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India’s IT industry slashed its carbon emissions during the pandemic. Is this sustainable?

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When India’s IT services industry returns to work in a post-pandemic world, it would have stepped up its sustainability quotient.

Carbon emissions in India’s IT sector have fallen 85% to 0.3 million tonnes between March 2020 and March 2021, compared to 2 million tonnes in the year prior, according to market intelligence firm UnearthInsight. The green gains are mainly because less than 5% of the 4.4 million employees in the Indian IT outsourcing industry were travelling to work during this time.

The top five IT services companies – Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCL Technologies, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra – spent 75% less than last year on commutes to work, domestic travel, and international travel, according to UnearthInsight.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has propelled India’s $194 billion [Rs 14 lakh crore] outsourcing industry towards carbon neutrality with hybrid working models, electric mobility, and digital disruption for campus hiring,” the study of over 2,000 big and small outsourcing technology companies in India noted.

It’s likely that a quarter of the IT workforce will return to work by early 2022 as global and domestic firms get their employees vaccinated. In this post-pandemic world, even as office visits and business travel increase, companies will crack myriad ways to become more sustainable.

Indian IT’s use of EVs and automation

For one, India’s top five IT behemoths and captive centres for global companies like Google and Microsoft had already adopted electric vehicles to ferry employees before the coronavirus outbreak. These firms will increase employee travel on electric vehicles from 5% now to over 25% by 2025, UnearthInsight estimates.

Infosys has inked a deal with oil and gas firm BP to give its campuses access to low carbon energy and mobility options, among other things. TCS’ parent firm Tata Group has been at the forefront of India’s EV revolution, building cars, setting up charging stations, and providing tech support, creating green opportunities not just for itself but also for its clients.

Secondly, “significant adoption of digital tools to avoid future domestic and international travel needs with consumer-grade experience will also aid carbon neutrality targets,” UnearthInsight noted. All IT firms have been investing in automation and cloud for some time now, and this digitisation will only increase going forward.

Lastly, with in-person recruitment drives becoming tougher due to the Covid-19 pandemic, IT companies are taking the online route. India’s top two IT companies, TCS and Infosys, hired over 70,000 freshers completely digitally during the pandemic, UnearthInsight said, adding that three-quarters of campus hiring in the tech industry is expected to happen with the aid of digital tools and platforms by 2025.

“These tools and platforms have created a level playing field for engineering graduates regardless of the type of college or tiering,” the report noted.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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