Over the past two decades, ITC has supported a sustainable and inclusive forestry value chain for its paperboards and specialty paper business. It contributes to carbon sequestration by creating a large green cover whilst supporting large-scale livelihood tribals and marginal farmers. The Business has adopted an indigenous fibre-sourcing strategy by supporting the growth of renewable plantations, thus contributing to import substitution. Encouraged by ITC’s large-scale afforestation initiative, Classmate has taken up a local tree plantation initiative in Chennai and students on World Environment Day. ITC’s large-scale afforestation programme has greened over 9,50,000 acres of land and provided over a 170-million-person day of sustainable livelihood to farmers in India. The efforts made by ITC to promote responsible sourcing and sustainable plantations have led to the Forest Stewardship Council certification and membership of WWF-Global Forest and Trade Network.
ITC Classmate’s small but significant afforestation drive involving school students aims to complement the efforts of volunteers combating climate change at a local level. It has partnered with the Environmentalist Foundation of India, which the Chengalpet District Administration has invited to create a forest patch at Vengadamangalam, a fast-growing residential suburban pocket of Chennai. It is witnessing land, water, and air contamination with a profound shift in land use, growth, and ecology at large.
It is developing this project as an urban forest as part of a collaboration between the government, industry, students, and civic society. The objective of this afforestation project is also to motivate school students fully understand the importance of positive environmental actions and develop eco-consciousness. To ensure that, ITC Classmate has planned a dedicated orientation program in 24 schools in the city from 10 June 2022 to 31 July 2022. The program aims to enhance their understanding of nuances of resource utilization, biodiversity preservation, and sustainability. After attending the orientation program, students are expected to volunteer at the afforestation site in Vengadamangalam and get involved in post-plant maintenance like plant watering, manuring, and nourishment.
Speaking about the initiative, Vikas Gupta, chief executive officer, Education and Stationery Products Business Division, ITC, said, “Climate change is impacting us in myriad ways. The young generation will have to play a significant role in environmental conservation. At ITC, responsible capitalism is an ongoing strategy that focuses on extreme competitiveness but in a manner that replenishes the environment and supports sustainable livelihood. As part of this ethos, we, at ITC Classmate, have taken it upon ourselves to enhance understanding of the youth about the afforestation and take actions that would support their hope and trust in active actions for the future. We are endeavouring to embed awareness, know-how and capability amongst students on how they can foster sustainability in their daily way of life.”
The Vengadamangalam panchayat dedicated the land parcel to developing an urban forest intending to mitigate issues related to pollution and recreate lost habitats by encouraging biodiversity. ITC Classmate, through its NGO partner Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI), cleaned this land parcel of any non-degradable trash and invasive plants, completed trench work, and created nourishment beds. It planted 1350 saplings of native plants and planted berry-bearing, nectar-bearing, and fruit-bearing varieties on the entire plot, besides fencing it with a dedicated water source for the growth of the saplings.