Responsible Business Rankings
India’s Top Companies for
Sustainability and CSR 2021
Waste (SDG 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
The rapid digitization has made e-waste an important category of hazardous solid waste which needs to be managed responsibly by all. On one hand it is a great source of precious minerals and on the other it can have catastrophic effects if disposed irresponsibly. The potential of the former cannot be emphasized more than the recent 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo where medals were made from minerals recovered from e-waste.
Our study finds that while 96% companies have programs for solid waste management, only around half of these disclosed programs for e-waste management or an e-waste management policy. This implies that either the remaining 50% companies have poor disclosure or they dispose e-waste in a crude manner or to the informal sector. The nature of the disclosure too was limited with only few companies quantifying their e-waste or reporting on efforts to reduce hazardous component in electronic products. Bharat Electronics makes effort to bring down the hazardous component in electronic products through introduction of as many as possible RoHS compliant components.
Service companies were more forthcoming about their e-waste programs as compared to their manufacturing counterparts. Companies primarily have e-waste programs only for their operations, with hardly any for other stakeholders such as employees, customers, supply chain, and community.
E-waste management programs
Leading Indian firms manage operations related e-waste in various ways – a) disposal through Central/State Pollution Board authorized recycler or Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs), b) buy-back arrangements with suppliers, c) disposal through MSTC Ltd, d) captive recycling facility, and e) refurbish and donate. Kotak Mahindra Bank and L&T Finance Holdings mentioned that they ensure data is erased before disposing e-waste to the recycler.
- Voltas: During the year various initiatives – such as collaboration with PROs and customer buyback schemes – were undertaken to bring down our overall waste generation. Through these initiatives, we achieved 100% of our e-waste recycling targets for the reporting period.
Majority of the companies that reported measures for e-waste dispose it to an approved recycler. Few companies opt for a combination of two or more ways, for instance disposal to an authorized recycler and buy-back arrangement with manufacturer or supplier. HAL, GAIL and Tata Communication dispose their e-waste in co-ordination with mini-ratna Metal and Scrap Trading Corporation Ltd (MSTC). Cisco Systems, Titan and Vodafone Idea have in-house programs to dispose, recycle or reuse e-waste. And ICICI Bank and ICICI Prudential Life Insurance refurbished and donated some IT assets (including desktops and laptops).
As part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Rules, few companies reported that they have a provision to buyback or recover old IT asset from customers and dispose it off/recycle responsibly.
- Bharat Electronics: End of life e-waste product like Electronic Voting Machine is collected back as part of EPR.
- E-waste collection and extended producer responsibility authorisation for Reliance Retail
- Maruti Suzuki has proactively established a mechanism for recovery of LiBs from the market, as well as their safe storage and scientific disposal.
- At Exide, we buy-back old batteries as a part of our commitment to help protect the environment. We recycle these used batteries in smelters in various parts of the country.
With the burgeoning rise in waste, it is not possible for Government alone to address this challenge hence, corporate need to step in. Indian companies participate in community solid waste management projects (few undertake municipal sewage projects) as part of their CSR initiatives.
Community waste management programs
For community solid waste, companies partake: a) behaviour change campaigns, b) raise awareness on responsible segregation/disposal, c) distribute dust bins, d) provide waste collection vehicles to Municipalities, e) build capacity of relevant stakeholders, f) lend financial support, g) develop integrated waste management solutions, h) establish infrastructure (such as solid waste management facility, dry waste collection & segregation centre), and i) collaborate for on-ground monitoring and supervision.
Some companies clean-up a dumping site, beautify it and convert it into a usable space. Few (mostly cement) utilize waste as fuel in their operations. NTPC is setting up waste-to-energy plants in association with the Municipal Corporations of Surat, East Delhi, Varanasi and Indore. 10 companies reported that they have either facilitated an organic waste to compost facility or have imparted training for onsite composting, contributing to the GoI’s Swachh Bharat Mission. Few oil PSUs (BPCL, GAIL and IOCL) provided robotic manhole cleaning machines to avoid death of manhole cleaners.
- BPCL has set -up 33 micro composting units in partnership with the City Corporation, which have encouraged source segregation, reduced the burden on landfills and ensured recycling and composting of solid waste.
Unlike solid waste, community liquid waste management initiatives were reported by only around 10 companies. They have established treatment plants for municipal sewage and some of them utilize the treated water in their operations.
Plastic waste is generated in various functions of a business – a) plastic cups, stationery, etc., b) plastic used in products, c) plastic waste from machinery, and d) plastic used in packaging (both in-bound and out-bound). Due to the environmental challenges it poses, companies are working towards becoming plastic neutral in the near future. Bajaj Auto and DRL aim to be plastic neutral by 2022 and 2023, respectively in their Indian operations.
BASF and Reliance Industries are members of Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a consortium of 30 global companies. The members have committed to the goal of developing, deploying and bringing to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote post-use solutions. These can be re-cycling, re-use and re-purposing of plastic to keep it out of the environment.
Indian companies opt for various measures to manage plastic waste generated in operations. Around 60 companies reported that they deployed one or more of the following initiatives – a) reduced use of plastic containers, b) eliminated/banned single-use and non-recyclable plastic in their premises, c) replaced plastic cups with ceramic ones, d) conducted awareness sessions for employees, and e) disposed it to authorized recyclers. Cement companies (ACC, Ambuja Cements, and UltraTech Cement) co-process plastic waste as fuel in their plants.
- BHEL declared 12 out of 14 townships as “Single Use Plastic Free Township” based on 3rd party certification audit.
To reduce out-bound packaging waste, companies choose environment friendly packaging material (such as biodegradable bags, recyclable plastic, and fabric waste), reduce layers of packaging, pack in bulk & tankers, and use returnable packaging (such as drums and carboys), where feasible.
Many firms are exploring ways to up-cycle plastic waste. Some of these projects are for using plastic waste to make roads, bricks and paver blocks; generate electricity, and to make diesel. Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail recycles plastic bottles into polyester fabric for making clothes. Tata Motors recycles plastic waste into premium material for potential use in future Jaguar and Land Rover models. TVS Motors, Cisco Systems and Asian Paints use recycled plastic waste in their products and packaging.
While companies have many programs for plastic waste in operations, they disclosed only few measures for other stakeholders.
- Employees: Asian Paints and Godrej Industries encouraged their employees to participate in cleaning public spaces. Volunteers also conducted awareness drives in communities.
- Supply chain: Automakers (Eicher Motors, Bajaj Auto and Tata Motors) use returnable and recyclable packing solutions such as bins, pallets, and reusable trolleys to significantly eliminate the use of packaging materials in their in-bound supply chain.
- Customers: As part of EPR, 16 companies (mostly consumer staples and healthcare) reported programs to manage post-consumer plastics. They engage a third-party service provider to collect, recycle, reprocess, reuse or dispose plastic waste. DRL has adopted a waste circularity-based model, where close to 40% of its post-consumer waste will be recycled and offset in the form of recycled products like chairs, tiles, recycled paper, and books.
- Community: For community plastic waste, companies institute systems, establish permanent centres and processes for segregation, collection and recycling of single-use plastic; conduct clean-up drives; adopt villages; and donate plastic bottle crushing machines. Energy companies have set up plastic collection points (including reverse vending machines), in addition to conducting awareness session and distributing jute bags.
From our study of leading Indian companies, we conclude that - 1) more companies can participate in effective waste management practices; 2) the existing companies can widen their scope of influence to include other stakeholders and geographic regions of operation; and 3) companies can enhance the quality of disclosure about these programs.