The idea of environmental activism has evolved from pre-planned, momentous, typically very public, collective acts from committed individuals – marches, protests, petitions – towards a more mass movement based on individual choices and decisions made every day.
Today, Indians are less likely to limit their commitment to the environment to a single grand gesture on one particular day such as World Environment Day or Earth Day, preferring as well to take small but consistent steps to be more eco- friendly on a regular basis. For instance, many environmentally conscious citizens have already quietly switched to renewable sources of energy such as solar power.
This is reflected in the analysis of the latest data available with the Central Electricity Authority. The data shows that 20.45 percent of the total installed capacity of the country is from
renewable energy sources. Apart from solar and wind, these also include generation from small hydro projects, biomass, and urban and industrial waste.
Such ‘micro-activism’ is no less effective, aggregating entire communities and demographic groups whose consideration the environment is defining their daily routines and home and at work. The determination driving individuals to use environmentally friendly products within their personal capacity has tangible results. Several companies have realised their
responsibility towards the deteriorating environment and have come forward to market their products as green, eco-friendly or organic.
beauty industry, for example, while naturals continue to be popular with a growing number of beauty consumers, many are choosing to ‘get back to basics’ by shopping small, buying locally-sourced, locally-produced, and small-batch products. ‘Being green’, is not only trendy, but for many, a lifestyle choice. Now, the daily measures illustrated who they are and the choices they make in order to contribute to the wellbeing of the planet. Often, this choice is not even considered a sacrifice but appear to be the most rational and logical option.
Individuals are choosing not to be activists but are subtly taking a stand in controlling their own carbon footprint. Now, their actions are not intended to influence a global or even a national change but to be personally accountable for their duties to the environment. For such people, minimising environmental impact has become instinctive and natural; a reflex defining the decisions they make.
This is India’s ‘Reflex Generation’ at work. Such individuals exhibit their penchant for routine, daily activism in the following three aspects of their lives:
Now, potential employees are basing their decisions on employers’ environmental credentials. According to
Deloitte’s annual Generation Y survey, 76 percent Indian millennials claimed to have chosen employers whose values matched their own; a finding supported by other research indicating young people’s preference for employers who demonstrate a “genuine commitment” to corporate social responsibility, the environment, and sustainability. As consumers:
Another way individuals mark their inclination towards protecting the environment is by subtly but consistently purchasing green products. In fact, in a
Deloitte study, 38 percent respondents with a family monthly salary of Rs 1 lakh or more were willing to pay 10 percent or more premiums for eco-friendly products. Other research suggests that 95 percent seek out brands that display responsible behavior. 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. In their daily behaviour
Today’s environmental guardians have adapted their lifestyles to imbibe the core philosophy of environmental consideration into their day-to-day lives. The interest in electric vehicles for daily use is another example of how India’s younger citizens are attempting to be more environmentally conscious on a regular basis. Globally, 81 percent of consumers claim to be prepared to make ‘personal sacrifices’ to address social, environmental issues. Such consideration perfectly reflects the ‘micro-activism’ at the heart of India’s ‘Reflex Generation’.
The implication for brands is clear; environmental consideration is not some form of ‘corporate benevolence’, but a business reality and a business necessity. For today’s ‘Reflex Generation’ of consumers, employees, investors, members of the community... (as well as ‘potential’ versions of the same) such consideration is embedded into their daily lives, their routines and their decision-making process.
Brands which disregard it are missing, not just an environmental opportunity, but a commercial one.
Praveer Sinha is CEO and MD, Tata Power.