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CSR spending in India is mostly aligned with SDGs: Kamal Singh

Jun 05, 2018

It is important for us to integrate CSR with SDGs which has already begun in many countries, says GCNI’s Kamal Singh.

Kamal Singh, Executive Director, Global Compact Network India (GCNI), in an interview to OneWorld South Asia said that that SDGs reside as the underlying framework for businesses in India to achieve sustainable growth. GCNI is the Indian arm of the United Nations Global Compact, New York. Excerpts from the interview:

OneWorld South Asia: Global Compact Network India is planning the 13th National Convention on Sustainable Development Goals. What is the theme for this convention and what have you achieved since you set out on your journey in India?

Kamal Singh: Last 30 months have been full of learning, awareness and a few pockets of success with the governments, businesses, and civil society towards achieving the SDGs.

While the initiatives so far have been a promising start, a significant expansion of efforts is essential to achieve these goals within less than 5,000 days available at helm.

It is therefore that the theme of the convention ‘SDGs-A blueprint for action’ is not only to sensitise all the stakeholders well in time but also prepare a blue print for action.

OWSA: How does the convention support the business community in India as they align their CSR goals towards SDGs?

Singh: As you know that 193 countries globally have accepted to achieve the targets of SDGs to make our world better and sustainable. Towards this, corporate sector has a huge role in helping to achieve these targets.

We have in India, CSR section 135 Act, which stipulates to spend two per cent of the profits towards various social projects as responsible business. In fact, the entire spending on CSR projects in India, to a great extent align with SDGs, hence, it is important for us to integrate CSR with SDGs which many countries have already started.

OWSA: What are the key challenges for India Inc in terms of SDGs? How does this convention plan to brainstorm on the existing challenges?

Singh: Especially in the Indian context, as India witnesses’ higher growth rates and transforms itself into a New India, it is imperative that SDGs reside as the underlying framework for businesses to achieve sustainable growth.

The implementation path to achieve SDGs would not only help India grow but also help us grows and sustain our society without taking away what we owe to our future generations. As we inch towards creating New India, we need to understand what needs to be done and act now!

A galaxy of speakers have been invited from various sectors who shall deliberate along with participants and help in shaping the agenda for action.

OWSA: Explain the theme of the convention ‘Blueprint for Action’?

Singh: The ‘blueprint for action’ puts emphasis on the real on-ground actions that the businesses need to take to make an impact on achieving the SDGs and also to create economic value for the nation.

The ‘blueprint for action’ will include concepts such as organizational performance for SDGs and circular economy etc. which corporate India needs to follow in the coming years. These concepts have not just shown potential of creating jobs and growth but also limit virgin resource usage and improve efficiency- thus providing a roadmap for implementation.

OWSA: What are the Global best practices that we have been able to emulate in India in terms of SDGs?

Singh: The government is taking some concrete steps in this regard. The government has shown strong commitment from some of the most inclusive projects such as Digital India, Skill India, Swachh Bharat, Doubling farmers’ income; to specific initiatives such as SDG Index boosting the spirit of competitive federalism.

OWSA: Are there any systemic challenges for Indian businesses as we expect them to contribute towards SDGs? How does the convention plan to address them?

Singh: Deliberations at the convention promise five take-aways.

  • Establish SDGs as the growth engines for businesses

  • Explore how everyone, from the CEO to a Janitor can contribute to the SDGs

  • Understand the potential of concepts such as digital and circular economy

  • Reflect upon and celebrate the success stories for others to emulate

  • And, ultimately drive businesses from discussions, pilots and elementary initiatives to take concrete, scalable and sustainable actions for achieving the SDGs.

The convention will be helpful in encouraging more organizations for appreciating the need to forge alliances towards achieving SDGs targets.

In fact, some of the Indian companies have already started taking lead for partnership in achieving some of the SDGs and going forward.

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