Jasraj Virdi, Head of Public Affairs and CSR at CLP India, speaks on the company´s latest initiatives and how renewable energy projects can give a fillip to CSR activities.
Can you give us a detailed update on the various activities and collaborations that CLP India has initiated for the sustainable development of communities?
Community development is an integral part of the three core values that guide our business conduct and receives a very high level of commitment from the board and the management team. The primary areas of our focus have been health, education, skills development and women empowerment and we strive to improve the quality of our communities´ lives by introducing programs that can be sustained over a long period of time in order to make a meaningful impact. We believe that the element of sustainability is extremely crucial for the effectiveness and value of a program and is, therefore, something that is embedded in the core of our approach to CSR.
Around our 655MW gas-fired power station in Paguthan near Bharuch in Gujarat, which is the oldest asset in our portfolio, we had begun our community engagement programs back in the year 2002 that primarily focused on the areas of health, education and skills development. With a holistic approach and a goal to create a self-sustainable ecosystem, our activities involved skills development for the youth and women in the nearby local communities, and education for economically less privileged children. Around our 1320MW coal-fired power station in Jhajjar, Haryana, which is a green field project that we commissioned in the middle of year 2012, our community engagement initiatives are relatively young. We have, however, covered good ground in the areas we focus on, which include healthcare, education and livelihood. Some of the specific programs that we run include, multi-specialties health camps in nearby catchment villages that have reached out to over 2270 people, providing clean drinking water in schools and anganwadis that has benefited around 800 children, helping farmers improve their farming skills through training on scientific cattle management skills and organising regular veterinary camps, supporting infrastructure development in schools and villages, and programs for skill development for women and youth.
In addition to these, we also work at building and enhancing environmental preservation awareness among students by initiating green clubs in the community schools of about 10 villages and by helping children develop environment-friendly values and behaviour.
In specific reference to power companies, how can they implement the 2 per cent CSR law in a manner that impacts and grows their core businesses?
I see the 2 per cent mandate as a vehicle that´s designed to help companies formalise their CSR processes and allow for an effective implementation, management, impact measurement and sustained growth over a period of time. And this is crucial, as I believe that effective and meaningful CSR plays a highly influential role in ensuring successful and peaceful operations of a power plant and should, therefore, be one of the companies´ top priorities. Like any infrastructure project, power plants displace communities and end up disturbing their livelihood and affecting their emotional well-being. Restoring their livelihood, making sure that communities settle down emotionally, children get back to school, healthcare is not compromised are some of the areas that companies could focus on through their CSR programs.
Historically, we have seen CSR as an option that only a few chose and many of them did that largely through cheque-book philanthropy. This is no longer the case; CSR is not a luxury or an option anymore, as the rapidly evolving business and societal dynamics have positioned CSR as a factor that plays a critical role in businesses´ success. This is what makes the 2 per cent mandate a wonderful opportunity for companies to organise themselves for handling this ultra-critical responsibility professionally.
Some of the key steps that companies could work through to implement this mandate, are a) articulate the CSR policy or philosophy with as much simplicity and clarity as possible, b) set up a governing structure within the organisation, with an executive committee and mechanisms for reporting to and representation on the board, c) based on the funds available for CSR, develop detailed CSR plans with mid and long term objectives, d) put in place monitoring and measurement mechanisms for impact assessment and e) leave enough room across policy and plans to allow for sustained development and continuous evolution.
How can companies view the 2 per cent law as an opportunity to invest in building corporate reputation, employee engagement and innovation?
Effective implementation of the 2 per cent mandate will play a vital role in helping ensure that companies conduct their businesses responsibly and that is one of the most critical factors that influence their positioning or reputation in the market place. Forcing minds to think of interventions beyond cheque-book philanthropy stimulates innovation and we are seeing a growing trend of this across sectors. There are several examples of cross-collaboration with local administrative authorities and peers in the vicinity/ industry that have led to some exciting innovation in CSR that promises to be impactful and sustainable.
Over the past few years, we have seen companies introduce an inclusive and sustainable approach to their CSR programs by linking them with their core areas of businesses. Volunteering is one of the emerging practices that we now see across a number of organisations that have defined processes or frameworks to implement it. We have also involved our employees and their families in community related interventions at our plants.
CLP has maintained that it has a clear climate change strategy and a plan to drastically curtail carbon emissions. Can you give us some details on your Climate Vision 2050?
Our commitment to being a leading, responsible energy provider has inspired us to make an active contribution to the collective response to the threat of climate change. This contribution is guided by our Climate Vision 2050 that articulates specific targets to reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity of assets across our portfolio, with the ultimate goal to reduce our carbon emissions in line with an agreed global level at which catastrophic climate change can be avoided.
What this essentially translates to is a commitment to reducing the carbon emissions intensity of our generating portfolio by 75 per cent by the year 2050. The goal is to refocus business plans with the view to bringing down carbon emissions to a level that is compatible with the global objective of keeping the concentration of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere below 550 ppm a level at which we can still limit the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Energy saved is emissions avoided. Energy savings constitute the largest and best opportunity for reducing emissions. We are increasing our investment in public education and developing our skills in saving energy both at our own facilities and those of our customers. We will promote behavioural change, starting with our own management and staff.
Renewable Energy We see renewable energy as a vital source of contribution towards our Climate Vision 2050 targets and are committed to growing this part of our portfolio across sources and geographies. We are well ahead of schedule in meeting our renewable energy target and our progress on this also gives us confidence in our ability to meet the new commitments we make as part of our Climate Vision 2050.
Natural Gas Natural gas is easily the cleanest fossil fuel for power generation. CO2 emissions per unit of electricity generation are about 50 per cent lower than those from today´s coal plants. We will continue to invest in gas-fired power generation in markets that provide opportunities.
Clean Coal Coal will inevitably play a vital role in the development of Asia´s power sector, so reducing the carbon emissions from power generation demands a move from conventional coal-fired generation towards clean coal technology.
Nuclear Energy Nuclear power emits no CO2 during operation. With the necessary policy support, CLP will continue and, if possible, increase its investment in nuclear generation, including in Mainland China and particularly South China where we can make use of our existing participation in the Daya Bay nuclear power station. We recognise that nuclear power may not be right for all countries. However, nuclear power, where sustainable, must be on the table in climate change discussions.
Can you give us more details on the CLP Group Sustainability Framework with specific reference to how it impacts all the stakeholders, environment, energy supply and business performance?
At CLP India, we developed a Sustainability Framework in 2013 that embeds sustainability goals into our company´s operations across regions. Through our years of experience, we realised that continuous monitoring and guidance is as important as having a strong drive towards sustainability. Our sustainability framework consists of goals that cover people, energy, business performance and environment and we have actually set measureable targets for each of these goals (see chart). Internally, our strategic goals and policies play a crucial role while externally the rising demand of stakeholders such as government and general public, and rising cost of raw materials drive us to be more resource efficient. The sustainability framework is the result of issues identified during our stakeholder engagements.