We humans single-handedly changed the world for the worse in the past few decades. It’s a pity that out of the millions of species inhabiting the planet, only one species can wreak such havoc, in such a short time span. But thankfully, our kind is also known for its intelligence, empathy and ability to innovate. As the clock started ticking leaders of the world came together to right the wrongs. This led to the formulation of the 17 crucial Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aimed to birth a new world order which is inclusive, low carbon and just.
The Economic Times SDGs Summit 2021, in its third edition, returned with the objective to rally the champions of sustainability together as the world moves towards the decade of delivery. Today, as the world grapples with the pandemic, decades of developmental progress on many fronts, have been disrupted pushing millions to poverty. And already, an impending crisis – Climate change is catching up with us steadily.
Against this backdrop, as the nations across the world are accelerating sustainable solutions for the world’s biggest problems ranging from poverty, hunger, gender inequality to climate change The Economic Times SDGs Summit 2021, brought together noteworthy leaders from governments, private sector and civil society – to deliberate upon and create an action plan that can help us to build back better – together as a society and as individuals.
GOI has been working diligently to achieve the SDG targets. Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Women and Child Development, GOI, shared some encouraging figures about women empowerment while delivering a special address at the summit. She highlighted that 8 Crore Indian women have benefited from cooking fuel under Ujjwala Yojna, over 22 Crore women have received financial services through Jandhan Yojna.
Speaking about the health welfare initiatives of the government, Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog, asserted that currently, India runs the largest Health Insurance scheme and the government is creating 115000 health and wellness centres across the country. He further stressed the need to make climate change the cornerstone of all sustainability efforts.
Highlighting the need for the private sector to go full throttle with sustainability initiatives, Mathew Nelson, Global Climate Change and Sustainability Services Leader, EY said, “we need to act now to achieve a zero-emissions environment in the coming years. If these actions were taken sooner, we would have been living in a much better place than we do today.”
A key speaker at the event, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson HCL Technologies & Trustee, Shiv Nadar Foundation, opined that the conversation of green recovery is the need of the hour for survival. Currently, India has only 4% of natural forest cover left. It is imperative for every business to not only look at the environment that they exist in but, also the adjacent environment that exists around them.
The business case of sustainability is well accepted today, and all progressive and forward-thinking businesses agree that sustainability goals are central to pushing the agenda of economic resurgence in the long-term. Speaking at the event, Nisaba Godrej, Chairperson & MD, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, stated that sustainability has always been at the core of their business strategy at Godrej. She further explained, “Placing people and the planet alongside profits is our way of defining trust and our core values. Our fundamental belief is that the business of business is to ensure that goodness continues. For us, goodness translates to how we build a more sustainable, safer, and equitable world. But it’s not enough for sustainability to be critical to business, it needs to be personal as well.”
Indeed, sustainability must first be a personal imperative, only then can organizations aspire to bring large scale change. Dipali Goenka, CEO & Jt. MD, Welspun India Ltd, asserted that when they realized that 10% of the greenhouse emissions came from the fashion and textile industry, they decided to take the responsibility and lead by example. She elucidated that they are now working through sustainable farming programs and exploring products that need less water. They are also, reviewing their entire chain from source to completion using technology to implement sustainable reforms.
Use of technology is essential to achieve large-scale sustainability. Organizations must first identify their carbon footprint to implement the necessary reforms. Affirming this thought, Sindhu Gangadharan, Managing Director, SAP Labs India, said, “sustainability is no longer an optional aspect for a business, but it is the key to the long-term success of any business in any industry. Technology has a big role to play to enable organizations to become sustainable enterprises.”
Bringing a fresh dimension to the sustainability discourse, Namrata Rana, Director, Strategy and Brand, Futurescape, stressed that for transitioning to a clean and green world, businesses need to rethink design and use of materials like plastic. Business leaders should re-think their product communication, marketing strategy and materials from the sustainability perspective.
To reach the sustainability targets, it is also crucial that consumers too, are ready to commit. The Electric Vehicle segment is a key area where consumers have a significant role. Naveen Munjal, Managing Director, Hero Electric Vehicles Pvt Ltd asserted that electric vehicles lay the foundation of sustainability. Energy efficiency reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while also lowering the demand for energy imports. Energy-efficient transportation should be promoted on three levels: system efficiency, transportation efficiency, and vehicle efficiency, Munjal concluded.
Speaking on the topic, Rajeev Chaba, President and Managing Director, MG Motor India, highlighted that in the 2050 discourse renewable energy will provide most of the energy and thus it is crucial to transition to EV. “The EV journey has begun, and it is irreversible. A large number of consumers are adopting EVs and their adoption will increase when the cost of owning EVs decrease and more EV options become available,” concluded Chaba.
Truly, it is people and a majority intent that can really drive the sustainability initiatives ahead. Resonating this thought, D. Narain, Senior Bayer Representative, South Asia, Managing Director & CEO, Bayer CropScience, aptly said, “it takes people to make it happen. Passion, purpose, and partnership will make a big difference in leadership for seizing the ESG opportunity. We need to bring the end-to-end players of the value chain to deliver cost-effective solutions for achieving the SDGs.”
With 50+ SDG champions as speakers coming from over 10 countries from diverse sectors, the summit undoubtedly succeeded in reaffirming the sustainability agenda and helped in creating a practical roadmap to achieve the SDG targets.