Sustainability as a concept and practice is gaining wider acceptance today, both amongst people as well as enterprises.
In 2005, Mr Y C Deveshwar, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC Ltd., who was the President of CII at the time, put forth the idea of a Centre of Excellence to mainstream the sustainability agenda amongst businesses in India. Following this, the CII-ITC Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CESD) came into being – a unique institution with an unusual but visionary agenda, driven by the idea that all economic progress must encompass sustainability to minimize environmental degradation and bring in social equity. CESD was of the firm belief that in the journey towards a sustainable future, businesses have a key role to play. CESD is one of CII’s 9 Centres of Excellence set up to enhance the competitiveness of Indian industry.
CESD, while creating a significant repertoire of subject-matter knowledge in sustainability, has a well-defined action plan and a recognition system in its engagement with the Indian industry. It amalgamates the environment, quality, and health and safety management systems into a single comprehensive integrated management system. It works dynamically in the area of sustainable development on climate change, biodiversity, air pollution and resource efficiency and the need to mobilize industry action in these areas. It has created an ecosystem to work on these challenges and prepare Indian industry for them.
CESD is also involved with several initiatives towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. One significant initiative is ‘Cleaner Air-Better Life’, launched in partnership with NITI Aayog in November 2016 with a vision for cleaner air and a better quality of life for everyone. Under this initiative CESD galvanized industry action on ground to support farmers for crop residue management. With a humble start of these efforts in 19 villages in Punjab in 2018, this programme has been successfully scaled to 102 villages in Punjab and Haryana. The Centre has been able to bring lasting change in intervened rural communities by developing their capacities to move away from crop residue burning and supporting communities with needed farm tools to manage surplus straw. About 84% of the total 20 thousand farmers in the intervened villages, which are spread over six districts of two states, have moved away from burning to sustainable agricultural practices. Total villages adopted in 2019-20: 102 villages (1-Lakh acres of cropland) across 5 major clusters: Nabha (Punjab), Raikot (Punjab), Sirsa (Haryana), Fatehabad (Haryana) and Rohtak (Haryana)
In 2019, the ‘India CEO Forum on Clean Air’ was launched wherein 18 CEOs from different sectors work together on combating air pollution. This forum aims to reduce emissions, get voluntary commitments from companies, and enable peer-learning for reducing air pollution.
Another significant initiative is the Un-plastic Collective, a voluntary, multi-stakeholder platform co-partnered by CII, UN Environment (UNE) and WWF India, launched at the 14th Sustainability Summit held in August 2019. The Collective aims to minimize the impact of plastic on the environmental, ecological, and social health of our planet by promoting efficient plastic waste management.
The Centre has partnered with international organizations like Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and others to help companies achieve measurable impacts and build sustainable management systems and frameworks. It also helps organizations implement Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) regulations and aids in the compliance of social responsibility and management frameworks.
Along with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), CESD has helped develop the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business or NVGs, and Business Responsibility Reporting framework.
On behalf of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, Government of India, CESD hosts the India Business and Biodiversity Initiative(IBBI), which seeks to mainstream sustainable management of biological diversity. This national platform sensitizes, guides and mentors Indian businesses in biodiversity conservation across their value chain and beyond. To help industry curtail climate risk, leverage market opportunities and become climate-resilient, CESD has also instituted a (Climate Action Programme) CAP 2.0° to build capacity in this field.
To recognize and reward excellence in businesses that are seeking ways to be more sustainable and inclusive, it instituted the CII-ITC Sustainability Awards in 2006. These are a part of the continued efforts of CESD to create awareness on sustainability practices and create capacities in business.
The Centre conducts various training programmes in the area of Climate Change, Value Innovation, CSR Rules and Impact Measurement, Sustainability Reporting, Integrated Reporting, Human Rights, and Biodiversity. More information on training programmes is available in the CESD Annual Report 2019.
Industries, governments, and the public have to work in unison in building a better tomorrow for all stakeholders. The CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development nurtures industry to compete, expand opportunities and excel in today’s dynamic business environment.