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The beginning of sustainable development projects in

India
It is true that industry waste, massive emissions, and large-scale fossil fuel
consumption are threatening an unprecedented climate change. But it is equally
true that there have been several sustainable development projects in India by
large companies, which have been taking the impact of these seriously. They
have been trying to become responsible corporates by undertaking environment-
friendly CSR initiatives.
The ministry of corporate affairs has found thatduring 2014-15 itself Indian
corporates together marked 14% of their total CSR spending for activities
supporting environment conservation. The total amount spent -- Rs 1,213 crore
turned out be larger than the amount spent on rural development, which got a
share of 12%.
Companies today have apparently realised the risks of climate change.To save
their operations and overall climatic conditions from getting affected further,
they have also begun integrating environmental sustainability in their top
strategies.
According to a study on the number of sustainable development projects in
India, and an analysis of CSR expenditure for FY15-16, by NextGen, the
companies that led in setting aside serious spends for environment conservation
were from FMCG, Power, and IT and Financial Services sectors. Their
perspectives towards sustainable development could be gauged from the types
of CSR projects they undertook.
A higher perspective on environment conservation
Corporates activities for environment conservation have witnessed a sea
change over the past decade, from just planting saplings within company
premises and a few other locations, to planning projects with a sustainable long-
term impact.For example, water conservation projects and installing solar
powered systems.The most impressive CSR activities in this direction were
using renewable energy, biomass cook stoves, the focus on various rooftop solar
projects, rainwater harvesting, and watershed development projects.
There is an increasing realisation among companies that tree plantation drive is
a basic activity;whereas pursuit of clean water and energy will have a larger and
longer impact on the countrys social and economic development.
Responsibility, not philanthropy
Companies which took CSR as mere philanthropy a decade ago are now
integrating CSR activities strategically and more responsibly. For instance,
FMCGs are now genuinely concerned about farmers, who are their source of
raw materials. They are taking sincere efforts to facilitate sustainable
livelihoods for such farmers by ensuring local water generation and other
required support.In the same way, power companies, which are known to be the
highest contributors to pollution, are mitigating the risk, both to their reputation
and the climate, by investing in more and more environment-friendly projects.
This has led to a rise in the overall sustainable development projects in India.

Sustainability no more an option


Companies have come a long way from integrating sustainability into their
business strategies, to making sustainability a way of doing business.Ambuja
Cement, for example, has earned 4 DNV GL certifications for being a water
positive cement manufacturing company. Companies, likewise, are investing
majorly in ensuring lesser GHG emissions, and higher use of renewable
energy.Many large organisations have planned to involve even the community
in their effort to create value. For instance, HUL has set a target to source 100%
of agricultural raw material through sustainable waysby the year 2020.

Still a long way to go


There is still a major portion of Indian industries where CSR doesnt necessarily
mean the opportunity to evolve into sustainable businesses. Unfortunately, the
top 100 companies are some of those who have set aside an insignificant part of
their CSR budget for environment-related activities.
While there are thought leaders, who take the issue of environment protection as
an opportunity to create as many sustainable development projects in India as
possible, there are still companies which do not consider sustainability as a
pressing need. The sooner these companies realise its significance, taking a cue
from the thought leaders, the higher will be the chances of India becoming a
developed state in the near future.