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Drafting Our Green Blueprint for the Future

Andrew Buss

Sarang Kirpekar

Senior Vice President; Head of Product Engineering and Head of Sustainability, Hitachi Vantara

Sarang Kirpekar is the Senior Vice President and Head of Product Engineering for Hitachi Vantara since February 2021. HV Product Engineering included Lumada Software, Converged/Hyperconverged, Hitachi NAS and Content Storage product lines. Sarang is also Head of Sustainability at Hitachi Vantara. As a part of this role he regularly works with leaders in the ESG domain in Hitachi Ltd. Prior to Hitachi Vantara Sarang held leadership roles at eBay, Yahoo, Shutterfly, and Teradata. Sarang brings deep experience to Product Engineering, Operations, Infrastructure, Product Management and Data Science. He has also been on the Forbes Technology Council for the last four years.

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As the evidence and ramifications of climate change continue to mount, the pressure for businesses to respond is intensifying. The question for many is, how?

No organization, regardless of size, history, or industry, is immune to the cries from the growing chorus of consumers, investors, and governments to incorporate environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) goals, and then be prepared to explain them, and to report on their progress.

In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a sweeping 506-page regulation that, for the first time, would require public companies to detail how their operations affect the environment. If the “proposed rule” is approved, companies will be held accountable for disclosing any “climate-related risks” that could have material impact on the business, its operations, or financial condition.

It’s clear that in 2022, the driving force for sustainability in business is more than being environmentally conscious or progressive, it’s blending business and ESG goals for the betterment of both.

We Didn’t Wait to Be Told to Go Green

Sustainability has been at the core of Hitachi for decades. The company embarked on a long-term decarbonization program between 2010 and 2020, in which it reduced total CO2 emissions by 39% across its global business sites (factories and offices).

Among the myriad programs and processes we’ve put into place, one of our boldest came a year ago, when we announced the “Hitachi Carbon Neutrality 2030” program to bring all of Hitachi’s carbon emissions to zero by the end of the decade. The company committed to achieving this organically, not through the acquisition of carbon offsets, and to not only solve the challenge through economic activities but also by developing products and solutions that lower the environmental impact.

As impressive as those statistics seem, there’s so much more that can and must be done. Sustainability must be a business imperative where organizations large and small, old, and new, think about news ways to retrofit or fine-tune their operations to run more sustainably, reducing the amount of energy they use, and the amount of CO2 they emit.

Drafting Our Green Blueprint

At Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, we too, must reach the aggressive decarbonization goals for 2030. And we are on our way. Late last year, we formalized the operation of sustainability internally when I assumed the role of Chief Sustainability Officer. From this position, I have the responsibility of architecting the blueprint for Hitachi Vantara’s sustainability strategy and execution.

The more I’ve engaged with my colleagues and counterparts here and across the Hitachi Group companies, the more I am convinced that the force to changing the trajectory of the climate crisis will come from industry – through our concerted efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, and also to develop and provide sustainable goods and services – we can and must do more.

Our sustainability blueprint will serve as a guide and map to our goals. Let me share the basics of the strategy from a high-level. I began by segmenting the approach into three distinct but complementary pillars:

  • What does it mean for our people?
  • What does it mean for our brand?
  • And what does it mean for our business?

This segmentation of everything we do in sustainability is designed specifically to keep the operation focused and aligned to goals. Let me break it down:

Our People: This is about engaging and empowering the employee base. It’s important to consider the power of your people from the outset. We are all assets and compatriots in the fight against climate change. What I wanted and needed to do was develop a program to formalize and engage, so I created the Employee Resource Group. I launched it globally in December of 2021 and to date, we have almost 100 members, all volunteers, already actively engaged. These energetic, conscientious employees convene regularly and virtually from around the globe to share stories about projects they’ve launched and executed in their local communities, best practices, and ask questions. They’ve been doing everything from planting trees to educating grade school kids on green habits like switching off tap water when brushing their teeth. Everything adds up. We have big plans for this group going forward and expect to continue growing it vigorously to do bigger and better things all the time. But this type of program is much more than a “feel good” program. It will reap benefits for the company and the planet. In addition, we view it as a differentiator for attracting talent and retaining the talent we have, as well.

Our Brand: When I look at the blueprint from a brand perspective, it needs to complement the message of the brand that we have today as a company. It is not and cannot be something different, divergent or it will be distracting. Not at all – this strategy must be in complete alignment with the company’s brand mission and messages. That said, working in lockstep with branding and marketing and product development will enable and empower us all to collaborate on shaping all that we do with sustainability front and center.

Our Business: And from a business perspective, our sustainability goals span everything from global real estate and building management, to product design, communications, and energy management. Add in business process management and health & safety, and we have a full plate. That’s where data comes in. At Hitachi Vantara, being data-driven means learning from the vast volumes of data you’re generating every single day to make strategic decisions in the future. So, we have a bit of a head start in this area. We provide cloud-ready infrastructure that is easily interconnected across hybrid multiclouds for making data accessible and available for analysis and AI from the data center to the cloud to the edge of the network, easily. We also have and leverage AI-driven services that provide autonomous management of IT operations, that helps keep the enterprises up and running more efficiently. Again, what we do internally, can work for others – for customers and partners. So, as part of this plan, we’re developing programs to assist companies across industries to architect and adopt interconnected systems for achieving their own sustainability goals.

One more note on the business of sustainability is this: it has become absolutely evident that as I work through this blueprint that no company today can address everything in the realm end to end. Ecosystem plays and partnership plays are absolutely critical. In other words, you can't go at it alone. You just cannot. We don’t go it alone. We rely on multiple partners to pull this off.

The Power of Simply Setting Goals

I’m continually amazed by incredible forcing function that a simple goal can become. But it’s true: just set it, do it. For example, when Hitachi set its 2030 carbon neutrality program, it didn’t stop there. The company took it further and announced our goal of driving carbon neutrality across our entire value chain by 2050. That means demanding carbon neutrality from all of our suppliers, all of the vendors we interact with and who are a part of our ecosystem.

When considering the entire picture of sustainability, it can appear extremely daunting. It’s important to not panic. Think about the social, economic, and environmental value your projects can generate and plan accordingly. Set the goals. The potential upside opportunity is enormous. That’s when momentum begins and sustainability becomes…self-sustaining.

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