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How Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can help in Achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

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Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) focuses on ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
This goal is aimed at promoting responsible and sustainable consumption and production patterns across the globe. The goal emphasises the need to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability, and focuses on reducing the negative impacts of human activities on the natural environment.
The achievement of SDG 12 is crucial for promoting sustainable development and addressing the global environmental challenges that we face today. The growing human population and the increasing demands for resources and energy have resulted in a massive depletion of natural resources, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and climate change. Addressing these challenges requires a significant shift towards more sustainable and responsible consumption and production patterns. This involves reducing waste generation, promoting resource efficiency, developing and promoting sustainable production technologies, and encouraging sustainable lifestyles.
In the Indian context, achieving SDG 12 is particularly important, given the country’s rapidly growing economy, large population, and high levels of resource consumption. India is currently one of the world’s largest consumers of natural resources, and its economic growth has put enormous pressure on the country’s natural resources and environment. The challenge for India is to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability and ensure that the benefits of economic development are distributed equitably across all sections of society.
Let us explore how India Inc. can participate in achieving SDG 12 through CSR.

Promoting Sustainable Production Practices

One of the key objectives of SDG 12 is to promote sustainable production patterns. Resource efficiency is a critical aspect of sustainable production practices, and it involves using natural resources such as water, energy, and raw materials in an optimal manner. Companies can adopt various measures to improve resource efficiency, such as using renewable energy sources, implementing energy-efficient technologies, and optimising production processes to reduce waste generation. By implementing such measures, companies can reduce their environmental footprint while also achieving cost savings through improved efficiency.
In India, several companies have taken steps towards resource efficiency in their production processes. One such example is Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), which has set a target to reduce water consumption per tonne of production by 50% by 2020. The company has implemented a comprehensive water stewardship program that focuses on reducing water consumption, improving water quality, and promoting sustainable water management practices. HUL has also implemented energy-efficient technologies in its production processes, such as solar-powered lighting systems and energy-efficient motors, to reduce energy consumption.
Circular economy is another important aspect of sustainable production practices. The circular economy approach aims to design products and services that can be reused, repaired, or recycled, thus reducing waste generation and promoting resource efficiency. Companies can adopt various measures to promote a circular economy, such as designing products for easy disassembly and recycling, implementing closed-loop production systems, and promoting the use of recycled materials.
Several Indian companies have already adopted a circular economy approach in their production processes. For example, Tata Steel has implemented a circular economy approach in its steel production process by using waste materials as a source of raw materials. The company has set a target to achieve 100% utilisation of waste materials by 2030 and has implemented several measures to promote a circular economy, such as using recycled steel scrap and developing innovative recycling technologies.
Clean production is another important aspect of sustainable production practices, which involves reducing or eliminating the use of hazardous substances in production processes. Companies can adopt various measures to promote clean production, such as using non-toxic materials, implementing cleaner production technologies, and promoting the use of renewable energy sources.
In India, several companies have taken steps towards promoting clean production practices. For example, Tata Motors has implemented a comprehensive sustainability program that focuses on reducing the environmental impact of its operations and promoting clean production practices. The company has set a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, and has implemented several measures to achieve this, such as using alternative fuels and implementing energy-efficient technologies in its production processes.

Reducing Food Waste

Reducing food waste is an essential aspect of achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns, as it helps to conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and alleviate food insecurity. In India, food waste is a significant challenge due to the high levels of poverty and malnutrition, making it imperative to take action to address this issue.
Corporate philanthropy can play a critical role in reducing food waste by supporting initiatives that promote food recovery and redistribution. One such initiative is the ‘Zero Leftover’ program launched by the Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), which aims to reduce food waste in its hotels by donating surplus food to local communities. The program has been implemented across all of IHCL’s hotels and has been successful in reducing food waste while also benefiting local communities.
Similarly, the Hindustan Unilever Foundation has partnered with local NGOs to set up community kitchens that use surplus food to prepare meals for underprivileged communities. These community kitchens not only help to reduce food waste but also address the issue of food insecurity by providing nutritious meals to those in need.
Another initiative that has gained traction in India is the concept of ‘ugly’ produce. Many fruits and vegetables are discarded due to their appearance, even though they are perfectly edible. Companies can support initiatives that promote the consumption of ‘ugly’ produce by partnering with farmers and retailers to sell these products at discounted prices. This approach not only reduces food waste but also supports local farmers and promotes sustainable consumption patterns.
In addition to these initiatives, companies can also adopt sustainable food production and consumption practices to reduce food waste. For example, companies can implement measures to reduce food loss during transportation and storage, such as using refrigerated transport and storage facilities. Companies can also promote sustainable consumption patterns by educating consumers about the importance of reducing food waste and encouraging them to adopt sustainable food consumption practices, such as meal planning and composting.

Promoting Sustainable Consumption

Promoting sustainable consumption is a critical aspect of achieving SDG 12, as it helps to reduce the environmental impact of economic activities and promote responsible use of natural resources. Companies can play a vital role in promoting sustainable consumption patterns by offering sustainable products and services, promoting eco-friendly lifestyles, and educating consumers about the environmental impact of their choices.
In India, many companies have launched sustainability initiatives that focus on promoting sustainable consumption. One such initiative is the ‘Green Express’ program launched by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), which aims to promote sustainable living practices among consumers. The program encourages consumers to adopt eco-friendly lifestyles by providing them with information and tools to reduce their environmental footprint. HUL has also launched a range of eco-friendly products under its ‘Green Signal’ brand, which includes toothpaste, soap, and detergent.
Similarly, Godrej Consumer Products has launched a ‘Good and Green’ initiative that focuses on promoting sustainable consumption through eco-friendly products and education campaigns. The initiative includes a range of eco-friendly products under the ‘Godrej Nature’s Basket’ brand, which includes organic food products and natural personal care products. The company also conducts awareness campaigns and educational programs to promote sustainable consumption practices among consumers.
Other companies in India have also launched sustainability initiatives that focus on promoting sustainable consumption. For example, ITC Limited has launched the ‘Green-a-thon’ initiative that aims to promote eco-friendly practices among employees and customers. The initiative includes a range of activities such as tree planting drives, waste management programs, and energy conservation campaigns.
In addition to these initiatives, companies can also promote sustainable consumption by adopting sustainable production practices and offering eco-friendly products and services. For example, companies can use eco-friendly materials and processes in their production processes and offer products that are recyclable or biodegradable. Companies can also provide customers with information about the environmental impact of their products and services, such as carbon footprint or water consumption.

Managing Electronic Waste

India is one of the largest producers of e-waste in the world, generating over two million tons of e-waste every year. The majority of this e-waste is not managed properly and ends up in landfills or is disposed of in an unsafe manner, leading to environmental and health hazards. As a result, the Indian government has implemented several regulations and policies to promote the responsible management of e-waste, including the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016.
Many companies in India have recognised the importance of e-waste management and have launched initiatives to address this issue. One such company is Dell, which has implemented an e-waste management program that aims to reduce the environmental impact of its products by recycling and refurbishing used electronics. The company has established partnerships with e-waste recyclers in India to ensure that its products are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. In addition, Dell has implemented a take-back program that allows customers to return their used electronics to the company for recycling.
Another Indian company that has taken steps towards e-waste management is Wipro, which has implemented a comprehensive e-waste management program. The program includes the responsible disposal of electronic waste and the promotion of sustainable electronic products. Wipro has established partnerships with certified e-waste recyclers to ensure that its e-waste is disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. In addition, the company has launched several initiatives to promote the reuse and recycling of electronic products, such as its ‘Green IT’ program which focuses on reducing the environmental impact of IT infrastructure.
Samsung has implemented an e-waste management program that focuses on the responsible disposal of its products and the promotion of sustainable electronic products. The company has established partnerships with e-waste recyclers in India to ensure that its products are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. Similarly, HP has launched an e-waste management program that focuses on the responsible disposal of electronic waste and the promotion of sustainable electronic products.

Supporting Sustainable Agriculture

Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy, with over half of the population engaged in agricultural activities. However, traditional agricultural practices in India have resulted in soil degradation, deforestation, and water depletion, leading to environmental degradation and reduced agricultural productivity. Sustainable agriculture practices offer a way to mitigate these challenges and promote sustainable agricultural practices.
Companies can support sustainable agriculture practices in India by investing in sustainable agricultural technologies, providing training and resources to farmers, and promoting sustainable supply chain practices. The Mahindra Group’s sustainable agriculture program, for example, aims to support small and marginal farmers in India by providing them with training in sustainable farming practices such as organic farming, integrated pest management, and water conservation. The program also provides farmers with access to technology such as drip irrigation and soil testing, which can help improve productivity while minimising the environmental impact of agriculture.
Similarly, Nestle India has partnered with farmers to promote sustainable agriculture practices such as water conservation and the use of eco-friendly fertilisers. The company has implemented a program called the Nestle Cocoa Plan, which aims to promote sustainable cocoa farming practices and support cocoa farmers in India. The program provides farmers with training and resources to help them adopt sustainable cocoa farming practices, such as agroforestry, which involves growing cocoa alongside other crops and trees to promote biodiversity and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.
Tata Trusts have launched a program called ‘Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies’ (TIGR2ESS), which aims to promote sustainable agriculture practices and support smallholder farmers in India. The program provides farmers with training and resources to help them adopt sustainable agricultural practices such as crop diversification, organic farming, and water management.
By supporting sustainable agriculture practices, companies can help reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, promote food security, and support rural livelihoods. Sustainable agriculture practices can help improve soil health, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce the use of harmful chemicals and fertilisers. These practices can also promote biodiversity and support ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and soil conservation.

Promoting Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is another important component of SDG 12, and companies can contribute to this objective by implementing energy-efficient practices in their operations and promoting energy-efficient products and services. By promoting energy efficiency, companies can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and reduce energy costs.
In India, many companies have launched initiatives that focus on promoting energy efficiency. For example, Tata Power has launched a program called ‘Club Enerji’ that aims to promote energy conservation among school children. Similarly, Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals Limited has launched a range of energy-efficient products that help consumers reduce their energy consumption.
Another example of a company promoting energy efficiency in India is Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M). M&M has implemented several energy-efficient measures in its manufacturing operations, such as the installation of solar panels and energy-efficient lighting systems. Additionally, the company has launched an initiative called ‘Mahindra Hariyali’ that aims to promote sustainable practices among farmers, including the use of energy-efficient irrigation systems.
To achieve SDG 12, it is essential that all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, civil society organisations, and individuals, work together in a collaborative manner. In particular, companies have a critical role to play in promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. By adopting sustainable business practices and promoting sustainable products and services, companies can contribute to achieving SDG 12 while building long-term value for their stakeholders and society at large.