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In Pursuit of a Green Future—Manipal Towards Sustainability

Devangshi Debraj | Staff Writer

On the rainy evening of 24th October, over hundred eager listeners assembled in the KEF Auditorium, at Manipal Institute of Technology. Keeping in mind the growing need to adopt sustainability as a way of life, Chandramohan Gupta, Head of Corporate Affairs, Coca-Cola (India and Southwest Asia), was invited to deliver a talk on the current scenario of sustainable growth and development in our country. This talk was organised as a part of the #WhereIsMyPETGoing? project, that strives to understand the plastic ecosystem of Manipal while attempting to gauge the awareness levels of students.

The speaker, a renowned expert in the field of sustainability and supply chain, had several valuable insights to share with students on the challenges associated with adopting sustainable practices in the industry, as well as possible solutions. Speaking of Coca-Cola’s immense reach, and the fact that it is a material-intensive company, he explained the need to shift from our currently linear economy to a circular one, where symbiotic growth is made a point of focus.

Chandramohan Gupta, enlightening students on the importance of sustainability

He referred to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the UN as he spoke of the urgent need to make them part and parcel of our daily lives. He urged the audience to formulate ideas that would help our nation reduce its carbon footprint. He also insisted that while the study of engineering subjects provided theoretical knowledge, most of this knowledge may be obsolete in today’s rapidly changing world. He spoke of a need to stay up-to-date with current trends, and also anticipate what the requirements of the future might be. Here, he quoted Greta Thunberg’s TEDx talk, stating, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So, instead of looking for hope, look for action.”

A significant challenge for the complex subject of sustainability, as mentioned by the speaker, is single-use plastics that are designed for immediate disposal. Alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that India would ban such plastics by 2022, he spoke of the shift in Coca-Cola consumers’ concerns from beverage sugar levels to the issues of waste management and the detrimental effects of plastic packaging on the environment. He went on to explain the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, where the person in control of the pricing of a pollutant is responsible for the pollution. He also spoke about how company competition often clashed with possible collaborations in the sphere of environment protection.

“I came here because I am passionately interested in sustainability and protection of the environment. I particularly enjoyed the personal anecdotes shared by Mr Gupta as he strove to make the topic relatable,”  said Jahanvi Antil, an MBBS student at KMC and a member of the audience, sharing her views on this enlightening talk,

Wrapping up his talk, Chandramohan Gupta asserted that the environment would drive the way the world will change. Soon, mass consumption will increase, leading to increased development—this will prove to be a huge opportunity generator for the youth. He concluded with words of encouragement for the young audience“Although engineers are trained to follow a linear economy, you must stay hungry for newness. You must be alive to the changes around the world.”

After the end of the talk, a few students who expressed their interest in learning more about the subject also took part in a one-on-one interactive session with the speaker. This discussion resulted in a productive exchange of ideas, as the students made full use of the opportunity to confer with a knowledgeable and experienced corporate expert.

Overall, the event was well-organised and attracted a number of students who were interested in learning more about the subject. “I’m extremely happy with the turnout, especially since the crowd consisted of students from across MAHE,” remarked Agrim Gupta, an organiser for the event. Students left the talk, having gained new insights about sustainable development and eager to do their part to protect the planet.

Image Credits: The Photography Club, Manipal