Idea making a difference by building a sustainable supply chain


As an important member of the global Telecom industry, Idea Cellular’s endeavour is to become the leading Indian conglomerate for sustainable business practices across global operations. The aim is to become an organization that the future generations credit, for contributing to giving the world a better tomorrow. Anil Tandan, CTO – Idea Cellular throws more light on this as he speaks to SPO India…


What is the Sustainability agenda of Idea Cellular for 2017 and what would be the main focus this year?

Idea Cellular’s sustainability agenda entails creating sustainable business models that are profitable and comply not only with national laws but also with international standards and principles. Idea Cellular has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to positively impact the environment and society. Hence, a holistic approach towards creating a sustainable business, one capable of thriving within the limits of a sustainable planet, is at the centre of Idea’s long-term strategy.

This year, the company released its first edition of Sustainability report institutionalising Sustainability as an integral part of our business. The sustainability roadmap that has been crafted is robust – it is aligned to international standards like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been ratified by 193 countries and top businesses, maps to Idea’s stakeholder interests and all industry benchmarks that the company will hold itself to achieve.

What has been your biggest success in sustainability and how would you like to take this legacy forward?

In the last year itself, Idea has converted over 19% of Idea owned telecom towers to operating by hybrid power, reducing CO2 emissions by 52,000 tons per annum in 2016. It further reconfigured sites reducing CO2 emissions by 62,000 tons and 90% of servers are virtualized across data centres, resulting in 1/3rdthe power consumption. Zero cases of child labour and human rights violations in 2016 were reported, in addition to 100% compliance to EMF norms.

How can your employees, stakeholders and most importantly the customers benefit or drive value from your sustainability agenda?

Idea’s approach towards building a sustainable supply-chain is through implementing in-built processes and by supporting capacity building in its supplier network towards sustainable practices. All of the company’s employees and stakeholders have an equal responsibility in upholding Idea’s business ethics and fair practices and ensuring the same in dealings with our supplier ecosystem. The company has put in place clear mechanisms to integrate sustainability into every aspect of its growing business and mapped the contribution of every function towards the overall sustainability vision. The company has chosen environmental, social and governance areas where the company and its employees, and stakeholders can make the most difference.

What are the challenges and risks in business sustainability?

The highly dynamic, competitive and regulated Indian telecom market presents several challenges to operators which can pose a serious threat to business sustainability. Over the years, Idea has nurtured relationships with external stakeholders and built trust through proactive disclosure and transparency. Consistent and effective communication along with on-going dialogue and engagement has helped Idea build goodwill for the brand, and the reputation of being a serious, long-term player in the market.

In the Indian context, do you see sustainability as an important agenda in the businesses running here? How far do you feel Indian enterprises are in adopting sustainable best practices?

Many Indian companies are actively integrating sustainability principles into their businesses by pursuing goals that go far beyond a mere concern for reputation management—for example, saving energy, developing green products, and retaining and motivating employees, all of which help companies capture value through growth and return on capital. Companies are also integrating sustainability across many processes including strategic planning. The most integrated area are mission and values, external communications, supply chain management and budgeting. To make sustainability as a core, companies need to be rigorous, goal-oriented, and accountable. There is a growing body of evidence that not only sustainability initiatives work, but that they are an important factor in creating long-term value.

What is your roadmap in terms of creating a positive impact on both society and environment?

Idea is committed to continuing its efforts to reduce energy and emissions by addressing the following strategic priorities: Increasing the renewable energy generation and leveraging open access schemes to enter into power purchase agreements with the government; Offsite solar deployment across various Circles in the country and the use of renewable energy sources such as wind energy; Continued efforts to reduce energy consumption by increasing the indoor to outdoor conversions at towers with higher tenancies and increasing the use of outdoor BTS. The company continues to invest in virtualisation of infrastructure by increasing the percentage of virtualised servers to 70% by 2021.

Work will continue for Social Inclusion and Equitable Development that aims at ensuring maximum people are empowered by connecting them to sustainable economic growth. Idea has always been committed to providing skill development and employment to local businesses in rural areas.

Will individual companies put themselves at risk if they follow sustainable practices and their competitors don’t?

Running business operations sustainably is more important than looking at temporary gains and companies are beginning to realise that environment is part of the network. Integration of business and sustainability goals is of paramount importance. It is expected in the future that sustainability will be an essential support pillar of growth for any company operating and contributing to the world economy.