Moving towards sustainable future

Moving towards a sustainable future

3:39 PM, 16th September 2016
Moving towards a sustainable future
Shilip Kumar, President, Henkel India.

By Shilip Kumar, President, Henkel India

More than 150 world leaders are expected to congregate at the UN headquarters in New York between September 25, 2016 and September 27, 2016 to attend the UN Sustainable Development Summit. This event will witness the global body adopt a new set of goals and take joint action on achieving sustainable development.

Globally, the need to minimize carbon footprint has become an important topic with most organizations striving to develop sustainable business practices and embed them in their processes. Sustainability was first mentioned in the year 1713, when Hans Carl von Carlowitz, head of the Royal Mining Office in the Kingdom of Saxony (a part of modern Germany), formulated the concept of sustainability in forestry. In his book “Sylvicultura Oeconomica”, he presented a roadmap for the sustainable use of nature and its resources. A century later, Reverend Thomas R. Malthus—a prominent political, economic and demographic scholar—predicted the future of the world’s population and reminded the society on ‘Sustainability’ in his famous essay ‘Principle of Population.’

Today, by virtue of it becoming a key criterion in customers’ purchasing decisions, sustainability has made inroads into the boardrooms of private sector corporations who now view it as a potential growth driver for businesses. Understandably, sustainability has become a topic that receives its due recognition from world leaders, scientists and the media. An October 2015 report by Futurescape and IIM Udaipur indicates that sustainability initiatives of large organizations in India include: initiatives aimed at reducing emissions, waste and water management, and exploring renewable sources of energy.

Setting the context for the Indian chemical industry: 

Currently valued at $144 Bn, the Indian chemical industry has been growing at a steady rate. Besides technology, sustainability has become one of the tools that is helping the industry maintain this growth rate and explore new market opportunities. In fact, the impending National Chemical Policy aims to promote research and development with a focus on sustainability and green technologies to foster consistent and long-term industry growth. In the recent past, several Indian chemical companies have demonstrated their commitment to sustainability and initiated a range of sustainability programs, which focus on implementing best practices adopted by their global peers.

However, some of the biggest challenges in fully on-boarding sustainability are creating awareness and ensuring its implementation. It is worth mentioning here that global organizations and industry bodies are becoming increasingly aware of the role they can play in championing the cause of sustainability. Several such voluntary industry initiatives include:

·      Responsible Care® – This is an initiative of the chemical industry, which aims to set up world-class environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) performance benchmarks

·      Nicer Globe – This is an initiative of the Indian chemical industry focused on developing globally acclaimed standards, infrastructure and services for safe and secure transportation

·      Together for Sustainability (TfS) – It is a global initiative that creates sustainable supply chains in the chemical industry through a global supplier engagement program, which focuses on sustainable sourcing practices, which include ecological and social aspects.

By supporting these initiatives, the chemical industry has established ecological responsibility as an emerging key indicator of sustainable growth. The Indian chemical industry—including MNCs, local companies and especially MSMEs—has realized the market opportunity created with customers’ increasing preference for sustainable brands. The industry is witnessing a paradigm shift with regards to sustainability. A shift where the domestic chemical companies are increasingly accepting the reality that a healthy top line is not the only yardstick of measuring success. Moreover, the industry is now considering the adoption of global sustainability benchmarks and collaborating to ensure their successful implementation.

The evolving manufacturing landscape and the Indian government’s push aimed at ensuring the success of ‘Make in India’ are also driving the industry forward. The Indian chemical market is now being seen as a potential destination by the global chemical companies. It is also estimated that it will ascend the ranks and be among the top 5 destinations in Asia. One of the important strategies proposed by the government as part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative is ensuring green and sustainable technologies, so as to reduce the environmental impact of the chemical industry. Responsible chemistry will help ‘Make in India’ become not only a reality, but a sustainability-embedded reality.

Considering the future road map, sustainability will also need to be an integral part of every business function:

·      Accountability in companies will be more important than ever: Dominant institutions will be seen as strong decision makers and will have to play a salient role in advocating sustainability.

·      Decision makers will need to consider issues related to sustainability more seriously: In order to bring about sustainable change, companies will now focus on drawing holistic ‘plans for the future’ incorporating sustainability at the core of their strategy. 

·      Innovation will play a huge role in aiding businesses to be sustainable: Future leaders will use innovation to drive sustainability and at the same time innovate for additional revenues and better business. This will need a rethinking on the entire value chain including manufacturing, logistics and supply chain.                                  

Conclusion:

Sustainability is a key trend, and India has an important role to play. To make progress, companies need to adapt to a rigorous, goal-oriented, standardized and accountable platform. I believe the way forward for the Indian chemical industry is clear. More organizations will have to take a strategic view of sustainability and this will require its integration across processes and even in ‘hard’ areas such as budgets and supply chains. After all, the chemical industry offers innovations and technological improvements that support the growth of almost every industry today in a profitable manner, and the goal is to do this in a sustainable way.

© Worldofchemicals News

Note: The article is part of the media coverage for the Together for Sustainability (TfS) initiative (http://www.tfs-initiative.com/) - industry meet taking place on 20 September in Mumbai. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of worldofchemicals website.

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