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Indus seeks to marry sustainability and profitability: Dr Ajay Mathur

May 31, 2018

The recycling of textiles is a big business in India but to make it of global quality is a challenge which if addressed could go usher in sustainability both for businesses and the nation, says Dr Ajay Mathur of TERI.

New Delhi: The Indo-Dutch Sustainability Forum (Indus) is a platform aiming to improve sustainable and inclusive innovations in both Indian and Dutch businesses. Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia said that Indus has the potential of attracting businesses from both the countries for working towards global sustainability through collaborations. Excerpts from the interview.

OneWorld South Asia: How can the INDUS forum steer businesses towards sustainable progress?

Dr Ajay Mathur: The Indo-Dutch Sustainability Forum (Indus) brings together companies and organisations from Netherlands and from India. The forum is important because the amount of emphasis that is put on sustainability in the business sector in Netherlands is among the highest in the world.

There is a huge emphasis on sustainability in north European countries and Netherlands is one of them. More than any other country, businesses in Netherlands have been integrated with Indian businesses towards sustainability efforts.

OWSA: How can both the countries benefit from the business partnerships?

Dr Mathur: The recycling of textiles is a big business in India but to make it of global quality wherein the world’s best designers preferentially use it to produce high quality material which commands a premium both in terms of its branding as well as in terms of price is one way through which both sides could benefit.

This will help Indian businesses to do high quality recycling for better markets resulting into higher income through higher quality recycling. So, cloth becomes rather good than what it was or becoming worse, which is what typically happens in India.

OWSA: How can partnership with Netherlands boost the recycling market in India?

Dr Mathur: One of the challenges that we have seen is that while there is a lot of recycling in India, it is largely pushed by the economic necessities of our poorer citizens who finds this as a way to make incomes.

Because the poor do not have much capital in their pockets they relatively put into use a kind of basic technology resulting into poorer quality recycled products.

For example, there is huge amount of paper recycling in India. Traditionally people sell old newspapers to the ‘Kabadiwalas’. This paper is recycled into packing material which becomes a third grade quality paper after going into another cycle of recycling.

Unfortunately, there is very little paper that is converted into higher quality or at least of the same quality. Businesses from countries like Netherlands allow marketing of these kind of products so that premium prices could be obtained for such recycled material.

Individuals in India including the civil society, businesses, and other organisations can afford to put more money for a better recycled product. Collaborations like one facilitated by Indus can help in bridging the gap between the consumers and producers of recycled products.

OWSA: How can governments be integrated into the designs of business forums like Indus?

Dr Mathur: Government just cannot be wished away. Government has to be integral part of these efforts There is a strong commitment by the Indian government to enhance such activities but the ultimate money, ultimate technology, and ultimate marketing will be done by the private sector.

The Indus forum along with TERI and the NGOs from the Dutch side all help bring together business organisaitons in India and the Netherlands. What we are trying to do is to facilitate the producers of high quality producers of the recycled materials of the Indian side with the marketing-and-use of the high quality recycled material on the Dutch side.

We think that this is the combination which will help in enhancing the market for recycled Indian products.

OWSA: Both India and Netherlands have different laws on Corporate Social Responsibility. How do you think companies can adhere to these laws while forging partnerships on various fronts?

Dr Mathur: Our view on the Indian side is to look at such partnerships as profitable business activity. We should not see it only from the lens of CSR, because the problem is companies look at CSR as development projects in which the businesses put in money but stay at an arms length.

Therefore, we would like companies to accrue profits because of the sustainable practices rather than making the latter as a ceremonial practice.

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