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Earth Day Spotlight: India’s Climate-Focused Companies Making an Impact Today

As we celebrate Earth Day, let’s take a closer look at India, a dynamic economy where innovative companies are leading the way with climate-focused business models. Some of these enterprises are financed by GEF Capital Partners, a Sarona fund manager, investments are made via the SAGF II fund, which holds assets under management (AUM) totalling 192 million USD. Notably, there was a significant allocation of 65 million USD specifically towards e-mobility ventures in 2022.

About GEF Capital Partners

The Global Environment Fund (GEF) was founded in 1990 on the principle that well-deployed capital can significantly improve the environment and quality of life worldwide. Today, GEF seeks to build on this legacy by focusing its investments on resource efficiency across six sectors: energy efficiency, clean energy value chain, water, waste, food and agriculture, and materials. To date, GEF’s team of 25 has deployed approximately $1.0bn in companies operating in these sectors. The companies mentioned below collectively serve approximately 5000 corporate clients and employ more than ten thousand individuals, of which 37% are women.

GEF Capital Partners Portfolio. Source: ESG Report 2022

SeedWorks: Innovating Agricultural Practices in India

SeedWorks is a plant science company engaged in researching, producing, and marketing hybrid seeds of rice, cotton, millet, mustard, and vegetables. SeedWorks has been in the Indian seed business since 1998, spending over 10 percent of its turnover on research and product development. The company has implemented innovative strategies across 16,296 acres in four Indian states to maximize crop yields while conserving water and empowering smallholder farmers. SeedWorks tests its products extensively across 691 locations before it releases them for commercial sales.

The company utilizes the Alternate Dry and Wet (ADW) method, employing IoT applications to precisely manage water levels in rice fields. This technique has led to a 30%-40% reduction in water use compared to traditional methods. Furthermore, SeedWorks has adopted an early sowing strategy, allowing rice seeds to flower at optimal temperatures, enhancing water efficiency and crop productivity. The “Fresh Fields” project under SeedWorks also focuses on improving the livelihoods of approximately 30,000 small farmers by integrating them into the seed production process, which aids in conserving groundwater and surface water.

In February 2024, GEF Capital Partners South Asia worked with 60 Decibels to undertake an impact assessment survey of 287 farmers who had purchased either Seedworks’ hybrid cotton or paddy seeds and received farming advisory and training from the company. The study found that Seedworks is creating a positive impact on farmers’ climate resilience. Specifically:

  • 3 in 4 farmers reported that they are now more knowledgeable about how to better adapt to climate change because of Seedworks.
  • 3 in 4 farmers reported that they expect to take lesser time to recover from climate shocks because of their interaction with Seedworks.
Survey results by 60 Decibels: Seedworks boosts farmers’ climate resilience with hybrid seeds and training.

Premier Energies: Driving Solar Energy Adoption in India

Established in 1995, Premier Energies has risen to become India’s second-largest integrated solar cell and solar module manufacturing company. Premier Energies is committed to manufacturing solar cells and modules, aiming to significantly reduce carbon emissions and support India’s clean energy goals as outlined in the COP26 agreement. The company has an annual production capacity of 2 GW for solar cells and 3.36 GW for Solar modules manufacturing as of 31st March 2024. The company specifically targets regions in central, western, and southern India, leveraging the area’s 250-300 sunny days per year to maximize solar energy capture.

Premier Energies’ ground-mounted solar panels are ideal for greater energy conversion in areas of higher consumption based on the availability of necessary space. Being on the ground, the panels can be pointed in the optimal direction to maximize sun exposure, making them an efficient and cost-effective solution. The hybrid solar system stores solar energy as a power backup while also being connected to the electricity grid to ensure a continuous energy supply when required.

“The objective of our business is very much in sync with the global decarbonization efforts. We are promoting the use of renewable energy and are committed to sustainable growth. Apart from being entirely environmentally focused, it is also our objective to make clean energy accessible to all. This year with GEF’s guidance and support, we started with accounting for our GHG footprint to define a baseline and strategies on reducing our carbon footprint to achieve the net zero target.”

Mr. Chiranjeev Saluja, Managing Director
Showcase of Premier Energies projects. Source: Premier Energies

In 2022 alone, Premier Energies’ solar products helped mitigate around 710,797 tons of CO2 emissions, showcasing the effectiveness of their technology in promoting sustainable energy solutions.

Premier energy solar PV production facility. Source: Premier energies

ESDS: Innovating for Efficient Data Centre Operations

ESDS, an Indian data centre solutions provider, implements patented technologies to enhance energy efficiency in data centre operations. Their ‘eNight services’ feature dynamic autoscaling, significantly reducing energy use and costs. The company has achieved a noteworthy Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) Ratio of 1.7 across its facilities in 2022, thanks to measures like server virtualization and energy-efficient lighting systems controlled by motion sensors.

In the coming years, ESDS has made a commitment to further integrate sustainable elements in its business operations. Its commitments include accomplishing the following by FY28:

  • Further reduce PUE to 1.5
  • Installation of energy efficient lighting systems, replace traditional lighting systems with energy-efficient LEDs to reduce electricity consumption in the data centre.
  • Implement advance cooling systems, such as economizer base advanced cooling, liquid cooling / free cooling, to improve the efficiency of temperature regulation within the data centre.
  • Using a fleet comprising only of electric vehicles at all its sites for transportation purpose

“We prioritise resource efficiency and climate change mitigation in all our business ideas. Our key differentiating elements include running a carbon-neutral data centre and cloud services business, planting two trees per socket, providing employment opportunities for women and members of the LGBTQ community, and contributing significantly to citizen service projects in developing and underdeveloped countries”.

Mr. Piyush Somani, Managing Director and CEO

Electra EV: Pioneering Electric Mobility in India

According to the International Energy Agency, the number of electric cars on the road is projected to reach 145 million by 2030. Electra EV is at the forefront of India’s shift towards electric mobility, providing integrated powertrain solutions to vehicle manufacturers. Their main objective is to advance the growth of electric mobility in India by offering cost-effective and efficient powertrain solutions, systems, and services to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), orchestrators, and tier-one suppliers. Electra EV collaborates with electric mobility providers worldwide to develop optimised powertrain solutions for Asian markets. These solutions include scalable battery packs, configurable management systems, and comprehensive drivetrain assemblies. By promoting electric mobility, Electra EV aims to contribute to India’s NDC targets under the Paris Agreement, directly impacting the reduction of greenhouse gases in the transportation sector.

“Electric mobility holds the potential to better our planet, making it cleaner and greener. Our focus needs to be on creating innovative EV powertrain solutions that can help create relevant and affordable products to serve the people and our communities”.

Ratan N. Tata, Founder, Electra EV

Electra EV is committed to encourage, attract, retain, and develop female talent in its workforce. This commitment to a gender diverse and equitable workforce is underscored by the 6x increase in women’s workforce representation over the span of 1 year, i.e. since the fund’s investment in December 2022 to December 2023. Electra EV achieved this improvement in its gender diversity by making itself a favourable workplace for women, and by creating internal systems and policies that help women thrive at work.

Hero Motors Limited: Leading Innovation in Electric Bike Components

Hero Motors Limited is India’s largest manufacturer of electric bike components and transmission systems. The company focuses on leveraging advancements in technology to produce e-bikes that offer significant environmental benefits. These bikes contribute to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing urban mobility by decreasing traffic congestion and travel time, exemplifying an effective and eco-friendly transportation alternative.

Source: Hero Motors Limited

“GEF’s engagement with Hero Motors Limited (HML) and its focus on resource efficiency and climate investing are complementary to HML’s vision to be a leading auto-components solution provider in EV/hybrid space. GEF and HML have strong commitments to ESG and the climate, which is reflected in the investment and business philosophy and practice of both organisations. The growth capital shall fuel EV/hybrid business growth for HML”.

Mr. Amit Gupta, Managing Director and CEO

Hero Motors is implementing a comprehensive strategy to enhance gender inclusion, aiming to increase female representation in all departments to at least 15% while linking this target to performance evaluations. Additionally, initiatives like ‘Samvaad’ and ‘Mulligan’ facilitate the re-entry of women into the workforce post-marriage or childbirth, coupled with measures such as supporting parents of young children during business travel and ensuring equal opportunities, pay, and healthcare provisions for all employees.

Syrma SGS Technology Limited: Enhancing Energy Efficiency in Electronics

Syrma SGS Technology Limited is a leading producer of energy-efficient electronic devices and components in India. The company offers a wide range of industrial solutions designed to meet the evolving needs of various sectors. Its industrial offerings cater to industries seeking cutting-edge technologies and efficient solutions, including Smart Energy Meters, 5G Infrastructure & Smart Cities, Industrial Cleaning & Printing, Industrial Power Supplies, and Solar Controllers.

“GEF’s investment in Syrma SGS has helped us develop robust internal environmental and social management systems and implement an organization-wide sustainability-focused growth strategy.”

Mr. Jasbir Singh Gujral, Managing Director

Syrma SGS Technology Limited has partnered with clients to design components like energy-efficient power inverters, which are essential for air conditioning systems. These products reduce energy consumption and curb greenhouse gas emissions associated with HVAC systems. Introducing these eco-friendly components has allowed Syrma SGS to expand into new markets for residential and commercial systems.

A vital part of the company’s strategy involves harnessing green energy, such as capitalizing on rooftop spaces available in some of its facilities for solar power generation.

During the investment period, Syrma implemented initiatives such as the ‘Grow From Within’ program, Indian Women Network (IWN), Graduate Engineering Training Programme, and the establishment of a ‘SHE Care Committee’ to empower both internal and external women stakeholders by fostering career growth, safety, and rural employment opportunities.

3SC’s Carbonex: Decarbonizing the Supply Chain

3SC devised Carbonex out of a desire to achieve net zero emission targets by eliminating inefficient supply chains. Using AI-powered and data-driven advanced analytics, Carbonex makes it possible to identify, quantify, reduce, and keep track of an organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of the supply chain process. The platform helps companies measure and report on their sustainability performance by evaluating their planning and operational activities. This enables data-driven decisions around trade-offs between service levels, financial costs, and ESG objectives. The technology collects information from multiple sources such as infrastructure, applications, third parties, IoT, and emerging technologies to leverage the decision-making process in supply chain management. Carbonex serves as a valuable tool for companies looking to improve the sustainability and efficiency of their supply chains, particularly in the context of an increasingly complex and interconnected global economy.

“Our new sustainability platform combines value chain modelling with data management to obtain, validate, and reconcile sustainability data from various sources, helping our customers create sustainable supply chains”.

Mr. Lalit Das, Founder and CEO

As a result of its focus on diversity and inclusivity within the workplace, 3SC has received a “Great Place to Work” certification. Furthermore, the Company’s collaboration with the Global DEI Alliance is also a testament to its commitment to adopting a comprehensive strategy to cultivate an inclusive environment for its employees.

Sarona Asset Management, a global pioneer in impact investing, is dedicated to generating competitive financial returns alongside positive social and environmental outcomes. Our firm’s investment strategies focuses on fostering sustainable development by partnering with local entrepreneurs operating high-growth businesses in emerging markets that generate attractive returns for our investors while contributing positively to their communities. Our goals include empowering women, protecting nature, creating and enhancing employment opportunities, improving governance, and building strong communities.

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