Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) calls for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Achieving this goal is crucial for ensuring economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability. However, this goal remains out of reach for millions of people around the world, including many in India. To achieve SDG 7, it is crucial to engage all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and the private sector. In particular, companies can play a significant role in accelerating progress towards SDG 7 by implementing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Five ways in which CSR can aid in achieving SDG 7
1. Investing in Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is one of the key pillars of SDG 7. Companies can play a critical role in accelerating the adoption of renewable energy sources by investing in renewable energy projects. This not only helps to reduce their own carbon footprint but also contributes to the overall shift towards a low-carbon economy. Several Indian companies have already taken significant steps in this direction.
For example, Tata Power has set a target to increase its renewable energy capacity to 30-40% of its total capacity by 2025. The company has already invested in several renewable energy projects, including wind, solar, and hydropower. Another example is Infosys which has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2022. The company has implemented several initiatives, including installing solar panels in its facilities, using energy-efficient technologies, and purchasing renewable energy certificates.
2. Energy Access for Rural Communities
Access to energy is essential for economic development and social well-being, yet millions of people in India still lack access to electricity. CSR programs can play a key role in providing energy access to rural communities. Companies can support the installation of solar panels, mini-grids, and other decentralized renewable energy systems to provide electricity to remote villages.
One such example is the partnership between SELCO Foundation and Schneider Electric, a global energy company, to provide access to clean energy for rural communities in Karnataka. The project involved the installation of solar-powered mini-grids in 55 villages, providing electricity to over 20,000 people. Another example is the partnership between Reliance Foundation and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to provide solar-powered lighting to 1100 households in six villages in Madhya Pradesh.
3. Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing
Energy efficiency is another important aspect of SDG 7, and companies can play a significant role in reducing their own energy consumption through energy-efficient manufacturing processes. This not only helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also reduces costs and improves productivity. Several Indian companies have implemented energy efficiency measures in their manufacturing operations.
For example, Mahindra & Mahindra, a leading Indian automobile manufacturer, has implemented several energy-saving initiatives in its manufacturing plants. The company has installed energy-efficient lighting, implemented waste heat recovery systems, and optimized its manufacturing processes to reduce energy consumption. Another example is the partnership between JSW Steel and Tata Steel with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) to implement energy-efficient technologies in their manufacturing operations.
4. Education and Awareness
Education and awareness are essential for achieving SDG 7. Companies can play a key role in raising awareness about the importance of energy access, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources. This can be done through employee engagement programs, community outreach initiatives, and public awareness campaigns.
One example is the ‘Energy Swaraj Foundation’ (ESF), an initiative by the Adani Group, which aims to promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in India. The foundation has conducted several awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and communities across India, promoting the use of solar power, energy-efficient lighting, and other energy-saving technologies. Another example is the ‘Tata Power Club Enerji’ program, which is an initiative by Tata Power aimed at creating awareness about energy conservation among school children. The program has reached over 600 schools and has helped to create a culture of energy conservation among the younger generation.
5. Supporting Research and Development
Research and development (R&D) play a crucial role in driving innovation in the energy sector. Companies can support R&D initiatives that focus on developing new technologies and solutions for energy access, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources. This can be done through partnerships with academic institutions, research organizations, and startups.
One example is the partnership between Tata Trusts and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) to establish a research centre focused on developing innovative solutions for energy access and renewable energy in India. The centre called the ‘Tata Center for Technology and Design’ (TCTD) aims to develop solutions that are affordable, scalable, and sustainable and has already developed several innovative solutions for rural electrification.
In conclusion, CSR initiatives can play a significant role in achieving SDG 7 and ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. By investing in renewable energy, providing energy access to rural communities, implementing energy efficiency measures in manufacturing, raising awareness through education and outreach initiatives, and supporting R&D initiatives, companies can contribute to the overall shift towards a low-carbon economy and help to achieve sustainable development in India and around the world.