The vibrant land of festivals, India now enters the season when cities adorn themselves for grand celebrations. People relish this respite from their daily grind, immersing themselves in the vivacious festive ambiance. Festivities herald joy, exuberance, and a certain zest for life, yet regrettably, they also leave an ecological footprint—a negative one!
Whether it's the fervour of Kali Puja or the grandeur of Ganesh Chathurthi, these festivals converge on one common practice: the immersion of idols. It is, therefore, imperative to fathom how our festival revelries can exact considerable ecological tolls us and other habitats.
In Maharashtra, Mumbai stands out as the one of the major culprit in water pollution. Amidst the revelry and excitement of festivities, the aquatic inhabitants around the city are tragically overlooked. After the ceremonies conclude, people carry Ganesh idols for immersion into the Arabian Sea. These idols, crafted from Plaster of Paris (PoP) and adorned with poisonous dyes, contribute to toxicities within the aquatic ecosystem.
The morning after paints a sombre picture as fragments of broken idols wash ashore, accompanied by an onslaught of discarded milk packets, coconut remains, and various prayer materials. This distressing scene underscores the highly detrimental nature of these practices. Not only do these activities mar the aesthetics of the beaches, but they also pose a grave threat to wildlife. The immersion of idols led to a tragic toll on marine life, exemplified by the mass deaths of turtles and fish that were discovered washed up on Mumbai's Dadar and Juhu beaches in 2018.
As Dussehra festivities unfold across the nation post-Navratri, the enthusiasm escalates in eastern India, notably in Kolkata, for the vibrant celebration of Durga Puja. This grand festival is marked by its captivating artistic installations and, of course, the iconic idols. While some idols embrace eco-friendly materials like clay and bamboo, the issue lies in the lead-laden paint coating, posing a dire threat to the aquatic environment.
On the pivotal 10th day, Dussehra or Dashami, a majority of these idols find their way into the rivers, such as an eastern tributary of the Ganga, which bears the greatest impact on this aquatic habitat. Kolkata alone hosts over 3,000 pujas, boasting one of the highest idol counts in the country. The immersion extends beyond the river, encompassing freshwater havens like lakes, artificial reservoirs, and ponds.
Sadly, this immersion ritual poisons the water in these habitats, escalating acidity and heavy metal levels. The ensuing heavy metal pollution wreaks havoc on the ecosystem, decimating fish populations, harming plant life, and disrupting natural water flow, resulting in stagnation. Despite the State Pollution Control Board's initiative to promote eco-friendly immersions, meaningful progress toward this goal is yet to gain traction.
So, what can HRs do to remedy the situation?
In the aftermath of festivities, government bodies and NGOs spearhead various initiatives to cleanse the beaches and rivers. However, the swiftness of this essential task is frequently hindered by a noticeable lack of participation from devotees. Corporate employees, though earnest in their desire to respect traditions and drive change, often find themselves constrained by the constraints of time, impeding their ability to fulfil their civic responsibilities.
What's the remedy? Perhaps, granting a 2-day break to employees, encouraging their active participation in these clean-up endeavours, could be a step in the right direction. It's not only about instigating change externally but also about fostering an internal corporate culture that mirrors your values, enabling employees to feel at ease in sharing their ideas and contributing to societal betterment.
In a survey encompassing 148 CEOs from some of the prominent companies, a unanimous consensus emerged—human resources practices are unequivocally pivotal in the establishment and perpetuation of sustainable enterprises. Hence, the HR department holds a significant position, capable of profoundly impacting the development, conception, and execution of sustainable initiatives across the company.
So, you know your instrumental role lies in embedding these policies within the organisational culture, effecting a lasting transformation in the fabric of your business.
Green passion: Millennials and Gen Z
Millennials and Gen Z are keen on working for companies that share their beliefs. Organisations, on the other hand, are dedicating considerable time and effort to initiatives based on these values, which sometimes go beyond their core business focus, like environmental sustainability.
While previous generations may have valued compensation or job stability more, the LinkedIn Index highlighted that 59% of Millennials look for jobs that better align with their personal interests or values. 80% of Gen Z echoes this sentiment too, ranking it as their top priority.
Considering the fierce competition for talent and the costs of training new employees, companies that overlook this fundamental attraction, may risk losing out on potential hires and even their existing workforce.
Green appeal investors too!
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, utilised by socially-conscious investors to evaluate companies, have gained substantial influence. According to a McKinsey and Company Global Survey, over half of executives and investors believe that ESG programs contribute to shareholder value. Nearly all of them recognise the long-term value in environmental sustainability efforts. Moreover, investors express a willingness to invest more in companies with a positive ESG track record—some are even willing to pay a premium of over 50%.
When investors scrutinise environmental sustainability aspects, they typically delve into a company's energy usage, climate policies, or compliance with environmental regulations. They might focus on internal policies for sustainability, industry-specific issues like the company's treatment of animals, its impact on air and water quality, or its management of hazardous waste. For companies seeking investment to fuel their growth objectives, attentiveness to these factors may become a positive point.
Now you know how a simple two-day break can create win-win situations from all angles! Do share your thoughts on ‘post-festivity cleaning breaks in India.’ Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Linkedin.