Business India ×
Letter from the Editor

Published on: March 29, 2022, 12:17 p.m.
A path-breaking effort

By Dr. Shashank Shah. The author is Visiting scholar, ’17 Harvard Business School

After the success of two CSR special issues that have been immensely appreciated as collector’s editions - ‘The Art of Giving’ (2018) and ‘CSR and more’ (2019), I am delighted to present this third special issue on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). A pioneering publication on this theme, this issue captures the ideas and endeavours of India Inc. in aligning their priorities and projects with any and many of the 17 UNSDGs.

In the last decade, the understanding of corporate responsibility the world over has transitioned from philanthropy to multi-stakeholder value creation. The year 2021 also marked the beginning of the ‘Decade of Action’ towards UNSDGs. While nations look at them as an opportunity to align local programmes with global imperatives, corporations espouse them as part of their larger responsibility and sustainability mandate.

This special issue is celebrating CSR initiatives and inclusive business strategies of Indian corporations and social enterprises, for playing a transformative role in their sectors and industries. The issue covers all 17 UNSDGs that cover four broad areas:

Social Goals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Economic Goals: 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11

Environmental Goals: 12, 13, 14 and 15

Governance Goals: 16 and 17 

The progress on the achievement of Social Goals has been studied from the lens of non-profit CSR activities as per the Indian Companies Act 2013. The progress on the Economic and Environmental Goals has been captured through product, service, and process innovations that create value for several stakeholders while also providing financial benefits to the company. Governance Goals have been conveyed through collaboration of companies with like-minded institutions to mutually enable achievement of SDGs.

To provide a comprehensive overview as well as a deep dive, each of the 17 SDGs has been divided into three sections. The first is a snapshot about the SDG that provides a quick overview to the major targets, grassroots challenges, government interventions, and CSR contributions. The second section presents the views of global scholars, subject experts, policy makers, and corporate leaders on the specific SDG.

Each of them has underscored the primacies and shared innovative ways in which the SDG targets could be achieved by 2030. The final section under each SDG features select firms and their initiatives in that SDG along with broad objectives, implementation model, funding and challenges, innovations, outputs, outcomes, impact, and plans for scaling up. 

To ensure a fair representation we embarked on a six-month-long primary data collection endeavour that covered over 750 leading companies pan-India. Of these, around 75 companies have been showcased in this issue along with 50+ thought leaders. While scores of companies are doing noteworthy work in several SDGs, we have limited our focus on those that participated in our primary data collection exercise.

Moreover, 150+ companies and their pioneering work in many areas has already been featured in earlier CSR special issues. Hence, many popular projects may not have found a mention in this issue. An attempt has been made to balance well-known players with lesser-known entities, while also balancing geographies, and demographics. The undercurrent throughout the issue has been to explore ways in which the good work could be scaled up and even replicated to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth across sectors.

In this endeavour, two partner institutions have played a very valuable role. The United Nations Global Compact India (UNGCI) was our Knowledge Partner. Led by the late Shabnam Siddiqui, the dynamic Executive Director, the UNGCI Team introduced us to their global network of SDG experts and to several committed corporations that have strategically aligned their business with SDGs in unique and diverse ways.

Sattva Consulting was our Research Partner. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Meera Harish, Partner, the Sattva Team provided us valuable data inputs through their India Insights platform, and also connected us with high-impact enterprises working in this space.

True to the vision of Business India of being a magazine with a purpose that is committed to the future, this special issue is a path-breaking effort in mainstreaming the discussion on the contribution of India Inc. in achieving the UNSDGs, highlighting implementable ideas for creating impact at scale, and underscoring the vital role of collaboration between business, government, and society to ensure that we can save our only world for ourselves, and also preserve it for posterity. 

January 26, 2022

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