Firms fear losing talent due to pollution
Year-round air pollution in Gurugram is increasingly becoming a cause of concern for companies in the city looking to hire and retain talent.
As a result, companies operating in areas removed from the environment are feeling the need to create a conversation around the issue which, they say, has been largely ignored by the authorities.
This past week, two companies based out of Gurugram — MakeMyTrip in Cyber City and Nagarro in Udyog Vihar — surveyed their employees to ascertain how air pollution is impacting their lives. More than 1,000 employees were asked through an online survey tool if they or their families had developed respiratory issues, how much they spend yearly to fight air pollution and whether they have considered relocating, among other questions on pollution.
The average age of the employees is around the average age of 30 years and about one-third were women.
At Nagarro, 49% of the employees said they or their families had respiratory problems and 75% said they have considered leaving the region because of poor air quality.
The survey also revealed that an employee and their family spend ₹16,187, on an average, yearly to fight air pollution, which includes air purifiers, the cost of medicines and visits to doctors. At least 74% of the employees said they would choose cleaner air over an increment.
According to Manas Fuloria, chief executive officer, Nagarro, the aim of the survey was to highlight that despite the fact that the city’s worsening pollution is affecting and disrupting health and business, it isn’t a priority for authorities. “The government’s spending on air pollution is low and data has shown there has hardly been any penalties for polluting activities, despite deteriorating health and increasing costs to fight it,” Fuloria said.
According to a report by Greenpeace, a non-government environmental organisation, published in March, Gurugram was the most polluted city in the world in 2018.
According to the Air Quality Life Index report, published in November 2018 by a Delhi-based organisation, the level of PM2.5 has been increasing by at least 2ug/m3 every year in the city. However, enforcement of measures to control pollution has remained poor, Fuloria said, adding that there has been no penalty for causing dust pollution in the city, as revealed by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) in an RTI response recently.
At the MakeMyTrip office in Cyber City, 44% employees said they or their families had respiratory issues, 69% said they have considered leaving the city and 65% said they would choose clean air over an increment. The average spending on air pollution for an employee and their family was found to be ₹14,905 per year.
Deep Kalra, CEO, MakeMyTrip, said he wanted to raise the pollution pitch a bit higher through this survey. “My aim was to show how significant the problem of air pollution is. Because of the year-round pollution, the productivity is affected; people are staying sick longer,” he said, adding that despite such issues, there is a general apathy about pollution among authorities.
Kalra said he, along with other employers, would be expanding the survey among other corporates as well.
Vinod Sood, managing director, Hughes Systique in Info City Phase-2, a provider of software R&D services, said air pollution is causing a brain drain in the city. “It is becoming difficult to attract and retain talent. People prefer to work in Bangalore and Pune than in Gurugram due to rising health concerns because of pollution,” he said, adding that the topic is a usual part of office and board meetings.
He said employees are carpooling to the office every day and are doing their bit to make the office space greener.
Sood added he would be conducting the survey in the company in the coming week. “We are more than 700 employees who are invested in the city and are worried about the consequences of pollution,” he said.