ZEISS employees contribute with various activities

At ZEISS, sustainability initiatives are plenty and fueled by dedicated employees. In celebration of Earth Day, we are showcasing a range of projects aimed at promoting environmental consciousness. Among these efforts is a notable project dedicated to providing students with proper seating instead of learning on the floor. Additionally, ZEISS employees in India are actively engaged in a project to contribute to local food security.

Manoj Sharma, who usually navigates corporate corridors, finds himself often now in a different setting. He weaves through rows and rows of crops amidst sprawling fields. Here, the ZEISS Head of Supply Chain & Business Processes is working on multiple sustainable community projects in India, the world’s most populous country that has a landmass only a third the size of China’s.

Manoj Sharma sits on stairs in front of a school surrounded by pupils

He hails from a rural, central part of the country. In a region where, as Sharma puts it, “most people were either farming or running very small businesses,“ he witnessed the pressing need for sustainable infrastructure to bridge inequalities across his country. This realization fueled his desire to actively contribute to environmental solutions.

“I am motivated by seeing how I can impact the people around us. We all have the responsibility to act and contribute to society. I mean, global warming is not the future – it’s happening right now.” In the wake of increasing impacts of climate change, including worsening monsoons and ongoing water management challenges in India, Sharma has taken on a significant role at ZEISS. He now oversees a large part of the company’s sustainability efforts across the country.

Portrait of Manoj Sharma

I am motivated by seeing how I can impact the people around us. We all have the responsibility to act and contribute to society.

Manoj Sharma

Head of Supply Chain & Business Processes at ZEISS India
Sharma, Radia and a colleague are building new benches from discarded wooden crates

In 2021, a year after joining ZEISS, Sharma noticed a significant issue: the company regularly discarded wooden crates used for shipments, sourced from felled trees. He teamed up with Dhaval Radia, Chief Financial Officer for ZEISS in India, who shared his passion for sustainability. Radia, with a background of having built a clean energy business, recognized the potential to repurpose the crates and is interested in projects that help improve equity of resources. “Corporations must prioritize achieving a circular economy with sustainability, and reasonable profitability for all involved, if they want to effectively solve grass-root level problems at scale for such a large population,” explains Radia.

Three children are standing in a doorway of a colorfully painted school building

Impacting Children's Lives with a Simple Idea

The purpose for the wood from the crates became obvious after Sharma visited a state-based public school in Bengaluru, the same region where ZEISS India is headquartered. Across the country there are still major inequalities between rural and urban schools. According to the Indian National Council of Educational Research and Training, rural schools, on average, are less likely to have access to electricity, plumbing, onsite water facilities, and other necessary supplies in comparison to urban schools.

In the case of this school in Bengaluru, some of the classrooms didn’t have benches for students to sit on during lessons. They were sitting on the ground for several hours every day to learn. After finding a relevant carpenter team, Sharma put the skilled professionals to work. The goal: make sure the children in that community’s school have the proper facilities to learn and get quality education. Sharma and his team were able to recycle enough wooden crates to build and supply benches for the entire school, while still reducing the impact on the climate by not having to cut down additional trees to build benches.

Manoj Sharma sits on a bench in the wood workshop

The feedback from the school was highly positive. On the one hand, the children benefit from proper seating arrangements to learn and assimilate more in the classroom. On the other hand, previously discarded resources have found a new, meaningful life and promise to be useful for years to come. “We aspire to be recognized as pioneers in promoting sustainability and advocating for environmental causes. We aim to extend our support to sustainable projects across India over the next three to five years. We plan to significantly expand these initiatives and ensure their long-term impact is felt throughout the country,” says Radia. Over 400 bench sets have been donated, resulting in a significant positive impact on the lives of 1,200 students across 12 schools every year. However, expanding the project beyond the initial pilot schools and instilling sustainability awareness into the company's operations has been challenging and required assertive intent and action.

Pupils are helping Manoj Sharma carry new benches into a classroom

A Shift Toward Sustainability

Internally, Sharma had to make sustainable development obvious for workers at every touchpoint. This involved integrating sustainability into the day-to-day business, starting with the elimination of single-use bottles in the conference rooms at ZEISS. Externally, India’s environmental development is becoming more and more of a topic for other companies, with many now seriously considering it as part of their economic growth. Since companies are still innovating their methods, it’s sometimes difficult to source environmental options. This is a factor that Radia and Sharma had to consider to expand the school bench project to further communities across Bangalore and Karnataka and into the rest of India for years to come.

  • 400

    bench sets have already been donated.

  • 12

    schools have received benches from ZEISS India.

  • 1,200

    students benefit from this project every year.

Roots of Change: From Rural Fields to One United Environmental Vision

The school bench project is just one of several community engagement solutions that are currently ongoing at ZEISS. Sharma says projects like these are built into ZEISS’ DNA, with countless other employees around the world who make a difference throughout the year. In India alone, an estimated 200 employee volunteers have been involved in environmental initiatives over the years.

One of them is a community garden at the ZEISS headquarters in Bangalore. From the get-go, the impact of this garden has been tangible. Including all different crops, the average annual yield is around 15,000 kgs of harvest. This harvest is sufficient to provide around 36,500 nutritious meals each year.

Employee engagement for these community service opportunities has since only been growing. Individuals are eager to engage because they resonate with these inclusive campaigns, having experienced firsthand or having seen their elderly populace who have navigated through some of these challenges themselves in getting quality education or facilities. As Radia puts it, the need to conserve our limited natural resources “we are bestowed with on this earth is very real and urgent. It transcends all man-made boundaries and has the potential to unify us all to work towards building an equitable society.” Radia says he finds it truly inspiring how naturally driven a lot of the teams are in their volunteering initiatives to rewrite the narrative and innovate on sustainable projects.

Portrait of Dhaval Radia

The need to conserve our limited natural resources with which we are bestowed on this earth is very real and urgent. It transcends all man-made boundaries and has the potential to unify us all to work towards building an equitable society.

Dhaval Radia

Chief Financial Officer for ZEISS in India

A Helping Hand in Bangalore's Corporate Landscape

Radia and Sharma will continue to push sustainable solutions internally. To them, sustainability is a core part of their strategy. That’s why they formed a CSR & Sustainability Committee at the end of last year with an aim to put a robust mechanism to evaluate, implement and monitor all CSR and sustainability initiatives across ZEISS India. Here, social impact organizations who have good ideas are given an initial round of funding to explore opportunities from the CSR budget. Over several stages, these organizations will be given advisory and other resources as well as further financial support when they continuously show results. This approach not only empowers employees but creates the opportunity they need to contribute to social good. “There is poverty. There are people suffering. And we aim to address these issues. We will invest our time, energy, and finances toward caring for education, healthcare, and contributing value to society,” says Sharma while he kneels to plant another seed for the next harvest.

Portrait of Miguel Gonzalez Diaz

ZEISS’ commitment extends beyond its business operations and enhancing customer relations; it encompasses a profound dedication to ensuring a significantly improved environment for generations to come.

Miguel Gonzalez Diaz

Managing Director of Carl Zeiss India

Earth Day 2024

ZEISS employees around the world came together to mark Earth Day and contributed to environmental protection through a variety of activities:

  • ZEISS Earth Day 2024

Focus on Earth Day

  • Earth Day, initiated by U.S. politician Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, commemorates the birth of the modern environmental movement every April 22. In the years leading up to this milestone there was increasing awareness about pollution's impact on public health and the environment. Witnessing a massive oil spill in 1969, Senator Nelson proposed a teach-in on campuses, partnering with activist Denis Hayes. Earth Day, first observed on April 22, 1970, rallied 20 million Americans against industrial development's environmental consequences, leading to new environmental laws. Since then, Earth Day has grown globally, addressing climate change and other social issues.

  • Earth Day acts as a platform for businesses to communicate their ongoing corporate ESG goals and the best ways their company can make a difference in combating environmental challenges. It’s also a good opportunity to celebrate the progress made so far. Additionally, many organizations organize community-based projects to contribute to environmental conservation.

  • ZEISS is committed to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on areas where meaningful action can be taken. The company's initiatives revolve around three key themes derived from the SDGs: climate action, circular economy and value for society. Learn more about ZEISS’ efforts.

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