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Are Indian companies on track to achieve SDG 8?

SDG 8 calls for promoting ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. According to some experts, the success of the entire SDG agenda depends to a large extent on achieving Sustainable Development Goal #8.
Responsible business conduct and ensuring respect for human rights will not only help to deliver the SDGs, but can also bring benefits for companies. Businesses can use the SDGs to shape, steer, communicate and report their own strategies, goals and activities on ethical trade and human rights through giving greater visibility within their companies and communicating externally about the value of corporate responsibility; and contributing to stabilising societies and markets by providing decent job opportunities. We take a look at how India Inc is aligned with SDG 8.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

The 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs contain multiple references to the need to achieve ‘decent work for all’. This is not only a specific aim in itself but is also seen as an indispensable, cross-cutting means of directly or indirectly supporting the achievement of all the SDGs.
Efforts to tackle SDG 8 challenges will be less effective, for example, if they fail to address discrimination affecting women’s lives. Since many workers are female, engagement with SDG 5 on gender inequality is crucial. Similarly, positive action on SDG 8 itself is a vital means of contributing to other goals, such as SDG 1 on poverty and SDG 10 on inequality. Businesses should assess and measure the impacts of their operations and relationships (positive and negative) as they decide which SDGs are the most relevant for them.

Government taking the lead

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) launched the ‘Suryamitra Skill Development Programme’ to support training of 50,000 skilled solar PV technicians. Meanwhile, initiatives like ‘Sustainable Power for Rural Development’ which is working to commercialize rural mini-grids, has shown encouraging results. Furthermore, 11% of micro-enterprises expanded their businesses since connecting to a mini-grid, while registering a 13% average increase in monthly revenues, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
In Haryana, emphasis is being laid on largescale industries like the auto industry, which is already one of the core industries in the State. The Maruti Suzuki plant in Haryana was set up in collaboration with Japan; however, the cars manufactured in the state are being exported to not only Japan but Europe as well. Andhra Pradesh (AP) has launched a campaign of Made in Andhra products due to which more than 500 products will be available to global retailers.
In fact, AP is the first state government to have launched a retail policy in the country. A number of other States like Maharashtra and Kerala are partnering with organisations and foundations for job creation. In Maharashtra, a disconnect was seen in modern industrial demands and the skill set in which people were trained. To handle the issue, the ITI’s in Maharashtra have established a body called Government Industry Thinktank (GIT). Its syllabus is being tailored to suit the needs of modern industries and to bridge the gap between industry and technical education. Concerted efforts are being made to modernize the Apprenticeship Act which is almost 55 years old.
The Government and private sector are also working together to provide best training instructors, teachers to students in remotest districts. This is being done using satellites and other expensive instruments in 52 ITI’s using CSR funds of private sector industries involved. Other initiatives include skilling people who fall Below Poverty Line.
Meanwhile, companies are launching special policies and programmes to achieve SDG 8.

ICICI Bank #CEOConnect

ICICI Bank launched an engagement platform called #CEOConnect which allows all employees to directly connect and interact with the Managing Director & CEO to gain perspectives on organisational strategy and philosophy and also share their views and suggestions.
ICICI Bank has launched new initiatives which focussed on enabling women employees to deal with various life-stage related needs. The Travel Accompaniment Policy allows women employees to take their children and a caretaker/ family member to accompany them during all work-related travel.

Human capital at L&T

Investments and contract documents with sub-contractors at L&T include human rights clauses covering the right to exercise the option of collective bargaining, prohibition of child labour, forced or compulsory labour or discrimination. All new vendors at Larsen & Toubro need to sign a combined Code of Conduct (CoC) as a pre-registration requirement. The combined CoC covers financial as well as environmental and social aspects including human rights, wages and good labour practices. L&T also conducts assessment of significant suppliers and contractors for compliance to the combined CoC.

Empowered rural households at SELCO

Rural, low-income populations continue to be underserved by access to renewable energy, despite its growth at the national level. The aim of the SELCO Solar Energy Access project – a joint initiative with SELCO Solar Pvt (SELCO) and Natural Capital Partners – is to enhance energy access, primarily for bottom-of-the-pyramid households, by distributing an array of solar products including solar lighting, solar water heating, and solar PV.
Selco Foundation runs a number of CSR programmes for rural homes in this vein. With a reliable source of energy, rural low-income households can spend more time on income-generating activities. Even a few extra hours of light can improve earnings by 20-30%. By working with regional rural banks and microfinance institutions, the Solar Energy Access project supports the most disadvantaged households to obtain agreeable finance terms.

In conclusion

Inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for everyone forms one of the cornerstones of sustainable development. However, for many vulnerable groups like migrant workers, lower educated people, and people with disabilities, access to work under the right conditions is still far from a given. With the world entering the new decade in the “new normal”, there is a lot of ground to cover. If India is to achieve this global goal of decent work for all, many more companies will have to come forward and work collaboratively.