The Future of Engineering is Green


Vidya Basarkod, Managing Director, India & Director, Ramboll Engineering CenterThe green construction movement is gaining momentum worldwide every year. Thanks to the sustainable engineering benchmarks set by the globally leading engineering solutions providers like Ramboll, today, if someone uses the word green in their tagline, they need to be able to back it up. To navigate the changing equations in the engineering and construction realm, CEO Insights engages in an exclusive interaction with Vidya Basarkod, Country Director - India, and Engineering Center Director, Ramboll. A civil engineer by profession with a Master’s in Structural Engineering from IIT Bombay, she joined Ramboll in 2016 and was appointed the Country Director—India last year. A thought leader, she possesses over 35 years of professional experience.

In conversation with Vidya Basarkod, Managing Director, India & Director, Ramboll Engineering Center.

Can you tell us about the sustainable practices that Ramboll has adopted in its business and your vision toward a sustainable future?
Ramboll’s declared strategy is to be the Partner for Sustainable Change for our clients, communities, and society. We deliver measurable, sustainable impact for our key stakeholders through our expertise, insight, advisory and innovative solutions for the built and natural environment and aim to be a global leader within four unifying sustainability themes, namely: (i) Decarbonize for net zero, (ii) Resilient societies and livability, (iii) Resource management and circular economy, and (iv) Biodiversity and ecosystem.

Our engineering solutions are committed to mitigating the risks of a negative impact by balancing our projects’ environmental, social, and economic dimensions. As a company, we contribute to the UN 2030 agenda and have a balanced approach to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

We have some great projects where we have made a big difference; the Noida International Airport (NIA) is a pioneer in the industry where we have prepared an accelerated roadmap for NIA to become India’s first net-zero emissions airport focused on waste, water, fuel, and energy in our net-zero design process. All designs have been developed to achieve an efficient, green infrastructure in an integrated Building Information Modeling (BIM) environment. 

Ramboll’s Mumbai Coastal Road project is another notable example. A 29 km long freeway will run along Mumbai’s western coastline to improve the connectivity across Mumbai for smoother traffic movement reducing traffic congestion, thus reducing emissions and carbon footprint. Development of open spaces in the form of sea-facing promenades is also included in the project.

We work with global processes and tools with local relevance and agility. We combine local expertise by employing local talent and materials with sustainable practices backed by a global knowledge base to create sustainable cities and societies.

Our vision is toward a sustainable future, and we aim to be recognized as the global leader in the green energy transition in our industry. By 2025, we aim to significantly contribute to society’s sustainable transformation. We are also working towards reducing our own emissions by 18 percent and are on a path to zero emissions by 2030.

CSR is a high-priority practice at Ramboll, and our approach is embedded in our fundamentals and reflects in the programs that provide support and relief to communities in need

Can you tell us about Ramboll’s Low Carbon approach and how it helps facilitate sustainable growth while increasing livability and quality of life?

Responsible business conduct and sustainable practices have been part of Ramboll’s DNA since the company’s inception. We are dedicated to delivering environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable solutions. Along with being committed to ambitious climate action, we have also committed to ambitious targets to maximize our own sustainability performance and set the industry benchmark.

Decarbonizing for net zero addresses the global need for climate action. For that, we have shifted to the use of renewable energy, improved energy efficiency, advancing low carbon technologies and energy systems, and decarbonizations in our projects.

We are focusing on embodied carbon reduction and investing in the circularity of natural resources and materials with a focus on circular design and the entire resource lifecycle to live in harmony with nature and promote sustainable living.

We design for re-purposing and reuse of natural resources, building materials, lifetime extension, and reuse of secondary materials. Our company follows the protection of natural habitats and biodiversity, restoration of nature and ecosystems, bioeconomy, biomaterials, and natural carbon sequestration in ecosystems.

Brief us about the objectives of your green transition and what developments have been made in meeting your goals.
In the green energy transition, we are developing our position to become the global leader, working at the forefront of existing and emerging technologies such as offshore wind, green hydrogen, power to x, and carbon capture and storage.

We are accelerating the Green Energy Transition and using renewables and new technologies to decarbonize the built environment in Buildings, Transport, Water, and Energy-intensive industries via sustainable materials and reduced energy consumption.

Tell us about your CSR initiatives. How do you encourage your employees to participate in them?
Acting as a responsible business is anchored in our Global Commitment - our fundamental policy commitment to sustainability which is based on our vision, mission, and values. Sustainability is the key enabler of our mission: ​To create sustainable societies where people and nature flourish. To encourage our employees, the sustainability learning universe and training modules are built to provide a collaborative and strategic platform for upskilling our employees and becoming partners for sustainable change. 

CSR is a high-priority practice at Ramboll, and our approach is embedded in our fundamentals and reflects in the programs that provide support and relief to communities in need. Year after year, through our initiatives with our NGO partners, we uphold our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and industry leadership in CSR through well-structured and impactful support programs. We work with NGO partners that have dedicated efforts and practices with focus areas on increasing awareness for women empowerment by promoting ‘Girl Child Education,’ supporting ‘Green and Sustainable’ initiatives for the environment, Women’s Health and Hygiene, upskilling, and development through digital education, special education programs for the visually impaired and promoting wellbeing of the elderly.

Ramboll is proud to have employees who are not only engaged in their daily work but also help make a difference in society. Their skills and dedication help improve the lives of less fortunate people. Employees have provided COVID support, participated in environmental conservation through tree plantation drives and lake restoration, and volunteered to help the underprivileged and elderly by putting up health camps and distributing hunger relief kits.

Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the guidelines you follow as a leader?
Leadership is a key ingredient in being a successful and competitive company. I follow a collaborative and shared approach to leadership to drive strategy and achieve our goals. I also believe having great leaders is important for an organization to attract, retain, and enable talent, as well as for being agile, innovative, and sustainable.

We have a strong leadership team who are experts in their subjects, and as leaders, we practice and promote the ‘one Ramboll’ culture. That means investing time in creating a collaborative environment; helping colleagues to connect across units and disciplines; leveraging each other’s expertise for better work culture and fulfillment of business goals, following shared practices; and always putting the interest of our company before individual goals.

As a Ramboll leader, I am responsible for developing Ramboll’s bright minds. Employees look to leaders to learn and grow. As a leader, I look for ways to foster an environment of equal opportunities for all, where people and teams feel safe and can thrive. I believe in delegating and empowering where employees are trusted and equipped to make the right decisions. Taking forward our objective of enhancing diversity and equality in the workplace, I engage deeply and frequently with our employees to bring about this change.

What are your expectations regarding the changes in market behavior and emerging opportunities post COVID period?
The COVID-19 crisis impacted societies and economies globally to rethink and redefine our approach to work and life. While the fallout from the second wave has lasting repercussions, change at this scale also created new ways to manage systemic challenges and to build back better. The crisis has given us lasting lessons for positive change. We supported each other, bonded, and connected far more closely during the crisis.

The Ramboll Foundation has supported the education of children of our employees lost to covid. We also conducted a successful vaccination drive for all employees and families to be fully vaccinated and protected.

We have introduced the Flexi policy and hybrid model at work to recognize that there may be a need for employees to work from home, which I am sure is a great arrangement both for the employees and for the organization.

You are a passionate reader. What is your favorite book, and why? 
I have been a voracious reader since my childhood. There are books and books; some, of course, do stand out. The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra is one among them. It is about a new scientific understanding of Living Systems, and the following words at the book’s opening capture the irony of humankind, how we are harming ourselves, and why sustainable living should be everyone’s business. 

“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

And then there is the Gita-my guiding light through life’s dilemmas. I cannot do justice in words or describe how it has helped me navigate certain challenges – recognizing my responsibilities and duties, looking at goals with perfect clarity, retaining my emotional balance and professional ethics, and sharpening my leadership skills with these as the basis.  

I also go back to reading The Power of Simplicity by Jack Trout, The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel Florman, and The Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das. The titles of these books make it clear why I keep going back to them!


Hobbies: Sustainability, Reading, teaching, golf, and fitness

Favorites Cuisines: minimalist, home-cooked, and south Indian

Favorite Movies: Life is Beautiful

Favorite Travel Destination: She says, “I see everything from the lens of sustainability; I plan and travel responsibly and have consciously cut down on all travel that is not strictly need-based and advocate it to all. I do enjoy an annual trip to my hometown in Karnataka where life is still simple, quiet, and uncomplicated.”