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Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India

Sustainable Development Goals

The 14th Edition of Global Compact Network India’s (GCNI) National Convention on Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India recently concluded at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. The Convention attracted more than 500 delegates and was well represented by various actors including government, UN agencies, non-profits, academic and civic societies committed to driving sustainable development solutions within the Indian social ecosystem. For the first time, an exhibition was showcased on Best Practices of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GCNI and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-hosted a Round table on ‘Human Rights for Corporate Responsibility’ on 30th May 2019 as a curtain raiser to the convention. This is my final comprehensive article on the GCNI Convention and includes many videos to encompass the essence of the event.

To know a bit about GCNI and United Nations Global Compact, let’s watch my conversation with Mr. Kamal Singh, Executive Director of GCNI.


Dr. Bibek Debroy, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and Member, NITI Aayog, kick-started the convention through his inaugural address (refer to my previous article). The other speakers at the inaugural session included Dr. Uddesh Kohli, Senior Advisor, UN Global Compact, Ms. Renata Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator in India, Mr. Shashi Shanker, President GCNI & CMD, ONGC Group of Companies, Mr. Rajeev Dubey, Convener– GCNI 14th National Convention & Group President (HR & Corporate Services) & CEO (After-Market Sector) Member of the Group Executive Board Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Mr. Vishvesh Prabhakar, MD-Operations & Sustainability, Accenture Strategy and Mr. Kamal Singh, Executive Director, GCNI.

SDGs were adopted by 193 countries at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in Sept 2015 and came into effect from 1st Jan 2016. SDGs remarkably increased the umbrella of initiatives from the set of 8 international development goals with 18 quantifiable targets under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to set off 17 Goals with 169 Targets. To circumvent the pitfalls of global imbalances during the MDGs era, SDGs formulated a wide range of goals for making sustainable goals more universal and inclusive.

Goal 1: No Poverty           Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth      Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Sustainable Development GoalsChina played a critical role in MDGs implementation and now its turn of India to play its part in achieving global SDG targets is the essence of part of Dr. Bibek Debroy’s speech at the convention. Refer to Dr. Bibek Debroy’s speech in the previous article. The importance of India achieving its SDGs is of paramount importance for the global achievement of SDGs.

To achieve the set agenda, the Indian Government launched some very innovative policies to catalyze financial inclusion, proliferate technology, promote universal housing, healthcare, education, gender equality and clean tech through its flagship policies namely Swachh Bharat Mission, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan- Dhan Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

                          “Do not think of SDGs in isolation, they exist within a framework of government schemes”                                                                                                   Dr. Bibek Debroy

Sustainable Development GoalsNITI Aayog, the premier government policy think tank formed under the tutelage of Mr. Narendra Modi and headed by Mr. Amitabh Kant is mandated for coordinating work on SDGs in India. It works as the central force with all the actors involved in implementing SDGs within the economic, social and environmental ecosystem through policies and interventions, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation backed by a framework of best ethical business practices. In order to map progress across India, an SDG India Index is formed to map policies to respective SDGs with a numerical number ranging between 1 to 100. NITI Aayog’s SDG Index Baseline Report 2018 is the platinum standard of policies and interventions in India mapped at local, state and union territories. The index constructed for 13 SDGs, works as ready reckoner for policymakers, businesses, civil society and the general public. India has done a commendable job in the last three years in SDGs implementation in India. More on this in separate articles. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala topped the overall SDG Index Baseline report for states and Chandigarh among Union Territories.

Accenture-GCNI White Paper titled ‘Transforming India’s Sustainability Agenda’ gelled well with the theme citing examples of how emerging disruptive digital technologies such as loT, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Cloud are providing efficient and scalable solutions to social enterprises working to correct market failures at the bottom of the pyramid. The white paper summarizes the policies of the government under the respective SDGs while detailing examples of how technology is helping India achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

                                                                      Goal 2:  Zero Hunger

Accenture Labs under Teach For Good program optimized the supply chain of Akshaya Patra Foundation, world’s largest (not-for-profit run) Mid-Day Meal program serving wholesome food to over 1.6 million children from 13,529 schools across 11 states in India.

Mr. Sundeep Singh, Principal Director, Sustainability, Accenture Strategy talks about Blockchain technology and its application in the million meals project of NGO Akshaya Patra in India. #SDGsImpactChat #SDGs #accenture#akshaypatra#GCNI Convention19 #NGOs #blockchain                                               

Thrust for digital inclusion has come under Digital India initiative of the present government and goes to the very core of SDGs fulfillment. Technology made the participation of audience real time by integrating GCNI application with slido and GCNI app.

“Nirmai, a Bangalore based startup is using AI to provide affordable breast scan for diagnosing breast cancer at prices at a discount of more than 50% compared to market rates” Accenture GCNI White Paper

The 3rd Edition of Innovative Practices Awards on Sustainable Development Goals was held with over 40 entries from Public Sector, Private Sector, Academic Institutions, and NGOs. The felicitation ceremony which I recorded on my smartphone (above) and is uploaded on my YouTube channel.

There were a couple of sessions with a focus on technology and innovation’s role in SDGs and deep dive sessions on Sustainable Development Goalsthemes related to climate change, clean tech, gender equality, and responsible consumption & production. Some of the initiatives in SDGs by the government and corporate are exemplary and worth quoting.

There are no longer mercury filled batteries in India, a feat superlative considering some developed countries have not achieved this distinction quoted Mr. R Mukundan, MD & CEO, Tata Chemicals Ltd.. He stressed how businesses should play a central role in improving the quality of life around you. In India 100 organizations consume 60% of energy consumption and their role in energy conservation would play a decisive role in meeting SDGs. e.g. Sustainable Development Goals 6,11 and 12.

“Mahindra Rise making a positive contribution to the society through their Zero Waste to Landfill policy already achieved at 9 plants and 1 Club Mahindra resort” Mr. SP Shukla, Member-Group Executive Board, President- Group Strategy & Chief Brand Officer and President-Defence, Mahindra Group.

To make a change at the grassroots level, Ms. Arundhati Bhattacharya, Former Chairperson, SBI, enunciated their foundation’s efforts in recruiting talent for their fellowship in rural areas for a bottom-up policy approach. This is more in tune with the global development agenda of sponsoring fellowships or internships in key development regions like sub-Saharan region in Africa. To bring in accountability about 500 companies would publish a sustainability report, a 400% jump compared to that a few years ago as per SEBI guidelines quoted Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee, Secretary-General, Indian Steel Association.

               “Our organization is implementing a strong policy initiative to cut the carbon dioxide emissions by half”

                                               Erwin Steinhauser, MD & CEO, Sandvik Asia

The impact investor sector was represented by Dr. Mukund Rajan, Chairman, ECube Investment Advisors Private Limited and Former Chairman – Tata Global Sustainability Council who moderated a deep dive session.

and Mr. P Pradeep, Managing Partner, Aavishkaar, a prestigious asset manager in impact investing. Dr. Shalini Sarin, Chair, Signify Foundation (brief chat on YouTube), Mr. Joe Phelan, Director, WBCSD India, Mr. Gulshan Sharma, Chairman, International Chamber for Service Industry were other moderators at deep dive sessions. Dr. H Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH, Mr. N N Sharma, Chairperson, India Centre for Public Policy and Ms. Vineeta Dwivedi, host and educator at S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research shared their views at the Convention. (Refer Tweets and my YouTube channel).

Sustainable Development GoalsOther distinguished people who attended the summit included Mr. Anuj Sharma, CEO, Piramal Sarvajal; Mr. Sanjiv Mehta, CMD, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.; and Ms. Meenakshi Batra, CEO, CAF India among others.

For a comprehensive deck of pictures check the link below.

The event further showcased case study presentation on Sustainable Development Goals related sustainability initiatives implemented by organizations in India moderated by Mr. Dipankar Ghosh, Partner & Lead, Sustainability and Climate Change, TTC. The event concluded with a valedictory address by Mr. Sanjiv Mehta, CMD, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. and vote of thanks by Dr. Balvir Talwar, General Manager (Corporate Administration, HSE & CSR), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited.

Sustainable Development GoalsGCNI Convention this year was one of the largest if not the largest summit on SDGs with huge participation from stakeholders involved in implementing SDGs in India. I talked to many stakeholders including moderators, speakers, academician, investors, corporate, delegates, non-profits, exhibitors and volunteers to understand a well-rounded perspective on how India is evolving towards better CSR & sustainability practices. Increased global linkages led to better business practices helped in many ways by multinationals facilitated benchmarking against global rules and regulation. Pro-reform policies in the last five years focused on driving dependable social entrepreneurs through a surge in capital and capacity building boosted scalable innovations. High wage growth over the years catapulted many up the value chain incorporating a more holistic lifestyle towards themselves and the society moving up on the self-actualization curve. This resulted in increased positivity and awareness of Sustainable Development Goals. Going forward, there will be a more comprehensive framework of accountability backed by evidence-based interventions towards effective and successful implementation of SDGs. To emphasize the success of the convention, I quote Ms. Neelam Gupta founder of Aroh Foundation and one of the winners “I think we should have another event to discuss the takeaways!!”


Goal 17: Global Partnerships for the development

Leave you with my pic at GCNI Convention 19. Personally, grateful to GCNI for allowing me to cover the event on The middle Road and hope everyone enjoyed my articles, tweets, and videos related to the convention. I am thankful to everyone including delegates who shared valuable time to speak with me and I have uploaded many of our conversations on my YouTube channel and Twitter handle @nishmalh29. (Sandeep Roy Choudhury, Director, VNY Advisory Services; Wilma Rodrigues, Founder, Saahas Zero Waste; Brieux Bosidequin, VP-South Asia BASF; Vineeta Dwivedi; Dr. Ketna Mehta, Founder Nina Foundation; Delegates from Yes Bank; volunteers and nonprofits, etc).

Sustainable Development Goals


About Global Compact Network India (GCNI)

As a United Nations Global Compact local arm, Global Compact Network India (GCNI) has been acting as a country level platform in providing a robust platform for Indian businesses, academic institutions and civil society organizations to join hands for strengthening responsible business practices. Our ‘10 Principles in areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-corruption’ provide a common ethical  and practical Framework for Corporate Responsibility –  and the 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ adopted in September 2015, by all 195 Member States of the United Nations including India in order to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet- understood and interpreted by businesses around the world , regardless of size , complexity or location. Inset pic: GCNI team.

For more details visit: 

Further reading: Art of Blended Finance and SDGs 


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