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Social Sustainability in India

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The new and improved Sustainable Development Goals brought about a transformative change to the older Millennium Development goals, by including the human rights issues, gender equality, and inclusive development. The SDGs deliver a strong commitment to environmental and social sustainability along with economic growth.
Social Sustainability acts as a platform through which inclusive economic growth is achieved. Considering the rising importance of social sustainability, the United Nations Commission for Social Development (UNCSD) decided to prioritise rising inequalities and focus on challenges coming through social protection net, labour market efficiency and fiscal policies. According to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), “social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people.”
Social sustainability consists of stakeholder engagement, company – community cooperation, a people-centred approach to business impacts and inclusive social development. India has launched many welfare schemes for ensuring social sustainability. However, social infrastructure in the country is inadequate, making the performance of these social sector schemes unsatisfactory.

Social Development Spending in India

India is the fifth-largest economy in the world but continues to lag behind some of its South Asian neighbours in the Human Development Index. In terms of per capita health expenditure, India has 70% lower expenditure than that of the average of BRICS nations. In fact, according to the National Health Profile 2018, there are some noteworthy improvements in health indicators such as infant and maternal mortality rate. However, the doctor–population ratio has remained 10 times less than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, and there is also a lack of medical qualifications and quality surveillance.
The lower expenditure can be accounted to several factors such as the high fiscal deficit, current account deficit, heavy expenditure on defence and many more such factor.
Apart from this, much of the social development occurs through various social enterprises. However, the model of social enterprises in India does not allow them to be sustainable and independent. They rely on external grants for funds, which reduces their efficiency in the functioning and thus impacting.

Role of CSR in Lower Social Development in India

Through various reports, it has been observed over time that the deployment of CSR funds is concentrated at certain industrial regions only –  mainly some states and some sectors. The reasons for this lie in the weak regulatory framework, lack of commitment towards environmental conservation, market pressures and minimal consumer awareness.

Way Forward

Social Development Indices

Social Development Indices by NITI Aayog boost the states to compete against one another on various social development indicators. These indices need to be monitored well and need to be published with the best practices followed by the top states in a particular index which could provide guidelines for other states.
India has a vast range of topography. As a result of this, it might not be possible for every state to employ similar initiatives. Which is why the reports with guidelines should be divided topography wise so that the states can achieve maximum benefit out of them.

Impact Investment

According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), impact investments are the investments made into companies, organisations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. The growing impact investment market provides capital to address the world’s most pressing challenges in sectors such as sustainable agriculture, clean energy, microfinance and affordable and accessible basic services including housing, healthcare, and education.
India is one of the most promising markets globally for impact investment, as a large population at the bottom of the pyramid with the lack of access to basic services and low public spending on the social sector. Alignment of impact investment with social enterprises is extremely necessary to facilitate sustainable development. Thus, policy advocacy is extremely necessary for increasing the financing for social inclusiveness.
According to UNGC, India has a potential of market opportunities of $1 trillion for companies working in sustainable development spaces and will generate employment for around 72 million people by 2030.