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Welcome to the 2021 CSR Europe SDG Summit Live Blog

TCS was a proud sponsor of the 2021 CSR Europe SDG Summit, which took place virtually on October 11-14, and our executives participated in some extremely interesting sessions. These included seeing our Head of Europe, Sapthagiri Chapalapalli at the high-level plenary “For climate action and a just transition”.

The summit also heard from Carol Wilson on the role of digitalisation in building a greener future, as well as Srinivasa Yerchuru on the future for sustainability reporting and Nirmalya Banerjee on the State of the Union for the Sustainability Industry.

This blog encapsulates the action over the four days, as it happened.

TCS also had a virtual booth at the summit, showcasing how sustainability is not just a growth strategy for us, but also intrinsic to our way of life. Within the booth, participants were given the chance to see how we are leveraging the power of technology and innovation to make significant impacts across areas like energy management, digital farming, smart cities, sustainable sourcing, and ESG reporting.

Read more about TCS' approach here: European businesses need to move fast to tackle both climate change and social challenges

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DAY 1

How ICT can power climate action

 

In the first session of the SDG Summit, Carol Wilson, TCS’ head of communications, media, and information services for UK/Europe, spoke about the role that technology companies can play in sustainability.

As one of the top three ICT providers in the world and as an employer of more than half a million people, TCS and the Tata Group has a long commitment to sustainability. Wilson outlined how the company views its contribution and why the company “feels the need to step out on the front foot”.

Ecosystems are at the heart of the approach, the idea that bringing partners, clients, academia, and other parties together to support digitalisation is very powerful and will indirectly support sustainability.

“No company is able to achieve digitalisation or sustainability on their own,” Wilson told the summit.

She mentioned initiatives such as Smart Cities and Smart Agriculture, and TCS Pace Port, which brings together partners from academia, government institutions, start-ups and technology providers to innovate.

“While fostering and developing ecosystems to drive working together is the focus of TCS’ approach to sustainability, the company also has a role as an employer and as a major player in the ICT industry,” Wilson said.

As a provider of skilled jobs globally, the company uses technology to drive sustainability across its operations, for example harvesting rainwater across all its facilities in India, using roof-top solar power and increasing awareness and education about digital and sustainability.

Since the industry accounts for 3-4% of global CO2 emissions, TCS also plays a broader role in helping reduce ICT emissions. Wilson cited helping clients achieve their aims, sharing network infrastructure, and fast-tracking technologies as the three pillars of how TCS frames its contribution to sustainability while concluding that “we have a very multifaceted role to play” on sustainability.

To read more on this topic, click here: How to Build Greener, Digitalised Industries

 

 

 

 
 
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Using IOT to create Smart City solutions

 

The panel on Industry Digitalization for Climate Action discussed the myriad opportunities to implement and drive Smart City Solutions and touched upon some of the challenges.

Carol Wilson, TCS’ head of communications, media & information services for UK/Europe, outlined the range of Smart City solutions that can help local governments make cities smarter and foster a better quality of life through sustainable economic growth. For example, smart parking using IOT-based solutions can monitor availability and change parking rate. It can make parking more intelligent and safer, while optimizing space and contributing to the overall sustainability of the city.

The technology exists, but curating it into an overall network, facilitating and hosting it remains a challenge.

“The biggest dilemma is how to integrate all of that and who ultimately is the host and the controller of smart cities,” she said. “If you look at all the cool stuff that’s going on with utilities, energy, and water management, building management, fleet and road management, then you get into very complex things. How do you weave them together? Finding an owner to step up is a very large challenge today.”

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Sustainability, but not for the sake of it

 

The first session on Industry Digitalisation for Climate Action ended with two major takeaways — technology should not be adopted just for the sake of it, and the same for sustainability. Both are not just about ticking the right boxes, that’s the consensus that emerged from the panel discussion.

The panelists agreed that the ICT industry is at the frontline of digital transformation and that it can help lead to more sustainable industries, for example, by using scarce resources such as water in a more efficient way.

Initiatives such as smart transport, smart cities, and smart parking underscore the ways in which digitalisation can help sustainability.

To achieve the sustainability goals, pioneers and frontrunners are needed to lead the way, and scaling up to reach the 2030 goals is imperative.

To read more on this topic, click here: A Call to Action on Sustainable Industry

 

 

 

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Skills as a pathway to sustainability 

 

Sustainability and talent are linked in TCS’ vision, said Sapthagiri Chapalapalli, who heads TCS business in Europe, at the high-level plenary session.

He highlighted how digital skills have taken on a new emphasis in the post-Covid world. “Since we have literally been transported into the digital world, one of the key dimensions is how do we take our people along?” he told the plenary.

TCS has several initiatives to address this at the primary and secondary school and university level as well as updating the skills of those who are already in the workforce.

“We are used to training and reskilling hundreds and thousands of people every year,” Chapalapalli said. “We need to make our children tech savvy,” he added.

At a broader level, Chapalapalli said the speed at which innovation in Europe is happening needs to be accelerated and collaboration is the key to helping companies and organizations transform themselves.

sustainable living

 

Each of us is a drop, together we can be an ocean

 

Speaking at the State of the Union on Sustainability Industry session, Nirmalya Banerjee, managing partner, Tata Consultancy Services, issued a passionate call to action for industries to work together to meet sustainability targets.

“We believe many of the elements of this journey, like circularity and biodiversity can only be achieved through cross-industry collaboration.”

Building on the theme of a technology-driven pathway to sustainability, Banerjee added, “We believe digital and emerging technologies can help identify a common baseline, establish targets and enable performance visibility. Then digital fabric would be the unifying factor in cross-industry collaboration.”

He concluded his address by recalling the words of the legendary Henry Ford to reinforce his urgent call for industry to “act decisively together” to create a new economic model built on sustainability and regeneration. Quoting Ford, Banerjee said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success.”

 

 

 

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The door is closing, let’s act

 

Don’t wait for mandatory environment, social and governance (ESG) reporting to evolve and for all the conditions to be perfect, before starting corporate sustainability reporting. This was the message from the panel on The Future of Corporate Sustainability Reporting.

Srinivasa Kumar Yerchuru, who leads the industry advisory group of TCS BFSI business unit, told the panel that stakeholder needs are constantly evolving, and they are increasingly asking companies to disclose the impact of their business and operations on the environment.

“We have to ensure we preserve the planet for the future, and the reporting has to play a part in that,” he said. “The door is closing, let’s act.”

He noted how reporting is at a very nascent stage and how it needs to be built into the DNA of the companies. “These are the things that will make you ready for the future,” Yerchuru added.

Challenges include a lack of transparency and relevant information and a lack of standardization, he said, adding, these can be overcome by just starting to collate the data. According to him, accepting that data perfection is a myth is a good starting point, as is leveraging digital technology to do some of the work in assessing and collating the data.

To read more on this topic, click here: Creating Effective Corporate Sustainability Reporting

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Sustainability: no time to lose

 

The first day of the SDG Summit ended with the call that there’s no time to lose when it comes to sustainability. The speakers agreed that there is no alternative to creating sustainable businesses using digital technology in line with UN sustainability goals and gave an urgent call for protecting the future of the planet.

“This is going to be a fundamental reshaping of our economics and our societies, we are going to be part of a profound change,” Frans Timmermans, the EU’s executive vice-president for the European Green Deal told the summit.

Making Europe a frontrunner globally and turning sustainability into an advantage, rather than a cost, are the keys to success, he said.

Join us tomorrow for another day of debates, including on the future of work and on biodiversity.

 

 

 

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DAY 2

Life-long learning as future of work

 

The second day of the European SDG Summit began with a panel discussion on how digital transition will impact the future of work. The participants examined the challenges and opportunities being thrown up and how to create a sustainable future of work.

One of the key themes was the idea of lifelong learning, with employees updating their skills daily.

Frédéric Gimenez, chief digital officer and managing director of TotalEnergies Digital Factory, told the roundtable that the world is facing big challenges, and companies must transform the way their employees approach work and learning

He highlighted how TotalEnergies Digital Factory has become a learning organization, including daily learning, sharing on the job training.

Rather than a job, think of it as “permanent training”, he said.

His comments chimed with those made at the summit on Monday by Sapthagiri Chapalapalli, who heads TCS’ business in Europe. He had said in his remarks that addressing the skills gap is essential and outlined how TCS is reskilling and upskilling people at every stage.

Read more about TCS’ working environment here.

Read more here: Digital solutions drive upskilling and reskilling to create the workforce of the future

 

 

 

upskilling

 

How to accelerate upskilling

This morning’s panel on how the digital transition will serve the future of work considered how to better understand the challenges facing HR departments. The speakers discussed how best to implement new work cultures and how to be futureproof as the digital transformation takes hold.

Juergen Siebel, executive director, Cedefop, told the conference that a “much more systematic approach” is needed and that “adult learning must become the new normal”.

He said while most jobs will not be replaced by automation, many jobs will change, requiring new skills.

Julien Fanon, managing director, Accenture, and João Santos, strategic project and talent lead at Sonae MC, the food retail market leader in Portugal, spoke about the need for versatility in employees.

“The retail sector is undergoing a deep transformation,” Santos said. “It’s a big shift, people need to be upskilled.”

He added that the good news is the people you need are already within your organization, they just need on the job training and upskilling to help them refocus as their roles change.

Redesigning learning and development and delivering effective training is a core topic for TCS, you can read more about it here.

 

 

 

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The business case for biodiversity

The panel on integrating biodiversity into business considered the increasingly compelling case for doing so, noting that half of the world’s gross domestic product depends, directly or indirectly, on biodiversity.

Even so, the latest SDG Report of the United Nations shows that most of the biodiversity-linked SDG targets with a 2020 deadline had made insufficient or no progress at all.

Data can be a vital force in improving our approach to biodiversity, as is developing new tools for better measuring. Information and technology companies can play a vital role in holistic data collection.

Closer partnerships are needed to effect change, because a diverse range of stakeholders, from local communities to investors and employees are demanding action.

Alain Vidal, technical director, Science Based Targets Network emphasised the urgency in the need for action. “When you have passed the tipping point in nature, and when you have faced irreversible losses, there's no net, because you can't compensate for any irreversible loss.”

Read more here: Empowering businesses in Europe to protect biodiversity

 

 

 

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Financing sustainability, the road ahead

The message from the panel on Financing the Future at the European SDG Summit 2021 was clear—the investment community needs to adapt to the rapidly changing global situation and help to create sustainable markets that contribute to a more prosperous world for all.

While it’s clear that the pace of change needs to be fast, there must also be clarity of thought and an agreed route, said Hacina Py, head of impact finance solutions at Société Générale.

“We must have some room for manoeuvre on this transition path,” she said, adding, “We don’t want to leave anyone behind, and we don’t want to leave companies without support from the banking sector.”

Agreeing on the appropriate trajectory and considering all the shades between green and brown industries will help ensure that the financial sector is able to finance the economy without putting a squeeze on liquidity access or capital ratios, she said.

Liina Carr, confederal secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation, urged companies and policy makers to implement green policies thoughtfully and said when talking about digital and green transitions they should not pit the green and brown industries against each other. 

 

 

 

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The importance of reducing indirect emissions

Indirect emissions — the so-called Scope 3 emissions — are on average 11 times higher than direct emissions, according to the panel on value chain emissions. Even so, just 35% of EU corporations currently report on them.

The panelists discussed ways to proactively manage supply chain emissions, including collecting better data, using technology to gather and assess such data, creating partnerships with suppliers and using science-based targets.

“The planet cannot wait and as industrials we must do our part,” said Jean-Yves Larraufie, general manager, CAP L'Oreal. “We have to pay attention to consumer will.”

Stella Di Carlo, head of ‘innovability procurement’ at Enel, also stressed the importance of collecting and managing data.

“We want certified data coming from suppliers — it is really important to onboard all of them to have the primary data first of all and then set up a reduction pattern,” she said. “We need to engage suppliers because we depend on the data. Another big challenge is the managing of that data, lots of suppliers means lots of data, so that’s another challenge we are dealing with.”

 

 

 

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DAY 3

Creating inclusive, future-proof work

Welcome to Day 3 of the European SDG Summit 2021. The opening session began with a plenary on the future of work. Jobs and employment are being redefined by digital transformations and this has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the labour market.

Businesses are rapidly undergoing digital transformations and reinventing their business models, raising questions about the future of employment and human capital. These questions and others are also being explored in the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) virtual booth at the summit.

Visit the virtual booth to see how TCS is developing solutions to make information and communication technologies accessible – for everyone.

 

 

 

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Automation and the evolving workplace

The changing and evolving workplace was the focus as Anthony Gooch, director of public affairs and communications at the OECD, addressed the plenary. He outlined the “complex and multifaceted challenges” facing society after the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated shifts that were already taking place in terms of technology adoption and changing patterns in the way of working.

Around 14% of jobs in the OECD countries are at risk of being fully automated and another 32% are likely to be partially automated, Gooch told the summit. Many roles are likely to change or disappear, he said, resulting in rising demand for some skills, like cognitive and creative ones, and falling demand for others. Jobs are being polarized into low- and high-skilled categories, he added.

“It’s profoundly reshaping the world of work before our eyes,” he said, adding that navigating it will be one of the “toughest collective tests yet”.

Gooch emphasised that opportunities should be built into recovery plans, and the pathways between education and employment need to be strengthened apart from encouraging lifelong learning.

This echoes TCS’ view that as companies automate their operations, they must not miss the opportunity to invest in their people and to make them more engaged and more effective.

Read more about TCS’ view on creating new roles and helping people excel in them — helping company leaders take their digitally transformed organizations to new heights.

 

 

 

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The rise of purpose-driven business

“The world of work is at a crossroads,” said Nicolas Schmit, commissioner for jobs and social rights, European Commission, addressing the session on future of work.

While there’s an opportunity to shape these changes in a positive way, there is also a risk that the human element will be lost, he added.

According to Schmit, companies with a well-defined purpose are most likely to succeed since they are likely to retain motivated employees in sectors that are having difficulties recruiting skilled workers.

“Companies have to change in that sense, that they offer this idea of purpose,” he said, adding, “This is a big issue beyond profits alone, but really to assign purposes to companies is extremely important.”

The rise of purpose-driven business is a key theme for TCS, which believes that consumers will increasingly pay attention to values. Those companies that can successfully articulate their purpose — and deliver on it — will be the ones that thrive, read more here.

 

 

 

saving resources

 

Using technology to optimise resources

The afternoon session of the conference focused on the opportunities that are emerging for sustainable materials and technologies.

The panellists gave their presentations on recycling and upcycling ocean plastics, wastepaper, and using biomaterials.

Michel Chtepa, the managing director of Seaqual, outlined how people can be brought together to fight plastic pollution, and how technology can be used to create recycled polymer materials for clothes and car seats using material retrieved from beaches, oceans, rivers and estuaries and seas.

Technology can also help save resources by improving efficiencies and by tracking resource utilisation using asset-tagging and geo-mapping.

TCS believes that for organisations to succeed in the circular economy, they need the commitment of all stakeholders across their operations and to also make sure the purpose behind their digital solutions is properly aligned. To read more about how technology can help them in that mission, click here.

 

 

 

diverse workplace

 

For a diverse, inclusive workplace

Making sure no one is left behind was a key point of discussion on Day 3 of the summit.

CSR Europe released its idea for the future, “Companies for an Inclusive Society,” which focuses on how companies can identify what is meaningful for its employees, communities, and stakeholders.

It also outlines how diversity and inclusion and life-long learning in the workplace — both key pillars for TCS — are now considered to be business imperatives for all organisations. The central idea is that companies that create inclusive work environments and invest in employees are more dynamic and attract more talent. Read the tweet here.

These ideas and others are explored in the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) virtual booth at the summit. Visit the booth to see how TCS is developing solutions to make information and communication technologies accessible, for everyone.

 

 

 

sustainability

 

DAY 4

The path to net zero

Welcome to the fourth day of The European SDG Summit 2021 where the first panel of the day is on the future of corporate net-zero targets.

Among the issues being discussed is the importance of tracking and using science-based targets that are well-defined. The panellists discussed the approach to setting climate target in their companies and whether a common standard for net-zero targets would be desirable from a corporate point of view and if so, which requirements should be used to generate a standard.

The Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is targeting net zero emissions by 2030 with plans to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions across Scope 1 and Scope 2 by 70% by 2025. Work is well underway, in the full year 2021, TCS’ specific carbon footprint across Scope 1 and Scope 2 was lower by 61.6% compared to 2008.

Technology lies at the heart of TCS’ strategy to reduce its carbon footprint, including using TCS Clever Energy™, which leverages IoT, machine learning and AI to optimize energy consumption across campuses. You can read more about the drive to reduce emissions here.

 

 

 

diverse workplace

 

Complex challenges need collective action

The panel on resilient and inclusive supply chains discussed how to improve human rights, environmental protection, and inclusion — all of which are topics for EU policies and proposals for regulation.  

In the session, moderated by Stefan Crets, executive director, CSR Europe, the delegates discussed continuous transformation of supply chains and the best ways to collaborate to make the ecosystems that companies are sourcing from the best they can be.  

“Complex challenges require collective action,” Renata Jungo Brüngger, a member of the board of management for integrity and legal affairs at Daimler AG, told the summit. Partnerships that connect local stakeholders, scientists, NGOs, and policy makers are the best way to find joint solutions, she said.  

Daimler has an initiative that links respecting the company’s human rights targets to its company bonus schemes for managers. Any rule should be feasible, create a level playing field across the EU and internationally and help people on the ground, she added.

 

 

 

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Fostering trust is a must

The panel on resilient and inclusive supply chains agreed that taking responsibility for various elements of supply chains and fostering trust with all stakeholders is a must for improving transparency and sustainability.

There are three clear challenges, according to Eva Bennis, director of responsible purchasing, Volvo Group. The first is the complexity of the supply chain, which for large companies can be many thousands of parts, the second is embedding the ideas in the company culture, and the third is the best way to generate trust and foster transparency.

“It is not something you create overnight, and that is of course a challenge,” Bennis said, adding, “Without trust you will not achieve the collaboration.”

Taking responsible decisions and becoming sustainable is a complex process for large companies with complicated supply chains, she said, because you need to see the whole picture.

“It's something we're trying to tackle every day,” Bennis said. “Not just for ourselves in our group, but also for our supply chain partners, we are on a journey to transition towards renewable energy and becoming fossil free.”

You can follow the panel and find out about TCS’ involvement in the summit here

Collaboration is a key area of TCS’ strategy, and one that is explored in the company’s virtual booth at the summit. You can explore the booth here.

 

 

 

upskilling

 

Upskilling, reskilling, the way ahead 

The afternoon panel focused on the potential of digital technologies and tools in schools and workplaces.

The delegates discussed how action is needed on two fronts — at school, preparing students to enter the labour market with strong skills, and in companies, developing digital upskilling and reskilling programmes and encouraging continuous learning.

Maya Zhu, global head of CSR at Huawei, outlined the company’s Seeds for the Future programme that develops talent and creates a community for people, regardless of their country.

Challenges in upskilling, cross skilling and reskilling to address skill gaps are on the top of the mind for many business leaders.

As more and more of the work we do becomes automated, people need to be reskilled to do other jobs, and much of that is about acquiring digital and STEM skills. Around half of all employees around the world will need reskilling by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report.

Reskilling the workforce for the future of business and for the digital future is a core belief of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), read more about the TCS approach here.

“We're very excited about the digital space, and the ability to provide free, high quality educational content that is flexible,” Ashley Young, science education programme manager at the Amgen Foundation, told the summit.

It’s important to take the best of technology and marry it with the best of traditional teaching methods, she said.

“Let's use the power of technology,” Young further said, adding, “Let’s piece it together in a way that works for the teachers designing the learning experiment, but also in a way that students can use themselves.”

 

 

 

stem learning

 

Focus on STEM, to strengthen roots 

Making school curriculum more focused on STEM will require the buy-in of many stakeholders. In a poll at the summit, 100% of respondents thought digital and STEM subjects should have more weight in education programmes.

Convincing parents to go along with the idea that there needs to be a shift in focus is very important, according to Andrea Glorioso, a policy officer at the European Commission. Teacher training is also a key plank, said Luigina Renzi, a teacher and trainer from National Association of Science Teacher and Ministry of Education.

The delegates also discussed the importance of skills such as critical thinking and creativity, which are the backbone of the digital revolution taking hold.

TCS offers support and training to school students, university students and adults, read more about one of these initiatives here.

 

 

 

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SDG Summit ends with a call to action

The four-day European SDG Summit 2021 concluded with the deliberations throwing up some key learnings:

  1. No time to lose to create sustainable industries. Organisations need to embrace innovation at both speed and scale to develop solutions they need to meet the sustainable development goals.
  2. Collaboration and ecosystems will drive success. No company can solve the climate challenge alone. We need co-innovation across partnerships and ecosystems to achieve our true potential.
  3. Education and skills are paramount for the future, and bridging the skills gap is more important than ever. This will require organisations to accelerate reskilling and promote lifelong learning. 
  4. Technology will be a unifying fabric when it comes to creating a fair digital and green transition. It can enable companies to improve their sustainability credentials beyond just their own walls, but across the ecosystems they operate in.
  5. Enterprise has a leading role to play in the green transition—from helping foster biodiversity, to cleaning up supply chains, and addressing their indirect emissions. There are many ways that corporates can play a role so long as they embrace new modes of cooperation and show willingness to work in collaboration to build a brighter future.

 

One of the prime takeaways is that doing the right thing to ensure a just, green, and digital transition is often also best for the bottom line. Many company stakeholders are now demanding to understand corporate purposes and what the businesses they interact with are doing to address sustainability and inclusivity.