Published on :

10 June 2024

Published By :

Business Today

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The concept sustainability has undergone a remarkable evolution in the last 50 years. What started as a niche idea has now matured into a global imperative affecting every aspect of human life. A pivotal moment was the Brundtland Commission Report in 1987, which helped mainstream the idea of sustainable development. In the early 2000s, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and CSR gained popularity and today, sustainability has transitioned from its green origins to embracing a more human-centric approach that recognises the interplay between social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

India stands at the forefront of this paradigm shift. Its commitment to sustainable development is evident through its ambitious climate policies and targets, and India Inc.’s push for adopting sustainable practices. The government is focussing on various levers like renewables, EVs, green hydrogen, material circularity, etc. to realise its ambitious goals.

One notable initiative is Mission LiFE launched at COP26 -- an India-led movement transforming individuals into “pro-planet people”. Additionally, government initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission and the Ujjwala Scheme ensure sustainability efforts are inclusive.

Indian companies are increasingly realising the importance of ESG in driving long-term value creation and are adopting sustainable practices to minimise their environmental footprint. Per data, India is leading the emerging economies, with around 79 Indian companies committed to the Science-Based Targets Initiative. Additionally, the introduction of frameworks like the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR), along with Sebi’s mandate on BRSR reporting for the top 1,000 listed companies are noteworthy developments.

However, despite the progress, a huge gap remains between the organisations’ sustainability intentions and their execution capabilities. A PwC report from April 2024 reveals a mere 31% of companies are disclosing their net-zero targets and only 51% of companies are disclosing their Scope 3 data in India, which serves as a reminder of the gap between the commitments and reality--showcasing how corporates are failing to humanise sustainability.

This highlights the urgent need for a mindset shift--moving away from token gestures to genuine transformation. Sustainability needs to move beyond the boardrooms of corporations or corridors of government to the individual level, where it becomes ingrained in people’s consciousness.

Making human-centric sustainability a lived reality requires a multi-faceted approach. One of the key strategies for achieving this transformational shift is through education and awareness. Organisations should prioritise investing in employee training and education. Additionally, sustainability training plays a critical role in aligning with business goals and contributes to long-term growth. ReNew’s Project Surya aims to reshape the lives of 1,000 low-income women by helping them leapfrog into the modern clean energy sector, providing them with better livelihoods. Additionally, ReNew is training the youth through a first-of-its-kind climate curriculum aligned with the core principles of the LiFE movement. As the climate crisis intensifies, the curriculum aims to prepare the next generation to join the movement and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Further, corporations and governments should look at humanising sustainability by giving it a face that the masses can relate to. Appointing ambassadors and recognising champions is an effective way to communicate with diverse communities.

The efforts do not stop here. Brands can play a critical role in popularising sustainability and influencing consumer behaviour.

A 2017 study reveals that 87% of consumers have a positive image of a company that supports social and environmental issues, and 88% of consumers remain loyal to them.

The role of effective leadership cannot be overstated. Top executives must inspire and motivate employees at all levels by integrating sustainability into the core business strategy.

Lastly, humanising sustainability requires a fundamental shift, one that moves beyond traditional notions of success and embraces the well-being of humanity and the planet.

Human-centric sustainability requires us to acknowledge that growth should not come at the cost of people’s rights, health, and quality of life. It is about having a more equitable society. At the core, it’s about cultivating a more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle, in favour of a simpler way of living.

As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, leadership and collaboration will drive this transformation. Moving forward, we should consider humanising sustainability as a survival imperative, where leaders, corporations, and individuals converge to navigate a holistic future. BT

VAISHALI NIGAM SINHA is Co-founder and Chairperson of Sustainability at ReNew.