Though sustainability is being connoted as a complex term, in reality it is not so. Sustainability today is made to sound as a term which only large corporations can tackle and this is partly true says Mala Singh, Chairperson and MD, PEC Greening India.
Tell us about the growth story of PEC in India so far.
The success story of any firm which enlists itself as an expert consultancy on sustainability I believe is based on the impact it has made on the environment. Having said that from 2012 when we started this journey almost a decade ago till now, we have witnessed a good deal of growth. We started with just one project spread across 30,000 sq.ft a decade ago and today it has shot up to 5,000 million square feet green building footprint. Though these may look like just numbers, the impact that we have been able to create on the environment and in terms of quality of life in our green building projects as a result of our expertise is quite visible for our customers. Our green building projects have got success in reducing the carbon emissions, increase in overall energy efficiency in design, construction and operation of the projects including optimization of other natural resources. We have a huge list of satisfied clients to whom we have delivered successful quality services with efficient results and performance. So just to add to what I said earlier, in the business of sustainability, leadership lies not just numbers alone but the positive impact the firm has made on the built environment and its stakeholders. And in a decades time period, I am glad that our firm has been able to prove this over a number of times and our journey will continue in the same manner.
What has been your contribution and that of other women in your firm as also the industry to help PEC attain this feat?
The business of sustainability right from the governing councils to stand alone professionals has more men than women. With time I hope this ratio becomes more equitable. For this we have to encourage more women to partake in this industry. More and more women architects, engineers and environmental analysts need to come together and become sustainability champions. Having said that I feel proud to tell you that in my firm we have employed more than 85% women. Initially when I started working in the industry being one of the few women to have charted on this journey, I did have apprehensions. Today, I am glad to tell you that a lot of people know me as a green building and sustainability specialist. The sustainability of the living environment is being threatened by climate change and global warming.
What role can sustainability experts like you and others play to safeguard the environment?
The dangers of global warming and climate change has been pertinent ever since mindless construction and development of the built environment began. In fact in 2006 the present day danger which we are facing by the way of landslides, floods, water scarcity, food insecurity were very clearly pointed out by Al Gore in a documentary called “An Inconvenient Truth” But many chose to ignore it.
In present times, we have exploited our environment and its resources so radically that, we have no option left except acting seriously for the cause of creating sustainable green built environment. Today our cities are getting warmer and the pollution levels are rising . You can see the rising air pollution and deteriorating air quality in Delhi in India, and some other metro cities as well. From Amazon to Australia the different catastrophic events that we are experiencing have people across the globe worried and world leaders too are trying to find ways and methods to mitigate the problem. In India too Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has already signed the Paris Agreement which is aimed at combating climate change.
Apart from world leaders we as individuals have to realize that sustainability is a shared responsibility. It is true that governments can prescribe ways and methods to attain sustainability, but we the people too have to engage in our own little ways to make this world a greener place. Though sustainability is connoted as a complex term in reality it is not so. Sustainability today is made to sound as a term which only large corporations can tackle and this is partly true. Sustainability has been a part of the Indian tradition and it is practiced by many in their own ways. In the contemporary world an autorickshaw or taxi driver who is using CNG or an individual who is driving an EV is also doing his bit for a healthier planet. Hence the definition of sustainability varies from person to person, this need to be clearly understood.
For long term sustainability, governments have to make policies now to enable healthier and sustainable lifestyles. We also have to understand that sustainability is a continuous journey and this is very true taking into account that innovations happen on a day to day basis. These innovations change the built environment likewise ways and methods to attain sustainability will also change. Hence continuous evolution in the domain of sustainability is also a must.
What is your advice to the budding green and sustainability champions/consultants/experts to ensure they make a meaningful contribution to the profession?
It is sad to see that many people have not realized and understood their contribution towards this real issue of tackling the climate change and global warming cause they still follow their conventional approach in their core business and focus only on the commercial side of it and not involved in the people and planet (Other pillars of sustainability). It is high time to change the mindset of such people. Young professionals working in the field of sustainability must understand their role under their responsibility towards Mother Earth; they should contribute to remove the false perceptions of green washing like terminologies in the market. They can deliver their services by applying an integrated approach in their project services starting from site sustainability, design efficiency, good construction management practices, best procedures applications for the commissioning of electro-mechanical equipment’s including qualitative and quantitative approach throughout the project development under their scope hence their clients can experience optimization of resources by various means like cost savings, improvement in the overall quality of environment. Thus a positive message about green and sustainability strategies can reach to the customers using right approach not just fake perceptions such as, “Green Washing” instead it must be, “Pure Washing”.