years at 8.1% interest in the Bombay Stock Exchange) to build a tertiary sewage treatment plant [20, 21]. Another example is from JSW Hydro Energy Ltd. ($707M for 10 years at 4.125% at the Singapore Exchange) to repay the debt on two hydro projects — a 1,000 MW project on the Sutlej river, and a 300 MW project on the Baspa river in Himachal Pradesh. The State Bank of India also issued such a bond ($650M for 5 years at 4.5% at India INX, Luxembourg Stock Exchange) to support renewable energy, pollution control, and sustainable transportation projects and transactions and create a ‘green corridor’ with Luxembourg. While these examples refer to large companies and multinationals, there are numerous examples of small start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) issuing green bonds to raise capital and satisfy Corporate Socal Responsibility (CSR) . This can be posted on other exchanges across the world as well. With many countries in the EU allowing green ‘mini’ bonds for even unlisted SMEs, which can increase SMEs’ access to credit and finance .
The Big Picture
Amsterdam, where I currently work, is often called the birthplace of capitalism. The first ‘modern’ securities market in the world began here in 1602, where people shared the risks of long-distance maritime trade through stock ownership and bond dealing. This led to speculation about the future of the commodities being traded there, thereby laying emphasis on longer-term financial planning, for both investors and businesses. The historical basis of capitalism, thus, comes from the ability to subvert short-term financial performance for risk mitigation, long-term growth, and for bigger, more internationalized opportunities. This thought process is exactly what sustainability consulting promotes, as the subversion of immediate, often unsustainable profits to follow a transparent, well-planned sustainability roadmap can lead to sustained growth in funding and revenue through innovative new platforms of trade — especially of carbon as a commodity.
Carbon as a commodity can reshape the landscape of India’s equation with sustainability. Many across the world believe that India is the best-placed country to take advantage of the carbon credits system, and the country has already started proving it. With ample opportunity for offsetting and for environmental projects, especially in rural areas, this can not only help companies gain an extra, often large revenue source in exchange for environmental consciousness, but it can also bring many rural Indians with little formal financial education into the international carbon business. This presents an opportunity for companies and rural collectives to cooperate, to not only generate carbon credits through project funding and CSR, but to also improve the lives of people with much lower incomes than urban professionals and entrepreneurs. Carbon credits can, indeed, be a bridge that brings the benefits of capitalism to rural areas, while also taking measures to save the environment in a systematic, internationally recognized manner.
With green bonds and other ESG issuances becoming quite popular, climate finance is proving to reshape the investment climate in India. As debt securities with good long-term returns, green bonds are a solid investment opportunity that not only often pays higher than inflation rates in many developing and developed countries but can help lock down money towards financing sustainable projects, thereby limiting inflation if done so over a large scale. During WWI and WWII, war bonds were sold by the United States and many allied nations to raise money for a national cause. Today, we face an international cause — one which we are already seeing the effects of — in the form of climate change and environmental degradation. Hopefully, green bonds get the impetus they require to direct investments towards protecting our planet.
There are some challenges to overcome in the field, as there is no consensus on what a ‘green’ project or business looks like. Yet, while this flexibility allows certain leeway and leads to a lack of standardization, it also paves an opportunity to pursue case-specific financial products. The success of this is regional, depending on the market environment, the strength of regulatory frameworks, and demand from businesses and end-users.
Why our food choices have a direct impact on the environment?
Most of us have had a happy relationship with food, growing up in an environment where you are unintentionally surrounded by a lot of dairy products such as milk, butter, cakes, pastries.
As a child you don’t realize where your food actually comes from or how it travels through the supply chain to reach your plate.
There are several documentaries that one can watch that show a true depiction of the animal agriculture and livestock production industry. To list a few are : Seaspiracy, The Game Changers, What the health, Cowspiracy. TW: It can be absolutely traumatizing and graphic to watch the inhumane conditions of breeding animals and keeping them in conditions no one should have to live, providing them with corn feed and artificial lighting to increase production and ensuring they are reared only to be slaughtered.
Coming from an Indian background where milk is glorified and Milk products like butter, ghee have been symbolic to Hindu Gods, it is hard to see otherwise.
Many people are actually lactose intolerant, which means they do not have the enzyme (lactase) present in their body to digest milk properly, which also makes it even more relevant to question if we must consume dairy at all?
Cows are a significant problem for our environment. It’s not their fault, of course, it’s all because humans have bred so many of them. They are one of the leading contributors to agricultural emissions, which drive climate breakdown. Cows eat many more calories in food than are returned in their milk, making them an inefficient way to feed a growing global population. They are also key polluters of waterways. In 2019, The Delhi Pollution Control Committee closed down 31 dairy farms in the city for causing water pollution, while citing 2,700 more (1).
Eating meat can cause upto 80 times more emissions than vegetables and is also highly resource intensive. The water footprint can be upto 26.3 times higher than vegetables.
“There have been a lot of negative connotations attached with the word “vegan” and many are thus making the shift to using the terminology” — Plant Based.
In fact, a study published in New Scientist magazine shows that each person can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that his or her diet contributes to climate change by up to 60 per cent — just by going vegan.
The distance your food has traveled to reach your plate is called food miles, this also has a direct impact on the amount of emissions. Greater the food mile, greater the use of fossil fuel used to bring your food to the supermarket.
Not getting into the fad of buying exotic ingredients and instead opting to eat more seasonal and local food can not just be pocket friendly but also be very good for the environment.
How can we make the shift?
Bringing about a shift takes time and is not something that can be achieved overnight.
One should always keep in mind that each individual is different and has different nutritional requirements. Hence always consulting a nutritionist to guide you in the process is advisable.
Identify and list reasons as to what is stopping you from making the shift,
For many it may be a stigma attached to the fact that Plant based can not be tasty, while others may question on How will they get enough protein?
To answer this, there are also substitutes available in the market in the form of plant based meat and dairy that imitate the taste and texture of meat without harming anyone in the process.
These alternatives have grown immensely in the last few years with constant innovative products being added to the list.
Make small changes to your diet
Start by stepping down from eating meat 7 days a week to maybe eating meat 4 days a week.
Just by cutting down goat meat consumption one meal per day you can save upto 540 Kg of Co2 from being let out into the atmosphere in a month. Imagine the larger scale impact this could have on your total carbon footprint.
Encourage peers to start on this journey with you to help you ease the process, the next time you identify a restaurant, hit that vegetarian/vegan friend up and get good recommendations to dine at, any maybe this time that friend wouldn’t have to eat from home and come!
Apart from this there is a dire need of action to be taken at a policy level so as to deal with the consequences of climate change. Increased awareness and holding companies accountable for their pollution is very important. We need to start asking questions and educating ourselves so that the future generation can also witness the wonders of nature that we were privileged to see.
More on the Blog soon. Follow us on Instagram @Livabl_planet for easy tips you can follow to become climate conscious.
Written by Muskan Agarwal Follow her on @tiffintrails on Instagram.
Humans know the effects of climate change — Why do we still do nothing about it?
Animals are dying, glaciers are melting, people in poor countries are suffering without access to food and water because of drought. I understand the effects and consequences of climate change. “What’s in it for me to solve it immediately? Why would I bother while my life is all well ?” This is the myopic, self-centered, incognizant vision with which most of the individuals are leading their lives on this planet.
It takes a different level of consciousness and awareness to care for the environment. It is important that individuals grow with that consciousness from a young age else it’ll be difficult to bring about that change within oneself. We’ve known about climate change for nearly 40 years and we are still at the same level when it comes to solving the problem. Actually we are causing more problems than 4 decades back though new technologies and innovative solutions have been developed which has also made taking action easier right now. The sense why it is difficult for individuals to take climate action could be explained through the Maslov’s law of the hierarchy of needs.
This was first proposed by a psychologist called Abraham Maslov during the 1940s. According to him, human needs could be distinguished into five different categories as described in the picture below,
The basic needs of life are given by the physiological and safety needs without which our life on this planet itself is under threat. Without proper food and water, you cannot function as an individual and you’ll strive to attain it. That will be your major priority. Then you’d need safe shelter and a protected environment to live. You’d strive to attain it. When these basic needs of an individual are not met, he/she will not be able to think beyond any of this because this is about their survival. These are survival needs
Then comes the emotional needs, humans are emotional beings. Most humans are driven by emotions. The need to feel loved, being with your friends and family. Having a safe space to share our emotions. We feel a need for our feelings to be valued, understood and shared.
Then comes the esteem needs. The needs that satisfy our ego. Feeling a sense of confidence, a sense of achievement when we accomplish things, feeling proud, taking pride in things we have done. We feel a need to boost our self-identity and ego.
Once an individual is able to accomplish and satisfy these needs. He is able to attain the state of fulfilling his/her true potential. At this stage, he/she might want to make a difference to others around them, help people, donate to good causes etc. These are self-fulfillment needs as termed by Maslow.
Humans have designed an artificial world around the natural environment of the planet with bridges, machines, vehicles, and fast communication through the internet. And most humans try to fit into this world because that is the world that they are born into and the world around them prepares them to live within this construct. The human being who grows in this construct thinks about taking care of the environment only when he is at the stage of self-fulfillment as mentioned earlier. Only after an individual is able to fulfill his physiological, safety , emotional and esteem needs does he think about the environment around him and how he can be of positive impact to the environment.
If we look at the data, we have very few people amongst the entire human population on this planet who have the privilege to care for nature. Yes, it becomes a privilege though that has to be the basic need for human existence on this planet. If we look at some facts for that matter,
-1 in 3 people in the world don’t have access to clean water (physiological need)
-1 in 4 people in the world doesn’t have access to clean and healthy food (physiological need)
-9 out 10 people breathe polluted air (physiological need)
-1 out of 10 in the world people are under depression (Emotional need)
When the majority of the population is living with unfulfilled needs. It is going to be difficult for the majority of the global population to care for nature or some random animal dying in some random corner of the world. They will find it difficult to understand how it will affect them as all they are focussed upon is immediate survival.
In order to take concrete action for climate mitigation we will need to ensure that the majority of the population is above the level of fulfilling their esteem needs. Only then individuals will be at a state where they can think about making a positive difference to the planet and other species that live on it.
How do we solve this ? We need to develop human livelihood if we need to protect the planet. We need to make people meet the basic needs of life. That is where the concept of sustainable development is significant for the future of the planet. No doubt our entire species is at the tipping point of its existence given the way climate change effects are accelerating day to day. Brooding about the past or getting anxious about the future is getting us nowhere. We need concrete action and it has to be immediate. If all governments can focus on sustainable development and companies ensure that they keep people, planet and profit at the center and not just focus on the profits we have the direction to lead into.
A bottom up approach of developing people’s livelihoods from the grassroot level through sustainable development projects could be one of the approaches we can look at. These sustainable development projects could be funded by philanthropists or large corporations who want to balance out their emissions by funding projects that reduce the equivalent amount of emissions being put into the atmosphere.
Let’s take for example, a forest restoration project. It acts as a nature-based climate solution which absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Such a project could also help in creating local jobs in forest management and conserve vital ecosystems while also protecting local biodiversity.
For each ton of Carbon emission take by this project it results in an economic value of,
$ 150 — Afforestation and decrease in deforestation
$ 27 — Jobs on agroforestry to help the local communities
$ 65 — The social cost saved by removing one ton of CO2 from the atmosphere 
This project creates an overall value of $242 economically which also ensures that the environment is restored and provides fair wage jobs to the local communities. Multiple such ecosystem restoration projects could be carried out which combats climate change while also ensuring sustainable growth in the economy and people welfare.
To know more about how organizations can lead the way promoting sustainable development, do read our previous blogs and follow us.
How did the last food delivery you made lead to drought in the summer?
Time has become a commodity in the modern urban lifestyle. As the cliche statement goes ,’ ‘everyone on the planet has the same number of hours in a time’, you cannot buy time from someone else but you can save time by paying someone else to do your tasks/work and in that way time has become important in the modern urban lifestyle. This has led to a huge behavioral shift in the way humans run their lives and with the aid of technology many startups have been able to tap into this and build categories in the market and multi-dollar businesses out of this. They have changed human lives for good but is it really good for the planet and the environment we live in is something we’ll look into in this blog. One such behavioral shift is the fast food delivery culture and its environmental damage on an everyday basis which we are unaware of.
You are laid back, want to order food through an online delivery, and scroll through the app looking at different restaurants. You pick your favorite one, you order food and maybe get a discount offer. 30 minutes in and the food has arrived at your house. You have the food and throw away the packets in the trash can. It’s a simple thing, you have the pleasure of having your favorite food without the hustle of running around the streets. You may wonder how this affects the environment and how this contributes to climate change? There are multiple areas and we’ll dive into each of them.
Firstly, let’s talk about the different types of packaging.
Food comes in 3 types of packaging : Primary — commonly referred to as consumer or retail packaging, is the box that is in direct contact with the product. For eg, when you buy a cereal box — the aluminum bag that the cereal is in direct contact with makes the primary packaging.
Secondary — This is the second layer of packaging that entails the packed food product, mostly consumer facing. For eg, the same outer cardboard covering of the cereal box makes the secondary packaging.
Tertiary — The third layer of packaging used to protect the secondary packaging. Mostly used for shipment purposes. For example, 10 cereal boxes may arrive at a supermarket inside a bigger cardboard box.
Do we really need so much packaging?
When you order food from a restaurant, you may notice excessive use of packaging such as my idli comes in a foil box, covered with a paper bag, inside a polythene cover.
The purpose of packaging primarily is for storage and protection, hence sometimes for door delivery a lot of packaging can go unused.
Roughly a package of food delivery has an average of 0.15–0.29 KgeCO2. This is the amount of carbon footprint produced in order to produce the packaging material. The amount of packaging that goes into landfills due to home-delivered meals is close to 22,000 tonnes per month in India. Every meal that we order takes a few hours from the moment of preparation to consumption and discarding the waste. The waste discarded stays in the ground for years.
Delivery & Transport: The delivery person moves in two-wheelers to deliver the food. The distance varies based on the orders and there is no fixed distance as such but the delivery companies optimize it in such a way that the delivery person closest picks the order and delivers. For every km, the delivery person travels he releases carbon emissions. Given the traffic and signals, the longer he stays the more the emissions. An average fossil fuel-based two-wheeler emits close to 0.103 KgeCO2/Km. Travelling 10 km means 1 kg of CO2 emitted.
Disposal of waste: When the packaging waste is not biodegradable or when it ends in your trash can and goes into the public bin that is not recycled then it eventually ends up in the landfill. Waste ending up in landfills not only harms the ecosystem of land and water of the area in which the landfill is present but also emits greenhouse gasses.
Environmental damage in numbers (In India):
Average food delivery in India is between 4–6 kms. Per day India has 20 lakhs food delivery orders. The average carbon footprint is close to 1030 tons of CO2 emissions per day. Per year it is close to 3,75,950 tons of CO2 which is equivalent to the amount of carbon 49,000 trees would take up per day in order to offset this.
In a year we will need approximately close to 1,78,85,000 trees to offset these emissions.
(Note: We have only calculated the delivery carbon footprint. We haven’t taken into account the carbon footprint of packaging and the disposal of packaging)
What could we do about it?
-Restaurants should opt for alternative eco-friendly packaging options. Consumers must be conscious of their choices and be aware of the damage each of their food delivery order does to the environment
-We shall go back to our roots of using leaves as packaging materials. Using palm, banana, lotus leaves for packaging food is a sustainable option
-Using dabbas(containers made out of metal) for delivery could be the ideal solution if food delivery companies could find a way to do it. That will significantly reduce the amount of plastic involved in packaging
So, the next time you see an option to check — send cutlery with order, make sure to uncheck the box before placing your order.
Some companies are trying to change this by offering solutions such as reusable packaging at the time of delivery. One such interesting example to look at is Swiggy Instamart
They launched free-of-cost, reusable bags that are sturdy, maintain product privacy and have quirky designs and creatives for delivering their Swiggy Instamart orders. Customers have spotted them being used for all sorts of purposes including travel, gifting and as the bazaar shopping bags. They managed to bag love from many customers. This is live across 19 cities today.
The next time you have an Instamart delivery you can return your extra bags through the Swiggy delivery executive.
Once you return the bag, the Swiggy delivery executive will bring it to the Instamart store the next time they are there for an order. After a quality inspection, the bags will be Sanitized, Product Refurbished and then Actively used for future orders. Delivery executives can also make an extra earning
Swiggy will also incentivize all delivery executives who bring the bags, helping them contribute meaningfully and also be rewarded with extra earnings. Think of it as a way for you to tip them for bringing you your orders.
“Vikram, a Swiggy Instamart customer from Gurugram holds the record for returning the maximum bags. 300 to be precise. Calling all the Vikrams out there to declutter, return and help us reuse!”
Companies like Zomato also claim to offset their delivery carbon footprint which is step in the forward direction.
More transparency and awareness would be welcomed from the companies to ensure they take responsibility for their action and educate their customers about positive behaviors in the right direction.
Taking action at multiple levels and their potential impact: (Janairo, 2022)
Individual Level Potential Impact: Low Timeline: Immediate Action: –Choose restaurants within the vicinity and bring own containers for takeout -Taking into consideration the type of packaging material the restaurants in selecting in which food establishment to order from
Restaurant Level Potential Impact: Low Timeline: Short-term Action: -Increase the options for takeout containers and packaging to include sustainable materials.
Online Delivery system level Potential Impact: High Timeline: Short-term Action: -Provide incentives for restaurants that utilize sustainable packaging materials. -Negotiate with manufacturers of sustainable packaging materials on behalf of restaurants within their network, which may drastically decrease the procurement cost of sustainable packaging materials. -Devise innovative operational framework that will lead to the circular use of food containers within their restaurant network.
Government level Potential Impact: High Timeline: Long-term Action: -Infrastructure investment for recycling facilities -Review the relevance and ability of existing laws to respond to the dynamic nature of plastic waste management -Education and information campaigns on proper plastic use and disposal
So how is this related to drought during summers?
Our planet is at a tipping point. Our earth’s average temperature has increased by 1.1 degrees and with no reduction in the CO2 emissions we are only increasing the global temperatures. According to the latest IPCC report, an increase to 2 degree celsius in earth’s average temperature would mean 1 in 9 people on the people don’t have food and tropical countries like India might face huge food scarcity as crop production drops significantly. Every order you make contributes to climate change in the form of carbon emissions.
As we step into the new normal in the post-covid world, behavioral consciousness is key in tackling climate change. New age startups and technology must re-define human behavior and should aid in changing people behavior such that we don’t damage the environment any further but also restore the damage we have done.