As Independent India turns 75 this year, it is an imperative to foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth, protecting people and the planet. Collaboration between business, Government, and society can surely spur economic growth that benefits everyone without destroying the planet.

Extreme weather and climate change impacts across Asia in 2020 caused the loss of life of thousands of people, displaced millions of others, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking a heavy toll on infrastructure and ecosystems. Sustainable development is threatened, with food and water insecurity, health risks and environmental degradation on the rise, according to a multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Global Risk Report by the World Economic Forum earlier this year revealed that environmental risks are perceived to be among the five most critical long-term threats facing humanity and climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss rank as the top three most severe risks in the long term.

The Government has accorded high priority to sustainable development and outlined ambitious targets for climate change. India is one of the few countries on track to meet nationally determined contributions. A concrete pathway has been manifested in the announcement of a set of fivepoint targets by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26, in Glasgow last year. India is the second most populated country in the world with a sixth of the world’s population and for the world to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, India must play a key role in delivering the SDGs.

Businesses as the primary engines of economic growth and employment are well positioned to deliver on the promise of sustainable and socially inclusive economic development globally. In a dynamically changing global scenario, industries are facing multiple challenges with respect to disruptions in supply chains, increasing regulations, need for improving operational efficiencies, consumer activism, nature risks, social risks as well as meeting climate targets.

To successfully overcome these risks and prepare for the challenges, business enterprises must focus their whole attention on establishing resilience and agility. For this, sustainability must be placed at the heart of every business decision, embedded in business models and sustainable development should be a part of the business purpose and cannot be a separate activity. It must be rooted in the value and a part of the core strategy.

The business community is recognizing that business-as-usual will not work and they are looking to a better way of operating which will ensure that the health of the people and the planet is actually aligned. This will be possible through collaboration between all stakeholders – the private and public sectors, with support from NGOs, communities, and the Government, leveraging technologies while also adapting to the changes brought about by disruptions.

CII as the premier Industry Association, is deeply engaged in the area of sustainability and through its Centres of Excellence, contributes to nation building in the areas of water management and conservation, promoting energy efficiency, environment conservation and forest protection, climate change mitigation & adaptation and reducing emissions through green practices.

The way forward now, beyond India @75, towards India @100 for Industry, is largely through the parameters of technology and innovation and we must collaborate for solutions beyond boundaries that are not just limited to individual organizations. We need to think from the lens of a marathon runner and not from the perspective of a sprint. The focus should be on shared values of protecting the planet and that includes a critical role for the industry.

As large economic organs of society, businesses have the entrepreneurial and managerial capacity as well as the resources for R&D and innovation in terms of ensuring that green jobs and livelihoods are promoted and work towards nature-based solutions; encourage adoption of circular economy principles, and make sure that investments are scaled up in green energy. Enterprises that place sustainability at the heart of operational decisions will ultimately be better placed to harness emerging market opportunities, manage risks, and consolidate an enduring license to operate.

This article was contributed by Mr R Mukundan, Chairman, CII-Institute of Quality Advisory Council, Chairman, CII National Committee on Environment, Chairman, CII National Committee on Industrial Relations and MD & CEO, Tata Chemicals Ltd and was first published in CII Communiqué, August 2022 issue.


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