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How Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can help in Achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13: Climate Action

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Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG 13) is one of the 17 goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The goal aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Climate change is a global problem that threatens the very survival of our planet and requires immediate action from all stakeholders. The world has already witnessed the devastating effects of climate change, including extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increased frequency of natural disasters. These effects have not only led to a loss of life but have also had severe economic and social consequences. In this context, achieving SDG 13 is crucial to ensure a sustainable future for all.
India, one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The country’s diverse geography and large population make it particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. India is already experiencing the effects of climate change, including more frequent heatwaves, droughts, and floods. These impacts are expected to worsen in the future, with rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns leading to reduced agricultural productivity, water scarcity, and increased health risks.
Given these challenges, it is imperative that India takes proactive measures to mitigate climate change and its impacts. In recent years, the Indian government has taken several steps towards achieving SDG 13, including the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, as well as efforts to promote sustainable transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, achieving SDG 13 requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including businesses, governments, and civil society.

Investing in Renewable Energy

One of the most effective ways to combat climate change is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap heat and contribute to global warming. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower can provide a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. They are clean, abundant and do not produce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards renewable energy investments in India, with both the government and private sector taking proactive measures towards promoting renewable energy. Many companies in India have already started investing in renewable energy as part of their CSR initiatives. They are recognising the role they can play in mitigating climate change and promoting sustainability through investing in renewable energy. By investing in renewable energy, companies can not only reduce their carbon footprint but also contribute to the country’s sustainable energy transition.
Tata Power is one of the largest power companies in India, with a presence in over 35 countries. The company has committed to generating 30-40% of its total energy output from renewable sources by 2025. It has already installed over 2.7 GW of renewable energy capacity, including wind, solar, and hydro power. The company is also working towards developing energy storage solutions to enhance the integration of renewable energy into the grid.
Infosys is a global leader in technology consulting, with a strong focus on sustainability. The company has installed solar panels on the rooftops of its buildings, resulting in a reduction of 6,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. It has also implemented energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting and efficient air conditioning systems, to reduce its energy consumption. Infosys is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 and has set a target of sourcing 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.

Promoting Energy Efficiency

Promoting energy efficiency is an essential step towards sustainable development and combating climate change. In India, many companies have recognised the need to adopt energy-efficient measures to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their overall operational efficiency. One such company is Mahindra & Mahindra, which has been a pioneer in the adoption of sustainable practices.
Mahindra & Mahindra has implemented various energy efficiency initiatives at its manufacturing facilities to reduce its energy consumption per vehicle produced. The company has invested in new technologies, such as energy-efficient lighting, process optimisation, and improved thermal insulation, to reduce its energy consumption. Additionally, the company has set up energy management systems to monitor and control its energy usage, enabling it to identify areas for further improvement.
In 2020, Mahindra & Mahindra was awarded the prestigious CII Energy Management Excellence Award for its energy conservation efforts. The company was recognised for its innovative approach to energy management, which includes the use of renewable energy, process optimisation, and employee engagement initiatives.
Apart from Mahindra & Mahindra, other companies in India have also implemented energy efficiency measures as part of their CSR initiatives. For instance, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), one of India’s largest fast-moving consumer goods companies, has implemented several energy-efficient measures, such as the installation of energy-efficient lighting and the use of renewable energy sources at its manufacturing facilities. As a result of these initiatives, HUL has been able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 16% since 2010.

Encouraging Sustainable Transportation

Encouraging sustainable transportation is a crucial aspect of combating climate change. The transportation sector is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for nearly one-quarter of global emissions. Therefore, companies must prioritise sustainable transportation as part of their CSR initiatives to help achieve SDG 13.
One effective way to promote sustainable transportation is by implementing carpooling programs. By encouraging employees to share rides, companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and promote a culture of sustainability. Wipro, a global leader in IT services, has implemented a successful carpooling program for its employees, resulting in a reduction of 3,200 tons of carbon emissions annually. The company has also installed electric vehicle charging stations at its campuses to encourage the use of electric vehicles.
In addition to carpooling programs, companies can also provide electric or hybrid vehicles to their employees. For example, Infosys, a global technology consulting company, has replaced its entire fleet of diesel vehicles with electric cars. As a result, the company has reduced its carbon footprint by 60% and saved approximately 13 million litres of diesel since 2018.
Companies can also promote the use of public transportation as part of their CSR initiatives. For example, Google India has partnered with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to provide real-time information about the metro system to its users. This initiative has encouraged more people to use public transportation, resulting in a reduction in the number of cars on the road and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, companies can incentivise sustainable transportation by offering benefits such as free or subsidised public transportation passes, electric vehicle charging stations, and preferred parking for carpoolers or electric vehicle users.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture

Agriculture is a sector that contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture, forestry, and other land use account for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential aspect of combatting climate change, and companies must prioritise sustainable agriculture as part of their CSR initiatives to help achieve SDG 13.
Sustainable agriculture practices such as organic farming, crop rotation, and conservation tillage can help reduce emissions and promote climate resilience. Companies in India can invest in sustainable agriculture practices to promote climate-resilient agriculture and reduce their carbon footprint. For example, ITC Limited, a leading Indian conglomerate, has implemented sustainable agriculture practices across 550,000 acres of farmland, resulting in a reduction of 1.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. The company’s sustainable agriculture practices include using organic manure, improving soil health through soil testing, and implementing efficient water management practices.
In addition to ITC Limited, many other companies in India are investing in sustainable agriculture as part of their CSR initiatives. For instance, PepsiCo India has launched a program called ‘Sustainable Farming Initiative’ to promote sustainable agriculture practices among its contract farmers. The program has helped farmers adopt sustainable agriculture practices such as drip irrigation, laser land levelling, and integrated pest management. Similarly, Tata Chemicals, a leading chemical and fertilisers company in India, has developed a sustainable agriculture program called ‘Pragati’ to promote sustainable agriculture practices and improve farmers’ livelihoods.
Moreover, companies can promote sustainable agriculture practices by providing financial and technical assistance to farmers. For instance, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), a leading consumer goods company in India, has launched a program called ‘Project Shakti’ to empower rural women by providing them with training and resources to become entrepreneurs. Under this program, HUL has also provided financial and technical assistance to women farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices.

Supporting Reforestation

Supporting reforestation is an effective way for companies to contribute towards mitigating climate change. Reforestation involves planting trees in areas where forests have been depleted or destroyed. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reforestation also promotes biodiversity and helps to prevent soil erosion.
Several companies in India have initiated reforestation efforts as part of their CSR initiatives. For example, JSW Group, a leading Indian conglomerate, has launched the “Sakhi Van” project, which aims to plant one million trees across India. The project employs women from local communities to plant and maintain the trees, providing them with employment opportunities while also contributing to reforestation efforts. Similarly, Aditya Birla Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, has planted over one million trees in 13 states in India as part of its CSR initiatives.
In addition to afforestation programs, companies can also support forest conservation initiatives. Forest conservation involves protecting existing forests from degradation and deforestation. Companies can support forest conservation by partnering with NGOs and government agencies working to protect forests, investing in forest restoration projects, and implementing sustainable forestry practices.
Tata Steel, a subsidiary of the Tata group, has partnered with the Forest Department of Jharkhand, a state in eastern India, to implement a program to protect forests from degradation and deforestation. The program involves planting trees, building check dams to prevent soil erosion, and promoting sustainable forestry practices.
Implementing sustainable forestry practices is also essential for mitigating climate change. Sustainable forestry practices involve managing forests in a way that promotes the long-term health and productivity of the forest while minimising negative environmental impacts. Companies can implement sustainable forestry practices by using certified sustainable wood products, supporting forest certification programs, and implementing responsible sourcing policies.

Promoting Sustainable Waste Management

In India, waste management has become a significant challenge due to the country’s rapidly growing population and urbanisation. According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates around 62 million tons of waste annually, and this is expected to double by 2030. However, only 70-80% of the waste is collected, and less than 30% is treated, leading to severe environmental and health impacts.
Companies can play a significant role in promoting sustainable waste management practices by adopting the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” approach. By reducing the amount of waste generated and promoting the reuse of products and materials, companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, by recycling waste materials such as paper, plastic, and metals, companies can reduce the demand for virgin materials, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with their extraction and production.
Several companies in India have implemented sustainable waste management practices as part of their CSR initiatives. For example, Coca-Cola India has implemented a comprehensive waste management program that includes a recycling initiative and a composting program for its waste. The company has also partnered with local NGOs and waste collectors to collect and recycle plastic waste from communities.
Similarly, ITC Limited has implemented a solid waste management program that involves recycling waste and converting it into compost. The company has also set up a biogas plant that converts organic waste into energy, reducing its carbon footprint and contributing to the achievement of SDG 13.
Another example is Tata Steel, which has implemented a waste management program that includes the use of eco-friendly technology and the recycling of waste materials. The company has also implemented a zero-waste-to-landfill policy, which involves diverting all waste from landfills and finding alternative uses for it.
In addition to reducing waste generation and promoting recycling, companies can also contribute to sustainable waste management by promoting composting. Composting is a process that involves the breakdown of organic waste into nutrient-rich compost that can be used as fertiliser. By promoting composting, companies can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture.
For example, Infosys has implemented a composting program at its campus in Bangalore, where it converts food waste into compost that is used in the company’s gardens and landscaping. The program has resulted in a reduction of 4,200 tons of waste sent to landfills annually.

Educating and Engaging Stakeholders

In addition to implementing sustainable practices, companies can also play an essential role in educating and engaging their stakeholders about climate change and sustainability. By raising awareness about climate change, companies can inspire individuals to take action and contribute to the fight against climate change. Moreover, companies can use their influence to promote sustainable practices among their employees, customers, and suppliers.
One example of a company that is taking an active role in educating and engaging stakeholders is Mahindra & Mahindra. The company has launched a sustainability program called “Rise for Good,” which aims to raise awareness about sustainability among its stakeholders. The program focuses on four key areas: sustainable livelihood, education, health, and environment.
Under the environment pillar, Mahindra & Mahindra has implemented several initiatives to promote sustainability and raise awareness about climate change. For instance, the company has launched an eco-driving program that aims to promote fuel-efficient driving among its employees. The program provides training on fuel-efficient driving techniques and rewards employees who achieve high fuel efficiency.
Moreover, Mahindra & Mahindra has implemented several initiatives to promote sustainable transportation among its stakeholders. The company has launched an electric vehicle (EV) initiative that aims to promote the adoption of EVs in India. As part of the initiative, Mahindra & Mahindra has launched several electric vehicles and is working to develop charging infrastructure for EVs.
In addition to educating and engaging its stakeholders, Mahindra & Mahindra has also taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint. The company has implemented several energy efficiency initiatives at its manufacturing facilities, resulting in a 19% reduction in energy consumption per vehicle produced. Moreover, Mahindra & Mahindra has implemented sustainable agriculture practices across its farmland, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Overall, by educating and engaging stakeholders, companies can play a critical role in achieving SDG 13. By raising awareness about sustainability and promoting sustainable practices, companies can inspire individuals to take action and contribute to the fight against climate change. Furthermore, by implementing sustainable practices themselves, companies can lead by example and encourage others to follow suit.
In conclusion, SDG 13 calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and corporate philanthropy can be powerful tools for achieving this goal in India. By investing in renewable energy, promoting energy efficiency, encouraging sustainable transportation, supporting sustainable agriculture and reforestation, promoting sustainable waste management, and educating and engaging stakeholders, companies can contribute to mitigating climate change and promoting sustainability. However, it is crucial that companies prioritise sustainability and view it as a long-term investment rather than a short-term cost. Ultimately, achieving SDG 13 will require a collective effort from governments, businesses, and civil society.