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TCS: Taking a Visionary Approach to Sustainability

We recently talked with TCS about its stable of offerings for sustainability. Not only does the company have a broad set of offerings, but some of these have been on offer for years – this is not a new area of focus for TCS, which is taking a holistic approach to Sustainability. We note also that the company’s approach to the theme of Sustainability fits neatly in its corporate positioning on its abilities to support clients in their Growth and Innovation (G&I) initiatives.

With its internal efforts, TCS has always been committed to environmental stewardship, evident from its longstanding efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shrink the organization’s environmental footprint by improving efficiencies in resource consumption, using renewable sources of energy and green IT, including procurement of energy-efficient assets, operational energy management, and eco-friendly disposal of end-of-life IT equipment.

Evolving from Carbon Footprint Reduction to Regenerative Development

But what about broader offerings to clients? Back in 2009, TCS CEO N. Chandrasekaran acquired a small consultancy in India that was one of the few companies at that time offering advisory services on climate change management, and certainly before its peers were looking at this. The company helped clients baseline their carbon footprint and identify possible energy management initiatives. This consultancy was on the advisory council of the Commonwealth Games, which India was about to host, helping identify how to make the games green. Other consulting projects included ones with the Assam Secretariat, and the Taj group of hotels on their sustainability journey in land management, energy management, waste and water management, then eventually carbon management. An early emphasis within these consulting projects was on helping clients move towards sustainable operations and sustainable supply chains as opportunities for improving profitability; the consultancy offered commercial models with a gainshare element based on realized energy savings. In time, areas of focus in consulting engagements evolved to managing regulatory compliance, brand reputation management, stakeholder communications, and supplier and sourcing risk management.

The nature of TCS' discourse with clients about sustainability has evolved, reflecting increased awareness by organizations of the impact of climate change, also of the importance of inclusion and diversity. There is generally an increased sense of urgency, a reflection of factors such as increasingly scarce resources, greater investor and regulatory demands around ESG performance, and consumer preferences for greener products.

Accordingly, the emphasis in TCS’ approach has moved from mitigation to regeneration, from “doing less harm” ecologically to “doing more good” and helping organizations develop the capacity to mitigate the associated challenges.

TCS highlights that all companies are going through a continuum in this journey and advocates looking at becoming part of a regenerative economy along four horizons:

  1. Building sustainable business
  2. Evolving sustainable value chains
  3. Driving sustainable living
  4. Nurturing regenerative economies.

The concept of being part of a regenerative economy is thus broader in scope than decarbonization, covering what an organization can do proactively to restore the health of our planet, people, and places.

At the same time, TCS offers to help organizations identify potential opportunities by entering new markets with sustainable products and services. It encourages organizations to view sustainable operations and supply chains as profitability centers, optimizing the top line and not just the bottom line.

Taking a Multi-Stakeholder Approach

While TCS typically begins a sustainability consulting assignment with the CFO or CPO, it is targeting the complete range of CXOs with offerings to support their specific sustainability requirements, for example:

  • CFOs around climate risk, ESG risk, return on sustainability investments, SASB & integrated reporting, and carbon trading
  • CPOs around sustainable sourcing, supplier sustainability, hazardous materials, rare earth elements, end-of-life products, and sustainable logistics
  • CTOs around sustainability-led new business models, sustainable product/service design & engineering, and life cycle assessments.

Taking a Highly Industry-Specific Approach to Sustainability

Over the years TCS has a developed portfolio of around 200 sustainability offerings. About 20% are horizontal offerings cutting across industries and 80% are sector-specific. TCS’s sustainability capabilities are spread across the group: each vertical has centers of excellence around sustainability, making individual investments in capabilities, people, and technology.

Eight Principles; Four Horizons; Six Levers of Action

Along with this distributed approach to sustainability, TCS also has an central sustainability consulting team and a corporate viewpoint on eight principles of how a company does business as a part of a regenerative economy:

  1. In the right relationships (with each other, earth/technology, etc.)
  2. Viewing wealth holistically (economic, social, natural)
  3. Innovative and adaptive ecosystems able to handle uncertainty and change
  4. Empowered participation (open and accessible)
  5. Honoring place and community
  6. Edge effect abundance
  7. Robust circulation
  8. Seeks balance between efficiency and diversity

TCS has taken its perspectives of these eight principles and four horizons and categorized its various sustainability offerings along six ‘Levers of Action’:

  1. Climate change: energy management, emissions/waste management, food stewardship, biodiversity, etc.
  2. Circularity, sustainable and inclusive sourcing: e.g., product stewardship, distribution & logistics, product recycling at end of life
  3. Human capital and social inclusion, safety for employees
  4. Social capital and community, sustainable wellness, democratized healthcare, education, etc.
  5. Impact innovation, taking a faster agile approach to innovation so that new products/services can be quickly developed and market tested. Increasing the pace of innovation is critical to being able to succeed in the world of tomorrow
  6. Governance, reporting & transparency.

TCS sees sustainability as creating opportunities for organizations in three main areas:

  • Reducing the risk to brand reputation around regulatory compliance, suppliers & sourcing, and stakeholder communication
  • Improving profitability through sustainable operations and sustainable supply chains
  • Generating G&I opportunities around new differentiated products & services in new markets; including equitable access to those previously considered to be luxuries in targeted markets in Africa and Asia.

In particular, TCS is assisting organizations in:

  • Tackling climate change and preserving natural resources
  • Embedding circularity in their products & services
  • Nurturing their workforces and empowering human capital
  • Innovating for social and environmental impact
  • Driving transparency with all stakeholders.

For example, TCS’ offerings for embedding circularity in products & services include

  • Product stewardship: TCS Envirozone i-CloseLoop, Enviro 360 for circular marketplace, lifecycle assessments, additive manufacturing, 5R Analytics Platform for sustainable packaging
  • Supplier sustainability: TCS Envirozone and TCS blockchain services for track & trace and TCS Ozone & TCS NetZero for responsible sourcing
  • Logistics optimization: TCS DigiFleet
  • Use and end of life: prosumer incentivization and TCS iClose-Loop for recycling components.

Examples of TCS sustainability engagements include deploying

  • Clever Energy, to assist a pharmaceuticals retailer in making a net energy saving of $100m over five years and targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030
  • TCS AlgoScan, to achieve a 24% reduction in retail food waste for a U.K. retailer, resulting in 5.2m meals being distributed using surplus food
  • TCS NetZero, to assist a global dairy food & beverage conglomerate in developing a net-zero journey for 76m CO2e by 2050.

Taking an Ecosystem Approach

TCS highlights the importance of companies taking an ecosystem approach on this journey to being part of a regenerative economy with no one company being able to address this on their own.

Similarly, TCS has its own ecosystem for sustainability covering hyperscalers & enterprise platforms, specialist ESG vendors, academia, and associations. Examples of specialist ESG vendors include for DE&I tools and Tagbox for tagging products, supply chain shipments, and assets to monitor their health in real-time and ensure that the shipment quality is not compromised.

In academia, TCS works with the University of Auckland on Sustainable Mobility and with Carnegie Mellon University & Cornell Tech on banking projects.

In addition, TCS is applying its COIN startup and VC network to sustainability. It believes that the startup ecosystem has numerous solutions that could be scaled to solve very niche problems for organizations. Examples include:

  • In agriculture & food, SuperMeat for lab-grown cultivated meat; Phytech for monitoring data from trees, plants, & irrigation systems; and Holganix for soil charging with microbes
  • For carbon footprint management, Emitwise for tracking, measuring, and reporting carbon footprints and carbon footprint monitoring for farms.


Clearly, TCS is taking a very visionary approach to sustainability, encouraging organizations to think ambitiously about how they can use sustainability to generate new revenue sources while doing more good for people and the planet. This gets sustainability off the back foot as a defensive posture and allows organizations to use sustainability to drive the business forwards. Industry, in general, is at the start of this journey, but TCS has already built an impressive array of offerings and capabilities to help organizations identify the sustainable “to-be” model and start down this path.

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