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Let the sunshine in

With solar rooftops and reduced consumption, Capgemini’s Bangalore and Hyderabad campuses in India are exporting surplus renewable energy back to the state electricity grid.

“Our goal is to get all our Capgemini campuses in India to use resources more efficiently and responsibly,” says Viswanathan R, Capgemini’s Senior Director of Engineering Services, Corporate Real Estate Services in India. That might seem like a major undertaking, but the real ambition is to become ‘net zero’– where all the activities of the company result in no net impact on the climate from greenhouse gas emissions.

“We look at everything holistically, whether it’s energy, water or waste,” he says. “How do we use them? How do we treat them? How do we reduce landfill? But it’s not just about the environmental goals of the organization, it’s also about society at large.”

Renewable energy

According to Viswanathan, Capgemini’s sustainability journey in India started in 2012 when we first started building our local environment program. “In 2015, which we consider our baseline year for data, the level of renewable energy we were using was zero per cent. Now, it’s 25 per cent across all the facilities we own and operate across the country.”

“Capgemini has large campuses in almost all large cities in India,” says Viswanathan. “We have a real-estate footprint of around 14 million square feet of office space. The energy required to run these is huge.”

Net zero ambitions

As part of Capgemini’s commitment to becoming a net zero business by 2030, our first step is to be carbon neutral no later than 2025 – in achieving this one major milestone has been achieved.

“One of our biggest campuses, in Bangalore, became the first corporate campus in India to receive the ‘Net-Zero Energy – Platinum’ certification from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), for generating at least as much energy as it uses.

To achieve this efficiency standard, amid gloomy global environmental headlines, Viswanathan and his colleagues have literally let the sunshine in.

“We get bright sunlight for around 300 days a year in India, so solar power is a good choice for energy,” he says. “We have fitted solar panels on the roofs of our facilities, and developed solar gazebos, pedestrian walkways, car ports, a solar-powered amphitheatre and even solar-powered ‘trees’. Now, most of the common areas of our campuses are managed by our own production of electricity.”

Solar-powered trees

The solar-powered trees are artificial structures topped with solar panels. These offer shade and benches for people where they can chat, relax, and hold informal meetings while, at the same time, powering their laptops and phones via the solar canopy above.

In 2020, while COVID-19 has disturbed our lives, it also turned out to be an opportunity. “With many employees working from home, the need for energy at our offices has been considerably reduced,” says Viswanathan. “In fact, the campuses in Bangalore and Hyderabad have generated surplus electricity via solar power. We have been able to export this back to the grid. This clean energy is actually helping to decarbonise the Indian grid.”

Catalysts for change

The success at Bangalore is a significant milestone in our learning towards a net zero future.

“We are always looking to build efficiencies,” says Viswanathan. “It’s a self-imposed challenge and it’s our duty to the environment to do better. With our Mission Million Trees initiative, for example, we have committed to grow 1 million trees at our India offices this year.

“We want to be catalysts for change and any climate action needs to benefit wider society directly. Each one of us is contributing to the climate crisis, but more importantly each one of us can be part of the solution.”