Ten years ago, CII and ITC joined hands to create a unique institution with an unusual but visionary agenda. When the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development was born a decade ago, “sustainability” was barely a footnote in the pages of corporate thought and strategy, more so in developing nations such as ours. The formation of CII-ITC-CESD was driven by the stark realization that future economic progress was at considerable peril due to the growing threat posed by the global challenges of widespread poverty and ecological degradation. The economic models pursued by the world for more than a century had indeed created significant material wealth, but had left in its wake an ever widening chasm of social inequity and a planet ravaged by environmental devastation. It was abundantly clear that a new paradigm of growth was called for, if we were to bequeath future generations a secure and sustainable future. It was CII-ITC-CESD’s strong belief that, in this journey to a sustainable future, businesses could play an extremely meaningful role. Therefore, an ambitious agenda was crafted to bring sustainability issues to centre-stage and raise awareness amongst industry to embrace a larger cause of societal value creation so that they could transform themselves into progressive Enterprises of Tomorrow.

CII-ITC-CESD has lived this pledge and has traversed a very fulfilling journey to realize its aspiration to be a fountainhead of sustainability thought leadership and action in India. Over the past decade, the CII-ITC-CESD has launched several initiatives to build capacity of corporates, in India and abroad, helping them to re-visit their own strategies and spur innovation to creatively meet the challenges of sustainability. As a thought leader, it has strived not only to equip corporates with new knowledge, information and know-how, but has also engaged with the Government to facilitate policies that encourage the integration of sustainability in business. CII-ITC-CESD has instituted Sustainability Awards that are today the most coveted in Indian Industry and are based on rigorous assessment processes. These awards recognize sustainability champions who have gone the extra mile to help create a secure shared future. Over time, these exemplary efforts of companies have contributed to creating a pool of shared knowledge and experiences which, I am sure, will inspire many others in the years to come.

Several milestones have marked this eventful journey. CII-ITC-CESD designed and developed `Sustainable Plus` as the world’s first and only corporate sustainability label of its kind. In addition, it has partnered international organisations like the AccountAbility, CDP, GRI, IIRC, WBCSD, and many others to bring the depth of global experience to India to enable companies attain excellence in sustainability performance as well as reporting. CII-ITC-CESD has also been the voice of Indian business in the global fora as well as in international negotiations on environmental issues, climate change and bio-diversity.

The next decade will perhaps be even more challenging. We continue to exist in a grossly unequal world. Apart from wide-spread global poverty, an entire generation of 600 million youth globally stare at a jobless future unless concerted effort is made to create sustainable livelihoods. Climate change is no longer an issue of the future but a reality that today threatens millions across the globe, particularly farming communities in developing nations who are the most vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. The world economy continues to be in turmoil, making it even more challenging for business and industry to remain competitive as well as environmentally and socially sustainable. Enterprises in developing countries like India will need to redouble their efforts to attain extreme competitiveness in this increasingly globalised world if they are to succeed and create value for their nations. However, that by itself may still not be adequate to address the growing societal challenges. Corporates will need to strive to achieve, what I call Responsible Competitiveness – attaining extreme competitiveness but in a way that is environmentally sustainable and inclusive. That is indeed a tall order and will require a redefinition of corporate vision, strategies and priorities. Herein lies a unique opportunity for the CII-ITC-CESD – an opportunity to orchestrate and facilitate Indian Industry’s journey towards Responsible Competitiveness by leveraging its new knowledge base, the enduring relationships forged over the years and the expertise they and their partners have been able to develop over the last decade.


–   Y C Deveshwar (Past President, Confederation of Indian Industry Chairman, Advisory Council, CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development, and Chairman, ITC Ltd.)


Source: A decade of managing sustainability

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