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The Rise of Sustainability in India: Pioneering a Brighter and Greener Future

December 2023

The Rise of Sustainability in India: Pioneering a Brighter and Greener Future


India, with its vast population and diverse ecosystems, stands at a critical juncture in terms of sustainability. As the country experiences rapid urbanization, industrialization, and population growth, the need for sustainable practices has become more pressing than ever. In the present era, sustainability has emerged as a fundamental strategy for Indian businesses across various sectors, including education, energy, mobility, health, garments, and textiles. India's ongoing endeavors to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will ensure that the country's per capita emissions remain low until 2030-31. By 2031, India's per capita GHG emissions will be lower than the global per capita emissions recorded in 2005. Even in 2031, India's per capita emissions are projected to remain below four tonnes of CO2, which is less than the global per capita emissions of 4.22 tonnes of CO2 in 2005.

Sustainable development in India encompasses a range of initiatives aimed at promoting social development, clean technology, and human resources. These efforts have gained the attention of both the Central and State governments, as well as the public and private sectors. In fact, India is set to incorporate sustainability into its national income accounting, recognizing the depletion of natural resources as a significant factor in calculating its gross domestic product (GDP). The country’s dedication to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is evident in its alignment with the national development agenda, as encapsulated by the motto of "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas" (Collective Efforts for Inclusive Growth).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index aims to offer a comprehensive perspective on the social, economic, and environmental conditions of India and its States and Union Territories.

Driven by a young population, digitalization, technological advancements, and a thriving startup ecosystem, India has prioritized the provision of affordable and sustainable power for all. As a result, the country has become power-surplus, establishing a robust national grid, enhancing the distribution network, emerging as a prominent player in renewable energy, and successfully achieving universal household electrification. Moreover, India is taking the lead in the electric vehicle (EV) revolution as the global trend toward sustainable transportation continues to gain momentum. India is expected to witness a significant surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales, with projections indicating that by 2030, over 17 million units could be sold annually. This growth can be attributed to various factors, including increasing fuel costs, the entry of new EV manufacturers, advancements in EV technologies, government subsidies, and the anticipated enforcement of emission standards. Furthermore, communities and grassroots movements play a pivotal role in driving sustainability in India. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social enterprises, and community-led initiatives are working tirelessly to raise awareness, promote sustainable practices, and empower local communities. These initiatives focus on diverse areas such as waste management, sustainable agriculture, forest conservation, and renewable energy adoption.

Explore the dynamic landscape of sustainable transportation transformation in India with our in-depth report on the India Electric Vehicle Market  - By Usage Type [Passenger Vehicle, Commercial Vehicle], By Vehicle Type [Two-Wheeler, Three-Wheeler, Passenger Car, Buses, Others], By Region, Opportunities and Forecast, FY2016-FY2030F

India's Commitment to Net-Zero Emissions

During the COP-26 Summit held in Glasgow in 2021, India showcased its commitment to sustainability, leaving a lasting impression on the world stage. Prime Minister Modi's announcement of the ambitious Panchamrit Action Plan drew astonishment and inspiration globally. The plan sets a remarkable goal for India to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, marking one of the shortest timeframes proposed by a developing economy between peak emissions and net-zero status. This bold commitment reinforces India's strong belief that sustainability is the key to unlocking long-term prosperity.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi pledged that by the end of the current decade, 50% of India's energy needs will be met through renewable sources. The country aims to achieve non-fossil-fuel energy installed capacity of 500 GW, significantly contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. Additionally, India is determined to decrease the emissions intensity of its GDP by 46-48% from 2005 levels, demonstrating its commitment to sustainable economic growth. The Prime Minister's commitment to reducing India's carbon emissions by one billion tonnes further solidifies the country's dedication to combating climate change and achieving sustainability.

Embracing South-South Cooperation, India actively assists developing nations in achieving the 2030 Agenda through the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, with a commitment of USD 150 million. Fostering regional and global alliances and upholding the principle of 'leaving no one behind', India enters the Decade of Action, leveraging its expertise in overcoming challenges. The Indian government remains dedicated to collaborating with domestic and international stakeholders, accelerating endeavors towards a sustainable planet for future generations.

India's Renewable Energy Revolution

India has positioned itself as a frontrunner in the field of renewable energy on a global scale. The country has set ambitious targets for renewable energy capacity, including solar and wind power. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aims to scale up solar energy deployment through incentives, research, and capacity building. Various states have implemented favorable policies and incentives to promote renewable energy adoption. These efforts have led to substantial growth in renewable energy installations, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. India's commitment to the International Solar Alliance further showcases its dedication to a sustainable energy future.

India has prioritized the reduction of its carbon footprint and the fulfilment of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments as outlined in the Paris Agreement. The country has refocused its efforts toward these goals, demonstrating its dedication to sustainable development and global environmental responsibilities. In pursuit of a green revolution, the government has set an ambitious goal of achieving 500 GW of installed renewable energy in India by 2030. This target encompasses the installation of 280 GW of solar power and 140 GW of wind power, showcasing the commitment to sustainable energy generation.

Indian Businesses are Embracing Sustainability Practices

Integration of ESG Reporting- As India embraces the integration and enforcement of Economic, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, along with the formulation of business responsibility and sustainability reports by companies, transparency in business practices is assured. This implementation not only necessitates businesses to adopt sustainable development frameworks internally but also ensures their adherence to the principles of sustainable development on a broader scale. Through active participation, the Indian economy can emerge as a frontrunner in sustainable development.

Government Initiatives for Sustainable Industrial Development - The government is driving innovation for sustainable industrial and economic development through key initiatives such as 'Make in India,' 'Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Shramev Jayate Karyakram,' and 'Start-Up India’. However, the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represent the government's primary focus, as they have emerged as a vital driving force in the economy. With around 42.5 million SMEs, employing approximately 40% of the workforce and contributing about 30% to the country's GDP, they play a significant role in India's economic landscape. Government initiative such as Zero Defect Zero Effect (ZED) is instrumental in fostering a dynamic ecosystem that promotes multiple sustainability drivers. These initiatives encourage leading companies to actively engage in energy optimization, green building practices, and effective waste management. As a result, companies are propelled further along their sustainable enterprise journey, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.

Indian companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainability and are taking proactive measures to integrate it into their business strategies, operations, and culture.

For example, Godrej has achieved significant milestones in sustainability, including a 30% increase in its renewable energy portfolio, a commendable 37% reduction in specific greenhouse gas emissions, the diversion of 99.5% of waste from landfills, and a notable 32% decrease in specific water consumption. The company is committed to achieving 100% recyclability, reusability, recoverability, or composability of its packaging materials by FY2025.

Similarly, UltraTech, a prominent player in the construction material industry, has incorporated a low-carbon strategy into its business roadmap, aligning with SDG 13 (climate change goal) based on the COP21 agreement of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Furthermore, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has launched the Suvidha Centre, situated in Mumbai's most underserved slums, to address issues related to personal hygiene, inadequate access to safe drinking water, and substandard sanitation facilities. This initiative demonstrates HUL's commitment to addressing societal challenges and improving the well-being of marginalized communities.

Harnessing the Power of the SDGs

The country's commitment to the SDGs is further reinforced by the implementation of a strong SDG localization model, as demonstrated by the SDG India Index. This model focuses on the adoption, implementation, and monitoring of the SDGs at the state and district levels, allowing for comprehensive progress assessment and localized strategies to achieve the goals. Through this approach, India ensures that the SDGs are integrated into the fabric of its development initiatives, fostering inclusivity and sustainable growth across the nation.

  •      Under the banner of "Sashakt Bharat - Sabal Bharat" (Empowered and Resilient India), the country has achieved significant progress in uplifting over 271 million individuals from multidimensional poverty. Through economic growth and empowerment, India has improved access to vital necessities such as nutrition, child health, education, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, and housing. As a result, inequalities have diminished, particularly among vulnerable populations.
  •         Through the Clean India Campaign and the National Nutrition Mission, India has achieved 100% rural sanitation and significant reductions in stunting, child mortality, and maternal mortality rates. The Ayushman Bharat program, the world's largest health protection scheme, provides universal health coverage to 100 million families, benefiting nearly 500 million individuals. India has also taken a leading role in global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, extending medical assistance to other countries and establishing the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Domestically, India has implemented a USD 22.5 billion economic stimulus package, comprehensive health coverage for frontline workers, and direct cash transfers to support the most vulnerable.
  •         Samagra Bharat - Saksham Bharat (Inclusive and Entrepreneurial India) - The pursuit of social inclusion in India encompasses universal access to nutrition, healthcare, education, and social protection. Additionally, efforts are focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and employment opportunities. Financial inclusion is facilitated through the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity, providing widespread access to bank accounts (Jan Dhan Yojana), unique identity numbers (Aadhaar card) for over 90% of the population, and extensive mobile phone usage. The expansion of credit, insurance, and Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) to marginalized communities, including more than 200 million women, has facilitated their economic empowerment.
  •       Within the framework of Sanatan Bharat (Sustainable India), India's climate action strategies focus on promoting clean and efficient energy systems, building resilient infrastructure, and undertaking ecological restoration efforts. Under Sanatan Bharat (Sustainable India), India's climate action strategies prioritize clean and efficient energy systems, resilient infrastructure, and ecological restoration. In line with its nationally determined contributions, India has achieved electrification of 100% of its villages, reduced 38 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually through energy-efficient appliances, provided clean cooking fuel to 80 million disadvantaged households, and set ambitious targets to install 450GW of renewable energy and restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Internationally, India ranks among the top countries in renewable, wind, and solar power capacities. India's dedication to global collaborations for climate action and disaster resilience is exemplified by initiatives like the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the International Solar Alliance.

     Sampanna Bharat - Samriddh Bharat (Prosperous and Vibrant India) - With a dynamic population and a thriving ecosystem for innovation and business, India is among the fastest-growing emerging market economies. With a GDP of USD 2.72 trillion in 2018-19, the country aims to achieve a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025. India's growth trajectory is focused on inclusive and sustainable development, driven by initiatives such as stimulating manufacturing, infrastructure development, increased investments, technological innovation, and entrepreneurship promotion.

These initiatives mirror the progress made in empowering the economy, addressing climate change, developing infrastructure, promoting renewable energy, and improving hygiene and healthcare.

Attain a comprehensive understanding of India's sustainability journey with our exhaustively researched report India Clean Energy Market, By Type [Hydro Power and Tidal Power, Wind Power, Solar Power, Geothermal Power, Biomass and Waste, Nuclear Power, Green Hydrogen], By End-user [Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Others], Opportunities and Forecast, FY2017-FY2031F

Conclusion: From Sustainability to Prosperity

India's journey towards sustainability is challenging yet full of promise. Through government initiatives, harnessing renewable energy, promoting sustainable agriculture, and encouraging community participation, India. Businesses are integrating sustainability practices, and government initiatives support sustainable industrial development. India's progress in reducing poverty, improving access to necessities, and fostering inclusivity demonstrate its commitment to the SDGs. The country's journey toward a sustainable future encompasses environmental stewardship, inclusive development, and economic prosperity. India's progressive and ambitious goals, announced during the COP-26 Summit, highlight its unwavering determination to drive sustainable development and combat climate change. By setting aggressive targets and taking decisive action, India showcases its leadership in the global pursuit of a sustainable and resilient future.

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