March 2017

Building a sustainable future

Yogesh Chauhan, director of corporate sustainability, TCS, speaks about the role of technology in the creation of a sustainable world

TCS has always strived to embody the Tata group’s philosophy of building sustainable businesses that are firmly rooted in the community and demonstrate care for the environment. We have adopted the ‘triple bottom-line’ approach which recognises people, planet and profit as the central pillars of corporate sustainability.

However, sustainability as a concept is changing and while the environment is often front of mind for many people, sustainability is about far more — particularly in the digital era. Sustainability is about development to meet the needs of the environment, the economy and society. It is about future-proofing the next generation, from ecology through to technology and education.

Spark Salon
As part of TCS’s commitment to sustainability, we launched the Spark Salon series in October last year, to showcase innovative and thought-provoking new perspectives on the role of technology in helping to create a sustainable world. The series was inspired by the concept of the famous 17th century salons, aimed at the fostering and sharing of new ideas.

And new ideas are exactly what we got. At the inaugural event in October, we invited four expert speakers to discuss how technology will help to create a sustainable world. One expert was Josephine Goube, founder of Techfugees, a social enterprise mobilising the international tech community to respond to the refugee situation by organising conferences, workshops and hackathons around the world. During her talk, Josephine recounted the story of a group of refugees saved by the coastguard in the Mediterranean after they were able to contact them using WhatsApp. What might seem like a simple thing to us saved more than 40 lives.

Technology is now central to almost everything we do — not just in business — and has the potential to change the world for the better. From reconnecting refugees with their loved ones to improving digital skills — TCS is exploring the power of technology and the positive effects it is already enabling.

More recently, we hosted our second event titled: ‘The New Muses: Artists’ Visions of a Sustainable Future’. For this latest event, held in collaboration with Carnstone, we wanted to examine sustainability and the impact of technology in managing the world’s resources, and look at what the world might look like in 30 years’ time.

A panel discussion at the second TCS Spark Salon event titled: The New Muses: Artists’ Visions of a Sustainable Future

To do this, we delved into the world of art and featured new works by five artists who were asked to explore the future through the lens of our five muses: work, intelligence, ecology, animal life and how we interact with the world around us. The artists were asked to depict what the 2040s might look like — and the results were incredible.

From a spoken poem about genetic design to sensory impulse restricting jewelry, each work of art uncovered the way in which society has become intrinsically linked with technology and how this is affecting the world — in both a positive and negative way. The artists were:

During the event, Becci Louise said, “art is fundamental in changing the hearts and minds” of people, but with the rise of social media, we realise that technology has also become a major influence. Michael (of Burton Nitta) reinforced this by saying that “technology can now interact with the very fabric of us,” playing a central role in our everyday lives and the way we interact with the environment.

Technology allows us to “enhance relationships in a way we couldn’t before” says Matt Parker, but “we need to take control of it and not be manipulated.” While technology has opened so many doors, it has had an impact on the environment and the people within it, in both a social and ecological way.

TCS's footprint
As an international company, with more than 378,000 employees and operations spanning 45 countries, TCS has a large impact on society and the environment. This is an important issue to TCS and one of the reasons behind the Spark Salon series.

Sustainability in technology and educating people around the topic is important from both a business and environmental perspective. Not only is TCS hosting the Spark Salon events, we are investing in a number of areas from digital skills, to increasing diversity and protecting people’s pensions, and through our various reports, we are exposing the impact of technology and the ways in which it’s set to shape our world.

Our upcoming Global Trends Study for example, examining the impact of AI, explores one of the biggest phenomena currently facing society. This follows on from our other ground-breaking research, including Generation Direct, the European Youth Study launched last year. As mentioned previously, sustainability has many forms and by educating and preparing for what’s ahead, we are ensuring a sustainable, profitable and better future.

Education is something that spans a lifetime. We believe in continuous learning, not only through school and university, but throughout an individual’s career. Because of this, we average 10 full days of learning, per employee, per year, and have worked with over 53,000 young people across the UK in schools and universities through our IT Futures programme. With a 40,000 shortfall in STEM graduates across the UK, this issue needs to be addressed to ensure a sustainable economy in the face of disruptive technologies.

It is the job of businesses, government and society as a whole to inform and educate about the impact of technology on our world and how to ensure a sustainable future.

The first two events in the Spark Salon series have been a great success and an opportunity to hear from some truly inspiring and thought-provoking individuals on the vital topics of sustainability and technology. It has also been an opportunity to further demonstrate our commitment to sustainability and to highlight TCS’s role in the success of the UK economy and wider world.

We are already looking forward to our next event in March, ‘Empowering Social Change – Digital Disruption in the Charity Sector’, and if you are interested in hearing more about TCS’s Spark Salon and upcoming events, we will of course be sharing another update but please also join the conversation at: #tcsSparkSalon.