Nearly all Chennaiites (97 percent) describe themselves as ‘aware’ of the issue of climate change – compared to an average of 80 percent across India; however, only 17 percent of them actually choose the most environment-friendly option when making daily decisions, compared with 27 percent, nationally.
This disparity between the levels of environmental awareness and daily behaviour was revealed through research commissioned by the Mahindra Group. The principal explanation for this contradiction is the absence of environment-friendly products that are priced affordably and offer the same level of performance and quality as existing products.
The Mahindra Group’s inaugural ‘Alternativism’ report reveals that 90 percent of Chennai-based respondents claim to be ‘concerned’ about the risks that single use plastics pose to the environment (compared to 75 percent nationally). In addition, 69 percent of Chennaiites claim to be ‘aware and informed’ about the environmental issue of water conservation (70 percent nationally), while 3 out of 4 are ‘concerned’ about water shortages in the near future that countries, including India, are almost certain to face (68 percent nationally).
However, when it comes to transforming this concern into behavioural change, 26 percent of Chennaiites consider the environmental effect as a priority when choosing their mode of transport (13 percent nationally), with the vast majority (74%) citing comfort & convenience, time and cost as more important criteria (87 percent nationally).
The research went on to highlight the cause for this disparity between environmental awareness and action. 86 percent of Chennaiites believe that it is the absence of affordable, eco-friendly alternatives, that prevents them from being more environmentally considerate in their daily lives (88 percent nationally). According to the research, today, only 17 percent of Chennaiites are actually able to find alternative products minimizing their use of plastic (27 percent nationally).
Chennaiites’ expectations from the business community are very clear from the findings: 86 percent (89 percent nationally) believe they would be able to address climate change more actively if companies offered alternative products and solutions. 73 percent of locals, for instance, would like their employers to act on water conservation by using aerators, doing rainwater harnessing, and recycling waste water, among other initiatives (68 percent nationally).
“As the research confirms, today’s generation of Indians are more environmentally conscious than at any time in our long history. The awareness and involvement levels among Chennaiites is significantly higher in comparison to national figures. However, to transform this awareness into action, consumers need viable, environment-friendly alternatives. The study also reveals that the business community will be increasingly accountable, not merely for the products it develops, but also the manner in which it behaves. The message is unequivocal; it is for business to take up the environmental baton,” said Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer. Mahindra Group.
The research went on to reveal that 44 percent of Chennai respondents would be interested in making changes in their lifestyle to address the conservation of energy if options were available and affordable (37 percent nationally).
The lack of alternatives is, in part, exacerbated by conventional thinking being applied to solutions that address climate change. True sustainability will only be achieved through unconventional, alternative thinking with respect to business models, production, materials, infrastructure, commercial propositions, valuations, etc. This process is not linear, there are no guarantees; and true ‘Alternativism’ is a state-of-mind, a readiness to experiment and speculate, a commitment to think differently and an opportunity to innovate.
The Mahindra Group is keen to promote greener options in view of the challenges posed by climate change. The Group has, for the past decade, worked toward offering greener products across its businesses, including mobility solutions, energy solutions, green buildings, micro irrigation and other technology solutions.