COVID-19 has had a devastating impact globally, but there is another crisis, climate change, that is also intensifying and it has far-reaching effects that can be detrimental not only to us but the entire plant. This calls for immediate action – governments and businesses globally need to join hands by promoting sustainable business goals. Combating climate change and making a positive impact on the environment is a shared responsibility of both governments and businesses. There is an urgent need of proper maintenance of existing water infrastructure that can lead to a better connection between society and the economy and restoration of local water bodies is a crucial step towards achieving ecological balance. Policies and regulations are needed to help improve the large-scale adoption of energy-efficient solutions in India. Financial Express Online caught up with Janda Campos, Director, Sustainability Engagement, Grundfos, on understanding how innovative and intelligent technology can be leveraged to tackle climate change and how a key part of this is to focus on restoring our water.
What is the current state of climate change and how can both governments and businesses have a positive impact on the environment?
Along with the ongoing health crisis, there is another crisis, climate change is continuing to brew and it has far-reaching effects that can be detrimental not only to us but the entire plant. Amidst the ongoing pandemic and despite the global lockdowns that followed last year, global greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2020 adversely affecting the Global Mean Surface Temperature and making 2020 one of the three hottest year on record. Shifting focus to India, last year the country also got its first climate change assessment report which attributed events like increase in tropical cyclones, rise in sea-level, increased frequency of droughts and floods to climate change over the past few decades.
This calls for immediate action – governments and businesses globally need to join hands by promoting sustainable business goals. For instance, global initiatives like C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is a movement that calls upon mayors, who represent 97 participating cities and around 700+ million residents, to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive sustainable action on climate change. Its project on ‘Water Secure Cities’ has already begun delivering results and there is active participation in C40 by five Indian cities as well — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai.
Aligning with the government’s efforts, organizations need to also start focusing and moving towards a sustainable approach on how they conduct their business. This is gaining traction given that consumers are also becoming eco-conscious. For us at Grundfos, sustainability is a mind-set, a way to do business. It is about bringing value to the world, to our clients, to our business, and to our employees in the most sustainable way. We focus our effort in Sustainability Development Goal 6 and 13 because we believe that we can make the greatest impact in these two areas.
The UN’s Ecosystem Restoration Playbook speaks about the need to make ecosystems and communities more resilient in the face of global change. Given that water plays a key role in most ecosystems and enables the survival of communities at large, how can restoring this natural resource aid in making a difference?
A properly restored waterbody helps in recharging ground water thereby enhancing water availability, manage microclimate and nutrient cycling. This helps in restoring and nurturing the local ecosystem – the flora, fauna and ultimately the overall environment. Water sources, if managed properly, also have the potential to enhance water supply and meet the rising water demands while creating economic opportunities for communities situated nearby the waterbody. Lakes and ponds in specific, have the potential to be developed as places of recreation, boost alternate means of transportation and the potential to become a place where we can connect with nature.
It is heartening to see that last year, India’s National Green Tribunal ordered all the states and union territories to designate a nodal agency for restoration of water bodies. This is an opportunity for stakeholders in the water sector to leverage not only scientific data but combine that with their traditional skills and knowledge and sustainable technology to restore natural water resources. This will have a positive impact on both the environment and ecosystems as well as on local communities. For instance, over the last few years, Grundfos India has partnered with various NGOs and local communities to restore water bodies in the city of Chennai. My colleagues in India worked with the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) to restore the Annaikeni Pond. This restored pond will now be able to reduce waterborne diseases and ensure the rejuvenation of the groundwater levels in the area. The Annaikeni Pond is contributing towards strengthening soil formation, increasing biodiversity and providing efficient flood protection in the vicinity.
Similarly, our work with Hand in Hand India to restore the 2.5 acres, Injambakkam pond had a positive impact on the community in and around the pond. This restored pond is now a source of clean water that is improving the water table in the neighborhood, acting as a storage for the surplus water and also channels excess water to the agricultural land nearby during rains, thereby avoiding flooding. Here we also realised the importance of partnering with the local community to ensure the long-term maintenance of the pond. We have set up a committee comprising those who have been closely involved in the project through their volunteering efforts.
Grundfos has very ambitious sustainability goals that it has set and aims to achieve by 2025 – what are your key goals here. Are you on track to achieving these?
At Grundfos, sustainability is not an add on to our business. It is our business. With a purpose of pioneering solutions to the world’s water and climate challenges and improving quality of life for people. We want to actively play our part in helping to solve these challenges through the continual development of energy-efficient and intelligent water solutions. We set targets in accordance with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) 6 which aims to improve sanitation and access to clean water and SDG 13 on climate action. For SDG 6, we plan to halve our own water withdrawal by 2025, compared to the 2008 baseline. Similarly, for SDG #13, we want to halve our own CO₂ emissions by 2025 compared to 2008 baseline.. As compared with our 2008 baseline, in 2020 we have met the goal of halving our water withdrawal by 2025 with a 51% reduction and successfully reduced 36% of our own CO₂ emissions.
We believe that to contribute to reducing climate change the best way is to forge ahead with increasing the energy efficiency of our products and solutions and to commit to the Science based Targets Initiative, which Grundfos has done (our targets will be submitted in December 2021). Enabling our customers to reduce their CO₂ emissions is also one of our main priorities. Since 2005, we have been calculating the electricity savings attributed to our high-efficiency circulator pumps sold in the EU. The savings from these pumps in 2020 were about 10 billion kWh of electricity, which is equivalent to 6.2 million EU residents’ annual electricity consumption. We are also focused on reducing the environmental impact of waste and hazardous waste . We aim to reduce 50% of our waste to landfill by 2025 against the 2018 baseline. Grundfos has already achieved a 35% reduction in waste to landfill compared to 2019.
How do you think a sustainability mindset/approach will help companies succeed going forward?
Having a sustainability approach to business can help companies see a potentially un-met demand and help companies to transform and contribute to meet that demand to create a future-fit business . A sustainable approach to business will help companies shift from a linear mindset towards a circular paradigm, where supply chain, products, manufacturing, and distribution are designed for circularity and resource recovery. Acknowledging the value of sustainability will help businesses to take collective decisions for driving sustainability goals. Going forward, the focus on a circular economy can be achieved when businesses better understand and cater to market needs in terms of sustainable products.
There is a growing demand for sustainable products and solutions and this is an opportunity for businesses to integrate sustainable practices and solutions not only into their own operations, but to focus on the impact their own products and services can have on the environment. For example, if there is a push to ensure that all electric appliances are energy efficient, we can save a lot of energy around the world and reduce significant amounts of CO2 emission. This will also improve the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings for competitive market advantage. Instead of focusing on just ‘doing well’ financially, by adopting a sustainable business model, organizations will also be able to focus on ‘doing good’ by positively contributing towards solving social and environmental problems. At Grundfos, we have ensured that our solutions improve water efficiency and reduce energy consumption, while creating positive impacts on the environment by means of lowering carbon emissions. We have also initiated a take-back programme that allows us to reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of materials and components. The strategy is to refurbish and remanufacture – to keep materials in the loop, so that they do not disappear in waste and landfill and be burned.
What is the role that innovation and intelligent technology can play in combating climate change?
Digital technologies play a crucial role in addressing global climate change concerns. Today, with the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Cloud and Artificial Intelligence, it provides the opportunity for governments, businesses and communities to analyze complex issues based on big data, and, thereby, find the most suitable sustainable solutions to address and mitigate them. For example, a concept as simple as monitoring the water pressure in a pipeline can drastically reduce water leakages as well as save energy consumption . Additionally, choosing to equip buildings with intelligent pumps can contribute to sustainable, energy-efficient operations with energy usage happening only where required.
With rising temperatures across the world, the need to provide cooling in cities without overburdening urban power grids and in turn further contributing to climate change has gained momentum. In response, Grundfos launched its Distributed Pumping System in Asia, which aims to help air-conditioning systems consume up to 50 percent less energy than current conventional methods. This novel system is capable of operating in optimized conditions at any time. It achieves this by intuitively regulating the water flow based on feedback from temperature sensors, meeting the exact requirements of different building zones, and intelligently controlling energy consumption by delivering the right flow at all times. On top of reducing energy consumption and operational costs, this new system achieves comfort for users of the building by ensuring a consistent building temperature at all times. It demonstrates our commitment to create cleaner and more energy efficient technologies to enable our customers to reduce their energy consumption and limit their impact on the environment.
Can you elaborate on Grundfos’ key partnerships when it comes to promoting sustainability and the impact it has had/is having on restoring ecosystems around the world?
Globally, Grundfos looks at partnering and collaborating with companies, organisations and NGOs that can help us contribute to society and the planet. A recent example of this was in 2020, when Grundfos joined a global group of leading businesses in advocating for the EU’s Water Framework Directive. The Water Framework Directive is vital in preserving and protecting water resources within the EU.
We have also been closely working with institutions and NGOs in India to address climate and water challenges. Grundfos joined hands with Cognizant, The Nature Conservancy, Care Earth Trust and Indian Institute of Technology Madras, to restore the 100-acre Sembakkam lake in Chennai. This project that will be completed in 2021, will clear the lake of solid wastes, improve the lake’s storage capacity by 50%, enhance groundwater recharge and improve water quality. This will benefit over 10,000 households living around the lake and conserve the local biodiversity consisting of around 180 plant species (including 11 aquatic species) and more than 65 bird species.