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Finally, Here’s Water from Air @ Affordable Cost

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Chennai-based Elixir H2O is offering ‘purest’ drinking water at Rs. 3 a liter.

Akhilesh S Unnithan, Head Business Development, ElixirH2O, shares how they got here and how they are able to make it affordable with SustainabilityNext on the sidelines of a conference on water and sanitation organized by Bangalore-based Nispana.

Please give a sense of technologies in the air to water machine? Is yours a first time invention?

There are many technologies available worldwide for converting humidity in the air to drinking water. Many are at the university stage with very less chance of commercial feasibility.

Atmospheric Water Generation technologies have been around for two decades and there are over 100 companies directly and indirectly working on this technology worldwide. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are only a handful who are successful.

Ours is not the first and is not the only technology but surely it is the most refined of the lot to be used even inside homes. Our goal is to make this technology accessible to even the lower income groups because water is not a luxury.

Is the technology in-house? And have you filed for global patent?

The concept of converting humidity into drinking water is the same everywhere and the technology lies in doing this efficiently. The most important part is the air and water filtration, which we have done in-house based on Indian conditions. We ensure safest and cleanest drinking water in the country as per government approved NABL accredited lab reports.

We have partnered with a US-based company, currently the most successful company in the world for AWG (Atmospheric Water Generation) technology. They support us with their know-how and technical expertise in water generation whereas we bring in our expertise in air and water filtration.

We decided to work together in refining it to such levels that it can be used inside homes. We have worked on various designs and are still working on few futuristic concepts to make it even compact and affordable for Indian consumers.

The website and the brochure does not mention acquisition or the capital cost of the products – if capital cost is included along with cost of power – how does the cost per liter work out – say over a period of 5 years.

This is an interesting question. Let me make it as simple as I can.

The base model for home use is available for a monthly EMI as low as Rs. 1768 for three years. What this means is, per liter cost for the first three years will be Rs. 4.66 and from the 4th year, it will be Rs. 2.15. This includes the capital expenditure on the machine, electricity cost for generating water and the maintenance cost for the above mentioned period. This is assuming 75% efficiency which is easily possible in most of the Indian cities as per the weather data collected over the last few years by our research team.

Cost per Liter (Water generation) – Rs. 2.22
Cost of maintenance – Rs. 3000 (Annual – filter change required only once)
For people who prefer the direct purchase model, the base machine will retail at INR 55,000.
We have 3 residential models, 2 commercial models and 5 industrial models which covers the entire spectrum of requirement starting from 16L per day to 5000L per day.

Are you working on a lease or loan model to get higher orders?

This is an option we have worked out for few of the corporates requiring our industrial machines.

What is the current capacity of your plant – how do you plan to ramp up?

We currently work on a ‘made-to-order’ basis. It is a new market that needs to be explored. AWG is something that cannot be sold like any water purifier. This is not a water purifier but the creator of the source itself. Our lead time for manufacturing residential models is 4 to 6 weeks for big orders and 8 to 10 weeks for bigger machines. All this depends on the availability of parts based on the order. We are already in talks with our distributor network which is being set in place across all states in India. Once we have that in place, we will have a monthly production schedule in place.

Does the water also kill useful bacteria just as it does in RO?

Our machine goes through 13 stages of purification which involves 3 stages of UV, UF, RO and a 11 stage anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, Alkaline filtration technology which is first of its kind in India.

The water quality has been certified as one of the safest and cleanest drinking water available in the country with absolutely no comparison to any bottled mineral water available today. The generated water is not just pure drinking water but is anti-oxidant rich alkaline water with a pH of 8.5 to 9.5 which has got a lot of health benefits. It helps in hydration, acid reflux, stomach bloating etc. It reduces the risk of cancer, arthritis etc. It flushes out the toxins in the body and eliminates the free radicals surrounding the cells thereby slowing down the ageing process.

By how much degree Celsius does the AWS reduce in the room since it humidifies?

Our AWG requires a minimum of 15 degree C and 30% RH to function smoothly. To answer your question, our machine de-humidifies the room where the relative humidity (RH) surrounding the machine would be 3-5% less compared to the surrounding areas. In a properly ventilated room, it is not possible to completely de-humidify. In a closed room with air-conditioner, it is possible to reduce the RH up to 8-10% in controlled conditions.

Please explain the extent of air that the machine cleans in a typical room.

Our residential units can clean a room with dimensions of 12ft x 8ft x 10ft effectively. This is based on the PM 2.5 and PM 10 readings monitored before and after the running of the machine. A simple test is to run the machine for a few days and then take out the air filter and use a vacuum cleaner to suck the dust to get a real time feel of the dust and particulate matter collected from that room which was not visible to your eye prior to running the machine.

What’s the average cost of the machines

Currently the smallest capacity machine that is production ready is 30L and we are working on a table top 16L per day model which will be out soon. The highest capacity that we have designed is 5000L per day. The cost of the 30L machine (base model) starts at Rs. 55,000.

Indian Bio-Tableware Gets US FDA Approval

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CHUK’s tableware decompose in 90 days what would otherwise take about 500 years.

CHUK is a backyard compostable tableware providing brand owned by Ayodhya-based Yash Papers. It has initiated a mass movement of providing compostable tableware products to the global market.

The product was conceptualised in 2014 with the vision of eliminating single-use plastic. The plant was commissioned in 2016 with Rs. 60 crore investment and was launched in 2017. It has already won many awards like the CII Design Excellence Awards 2017, The Indian Design Mark 2018 by Indian Design Council and The Red Dot award 2018, for our exemplary work on tableware products.

Excerpts of a chat with Ved Krishna, Vice Chairman and Strategy Head, Yash Papers, with Benedict Paramanand, Editor of SustainabilityNext

What’s special about your tableware?

These products are made from sugarcane fiber and turn into manure after disposal. It’s completely safe for marine life and human consumption. It’s the only player in India, which controls the entire chain from manufacturing to finished products and also supplies raw material to most other manufacturers of bio-degradable products. CHUK is the only ‘pulp-to-product’ brand in the world for compostable tableware.

What’s the production capacity?

We have the world’s fastest, biggest and fully automatic machines producing around one million pieces per day while the plant’s capacity is 6.5 lakh pieces per day. We utilize 11.5 MT of pulp on a daily basis at full capacity.

The products vary from bowls of 180 and 250 ml, plates of 7, 9  and 11 inches, containers of 500 and 750 ml, trays of 4 and 5 compartments and lids for containers and trays.

Plans for launch in India

We plan to reach out to the entire country. We have already tied up with leading food joints like Haldirams, Lite Bite Foods, Chai Point, Baskin Robbins to name a few. We have also tied up with Indian Railways in its drive to go green, food joints under Devyani Food industries at airports and with Uttarakhand government for its Kedarnath Chaar Dham Yatra. We are now in 21 cities and expanding.

How are the products priced?

In the B2B segment, CHUK is priced from Rs. 1 to 7. In the retail segment, the products are priced slightly higher. Though we need to make up for the production costs incurred but we are still at an affordable rate. It will take some time to move the cost conscious Styrofoam users to biodegradable tableware. They need to be made aware that Styrofoam usage might help them in saving some cost immediately but in the longer run they are unsafe.

What’s your campaign strategy like?

We are in an economy that is presently not focused on seeing the damage carcinogenic products cause. We would however continue to work on convincing through our campaign. We want to work with governments to build more awareness amongst the masses.

CHUK is initially focusing on the B2B segment but has been overwhelmed by the demand from individual consumers. Its products have now been launched in retail packs and available on Amazon.

Impact so far

22.5 million people ate safely in 2018. 308 tonnes of plastic didn’t go to the landfill.

What’s the technology used in converting garbage into usable products?

After studying the food consumption patterns in our country extensively, we are creating modular designs which are bio-degradable and consumer friendly. The products are like Lego pieces which can fit into any form of tableware. We have also worked on a rapid development cycle for products based on 3D printing and quick tooling.

The products are made from sugarcane leftover fiber which is then converted into pulp. The resulting material is a mix of pulp and water which is fed to the machines to be moulded into the multiple range of tableware products with the help of steam. We use custom-designed machines, which have customised moulds for bowls, containers, plates and trays. The lids are made from corrugated material since we do not use plastic or packaging.

CHUK has kept its tableware products untreated with any kind of chemicals. While Styrofoam tableware products are white due to chemical treatment, CHUK’s tableware products are brown coloured as they completely chemical free.

Mahindra Group Pledges to Become Carbon Neutral by 2040

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The $20 billion Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra made a bold announcement at Davos recently that on behalf of all employees of his group the entire conglomerate and all its 100 companies will be carbon neutral 10 years before the agreed deadline (2050) for the world in the Paris agreement.

This is significant because earlier Mr. Mahindra had pledged that only its flagship company Mahindra & Mahindra would become carbon neutral by 2040. However, inspired by conversations at the summit, he upped the ante on his commitment by extending that pledge to the entire group.

“We are doing our part in the global fight against climate change with this ambitious new target. Mahindra will leverage the latest technological advances and its recently announced Carbon Price to work towards being carbon neutral by 2040.”

Anand Mahindra is co-chair of the Global Climate Action Summit currently under way in San Francisco committed that his entire group of businesses would become carbon neutral.

M&M is also the first company in the world to commit to doubling energy productivity by signing on to The Climate Group’s program EP100. A company note said by “Using energy efficient lighting, efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), motors and heat recovery projects, Mahindra & Mahindra has doubled the energy productivity of the automotive business almost 12 years ahead of schedule. The farm equipment business is also ahead of schedule in achieving its goal and is more than half-way there.”

Many Firsts

The company was also the first Indian company to announce its internal Carbon Price of $10 per ton of carbon emitted to fund investments required to pursue the path of carbon neutrality. The price was carefully arrived at on the basis of international benchmarks and an assessment of what was required to achieve the goals set by the business on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The company said it has more than 10 years of experience in creating carbon sinks. It looks forward to using this experience to deal with residual emissions in a manner that is world class and follows the best established protocols.

M&M will be working on its carbon neutrality commitment with the international non-profit organization Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which works with leading companies to raise the bar for corporate sustainability leadership. It will continue to work with EDF and other leading partners as it implements actions towards achieving carbon neutrality.

M&M is also a signatory of the Science based targets initiative which provides companies with a clear pathway for reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. All these commitments are helping the company on its path to go carbon neutral.

The Mahindra Group is a leader in utility vehicles, information technology, financial services and vacation ownership in India and is the world’s largest tractor company, by volume. It has a strong presence in agribusiness, aerospace, commercial vehicles, components, defense, logistics, real estate, renewable energy, speedboats and steel. It employs more than 2,400,000 people across 100 countries.

www.mahindra.com

New Rule Book Dilutes Paris Agreement on Climate Change: CSE

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Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE (Centre for Science & Environment), a Delhi-based activist NGO, has heavily criticized the recent meeting of Paris Agreement signatories in Katowice, Poland. In a press release, he observed: “Katowice fails. Its decision and the Paris Rulebook agreed here are un-ambitious, anti-science and dilute the Paris Agreement.”

Highlights

  • The Paris Rulebook that was finalised at Katowice dilutes the Paris Agreement, especially in terms of finance, loss and damage differentiation
  • Developed countries backtrack on their commitment to provide finance
  • Loss and damage utterly neglected; vulnerable developing countries largely left on their own to address the impacts of climate change
  • Katowice decision weak on ambition; no decision to raise ambition in light of IPCC’s 1.5oC report
  • Big push for a weak carbon market; market mechanism emerges as main instrument for countries to meet climate targets

“It is a weak Rulebook that we have got for implementation of the Paris Agreement. This Rulebook is completely insufficient to drive ambitious climate action,” he added. “The Katowice CoP will be remembered as an anti-science CoP for its failure to take into account the findings of the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5oC.

A weak Rulebook

Provision of finance by developed countries: In the Paris Agreement, developed countries had agreed to a financial commitment of US $100 billion each year by 2020. Currently, only around half of this commitment is being met. The Rulebook had to define what will constitute ‘finance’, and how it will be reported and reviewed.

But at Katowice, rules on financial contributions by developed countries have been diluted. Firstly, developed countries have the choice to include all kinds of financial instruments, concessional and non-concessional loans, grants, aids etc, from various public and private sources, to meet their commitments. Secondly, the rules on ex-ante financial reporting and its review for adequacy has been significantly weakened. Put together, these two dilutions will make it very difficult to hold developed countries accountable.

“Developed countries now have the freedom to decide the amount and the kind of financial resources they want to give to the developing countries and do this without any strong mechanism of accountability. The idea of ‘new and additional’ financial support from developed to the developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change is now a mirage”, says Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Loss and damage: Loss and damage has largely been excluded from the Paris Rulebook. It is conspicuously missing from the section on finance. The Warsaw International Mechanism, which has to deal with averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, has no financial resources to support vulnerable countries. “With no financial provisions, it clear that the countries are now left on their own to address the impacts of climate change,” said Vijeta Rattani, Programme Manager, Climate Change, CSE.

Global stocktake: Global stocktake (GST) was one of the top-down elements in the Paris Agreement to increase ambition of countries. It was supposed to measure global progress and identify the barriers to mitigation and adaptation, in light of equity and science. However, the GST Rulebook has been watered down into a non-policy prescriptive process. That is, this process will neither give any recommendation to individual countries or a group of countries, nor will it give any prescriptive policy to everyone. The result is that a lot of technical information will be collected without any clear recommendation to increase ambition on mitigation or finance.

“Under the Paris Agreement, GST was the main mechanism to raise ambition. With the nature of GST outcome being non-prescriptive in the Rulebook, the purpose of GST has now been largely watered down. Also, equity has been mentioned in the text, but there is no mechanism to operationalize it,” said Vijeta Rattani, Programme Manager, Climate Change, CSE.

Reporting and transparency: The Paris Agreement is built around countries reporting their progress on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Under the Rulebook, a detailed requirement has been set for reporting on mitigation, adaptation, impacts and finance. A certain flexibility has been provided to the developing countries, which have lower capacity to collect and analyse information, to provide less rigorous information. Developing countries will have to provide ‘self-determined’ timeframes for improving the quality and quantity of reporting.

It is to be noted that emerging economies like India had already informed that they would not need flexibility and would report in a manner similar to those followed by the developed countries.

Carbon market is the king: The Katowice CoP was extended for a day because countries had disagreements over the details of the carbon market mechanism. Market mechanism has emerged as the most important element of the Paris agreement.

Paris Agreement allows emissions trading markets between two or more countries (such as the EU Emissions Trading System), as well as a unified market for all countries (which succeeds the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism). It also provides for a non-market mechanism to reduce emissions and enhance sinks in forests and land. There has virtually been no progress made on non-market mechanisms, while the negotiations on market mechanisms is now mired in technicalities.

The Clean Development mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol had major problems, including cheap carbon credits, outsourcing of emission credits, corruption and non-additional projects, which subsequently left the overall emission reductions of the mechanism to doubt. Under the Paris Agreement, these drawbacks were to be removed so that real emissions reductions could be achieved. However, the rules made so far indicate that many of the problems of CDM like Overall Mitigation of Global Emissions, is likely to remain in the Paris rulebook as well. Also, the rulebook has different rules for different markets, which is non-transparent and makes emissions reductions unverifiable. Trading is allowed for sectors which are not covered in a country’s emissions targets, which will dilute the overall mitigation effect.

Currently, many technical issues of the market mechanism have been shifted to 2019. But, it is clear that under the Paris Agreement, carbon markets will be the main avenue through which countries are going to engage with each other.

Countries are on their own: The Paris Agreement had both bottom-up and top-down elements. Most of the top-down elements have been diluted in the rulebook. The Paris Agreement and its rulebook is now a totally ‘self-determined’ process.

cseindia.org

Former Tata Executives Team up to Launch $ One Billion ESG Fund

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A first in India, a $1 billion dollar fund is being created for investing in new and existing businesses that have solid environment, social and governance goals. The fund is likely to become active in three to six months after approvals.

Mukund Rajan, former brand custodian of Tata Sons, Govind Sankaranarayanan, former COO of Tata Capital, Alan Rosling, former director in Tata Sons and Shankar Venkateswaran, former sustainability head at the Tata Group have teamed up to launch the fund. Quantum Advisors are the lead partners.

The proposed joint venture will raise funds from long-term foreign investors such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and family offices of high network individuals.

The fund’s primary objective is to enhance the capacity of Indian businesses to adhere to ESG norms so that India has a good chance of complying with its commitments to the global climate change targets.

The team members expect to engage actively with the companies they will invest to achieve their ESG goals. Since the team has had hands-on experience doing so at the Tata Group companies, known for their proactive approach to everything clean, they are likely to be effective.

But then, they have not run companies on their own or invested their own money and would do well to draw a line between active engagement and intrusion. Activist investing is a new game and will require all the players to know their roles well.

ACUMEN India Fellows 2019

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ARSHIYA BOSE
Arshiya is Founder of Black Baza Coffee, an organization that works to empower smallholder coffee growers to conserve biodiversity and engage in markets on their own terms. Prior to founding Black Baza Coffee, Arshiya worked at policy and advocacy organization Kalpavriksh, where her work focused on the recognition of the rights of forest-dwelling communities in India. Arshiya holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Cambridge, UK.

AYUSHI BANERJI
Ayushi is Co-founder of The Gender Lab, which works to build gender equality across rural and urban India by enabling school children and young people to question the gender narrative they exist in. She makes this happen by engaging them in social action in their communities, which shifts their mindsets, behaviors, and actions. She dreams of bringing this opportunity to people from across the world. Ayushi is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and has been a G(irls)20 Ambassador since 2015.

DISHA MULLICK
Disha headsKhabar Lahariya, India’s only all-women rural news channel, which recently went digital and video-first. Disha trains and mentors disadvantaged women from remote villages of north India to be professional journalists and produce local news in their languages, from their unique perspective. Disha enjoys travelling to far-flung locations, reporting and writing, and imagining how a small and radical media house can change the world. She has a master’s degree in gender studies from the University of Warwick.

GITANJALI PRASAD
Gitanjali is Program Head (Delhi) for HAUSLA at Centre for Equity Studies and Association for Rural and Urban Needy, running interventions including specialized shelters, and building knowledge to support access to healthcare and other citizenship rights for and with the urban homeless community. Her previous work has been as a researcher on issues of legal justice. She holds a masters in Dalit and tribal social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a bachelors in psychology from Wesleyan University.

LAKSHMI MENON
Lakshmi is Chief Operating Officer at Hasiru Dala Innovations (HDI), a social enterprise focused on creating better livelihoods for wastepickers through inclusive businesses that have an environmental impact. As part of the core team, she works towards creating awareness and opportunities to integrate wastepickers into mainstream solid waste management. Prior to HDI, she worked in the semiconductor industry for more than 12 years. She believes that solutions are sustainable when they are people-centric, pragmatic, and are co-created with the beneficiaries.

MOHAMMAD INNUS KHAN
Mohammad Innus is Director of Deshpande Foundation’s Agriculture Initiatives, an organization that works to bring prosperity for farmers through entrepreneurship and innovation in India. His passion to work for the community and the need to co-create sustainable solutions for farming has helped to impact 70,000 farmers by increasing their income generation. A first generation graduate in his family, he holds a master’s degree in political science.

NIDHI THACHANKARY
Nidhi is a second-generation entrepreneur. She recently rejoined the education division of her family’s business and now runs Munnar Catering College, a private hotel management institute that trains 1,000 students a year from middle and low-income families. Nidhi holds a master’s in business administration from Oxford University, where she focused on social enterprises. After studying at Oxford, she worked on creating sustainable vocational training models and new training pedagogies with Pratham Education Foundation in Mumbai.

NIVEDITA RAI
Nivedita manages Gudi Mudi Khadi, the flagship project of WomenWeave Charitable Trust, an organization that aims at providing dignified livelihood to women weavers, spinners and ancillary workers. WW’s mission is to overcome vulnerability of women artisans and works towards making handloom a profitable, fulfilling, and life-improving activity. Prior to joining WomenWeave, Nivedita was pursuing her post-graduate diploma in rural management from Institute of Rural Management, Anand.

PRAHALATHAN KK
Dr. Prahalathan is Co-Founder of Bhumi, one of India’s largest youth volunteering organizations. Bhumi mobilizes citizens to work towards sustainable development goals, and its volunteers educate more than 25,000 underprivileged children to work for causes like environment, disability, and animal welfare. He strongly believes every child deserves quality education and is passionate about making volunteering a habit among young people. At Bhumi, he leads many of the organization’s events and fundraising programs.

PRAVEEN KHANGHTA
Praveen leads the strategy office of Central Square Foundation, an organization focused on system reform in education, and is currently helping to set up new organizations focused on economic development and improving talent in the social sector with leading philanthropist Ashish Dhawan. Prior to this, Praveen was working with India’s Central Government on the implementation of key strategic projects and scaling up successful practices from NGOs and government. He is a Young India Fellow and a Teach for India Fellow.

R K PAUL
R K Paul Chawang is Founder-cum-Secretary of AMYAA NGO, an organization in the most remote part of East Arunachal Pradesh. AMYAA works in the areas of livelihood promotion, education, skills development and environmental protection for development of tribal poor with special attention towards the most vulnerable groups of the society. Paul works to redefine the lives of the rural poor through digital connection by utilizing modern technology through blended learning. Paul holds a master’s degree in social work from Loyola College, Chennai.

RAVISH VASAN
Ravish is Founder of SumArth, a social enterprise that helps marginal, small holder farmers from underdeveloped regions earn a sustainable, recurring and profitable income. Farmers get end-to-end training and support to grow high-value, in-demand crops coupled with seasonal revenue through allied activities. Trained in permaculture, Ravish works on promoting sustainable farming through marketing exercises. He holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati and a master’s in business administration from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

REWAJ CHETTRI
Rewaj is Co-Founder and CEO of Sikkim Entrepreneurs’ Hub, creating a robust startup ecosystem in Sikkim. He is also Founder of NE Taxi and runs a coworking space in Gangtok. Rewaj is one of the few TEDx Speakers from North-East India and the first to make it to a Forbes list. He was conferred with Sikkim’s Highest Civilian Award 2018 for his exemplary contribution to Entrepreneurship in Sikkim. Rewaj graduated in Forestry from North-Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology.

SAJAD RASOOL
Sajad works with Video Volunteers, an international community media organization which trains people from marginalized communities in filmmaking and journalism. Video Volunteers, using low-budget technology, exposes corruption and highlights issues often neglected by mainstream media through hyper-localized media, and mobilizes activism to resolve issues with the help of local authorities and communities. Sajad holds a master’s in mass communication and journalism from Kashmir University and has built KashmirUnheard, an independent community news network in Jammu and Kashmir.

SANDEEP ZUTSHI
Sandeep is Co-Founder of Bombay Bijlee, a social enterprise based in Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, providing affordable and highly reliable access to clean energy to rural Indian households. Their product “Bijlee Boqx” — a solar energy harvester, storage and delivery device — uses a “Pay As You Go” model to reach low-income customers. Its self-diagnostic and backend software can detect faults in the system and send an automatic SMS alert to the local technician, providing proactive and prompt service to the beneficiaries.

SANKET PATIL
Sanket is Senior Program Officer at Lend-A-Hand India, which focuses on improving the quality of India’s public education system at scale. Sanket provides project management support for implementation of skill education programs in more than 500 government schools from 13 states. He is also working towards creating proof points of quality vocational education program in multiple states. His decade-long experience includes nonprofits as well as corporate foundations such as Tata Power, Teach For India, and Thermax Foundation.

SATYENDRA KUMAR
Satyendra is Co-Founder and Director at Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion. The organization is concerned with deepening democracy and developing our body politic by building excitement around marginalized children and young people for their social, economic and cultural (SEC) rights. Satyendra has completed his studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences with more than 12 years of working and networking experiences with Dalit human rights, especially with young people and children in India and abroad.

SHIKHAR GUPTA
Shikhar is Partner/Chief Learning Officer at ConveGenius, an organization reducing the Information Poverty gap. He is equipping large nonprofits in India with contextual learning data for their students and in the future and envisions working across sectors to provide community-driven data for healthcare, jobs, and government programs. A Computer Science graduate from Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad, he previously founded a nonprofit to rescue girls from trafficking and educate children in shelters.

SHRUTI MENON
Shruti is Program Associate at Vitamin Angels, an organization providing lifesaving vitamins to mothers and children at risk of malnutrition. As part of a five-member cross-functional team, Shruti oversees the programmatic implementation of the micronutrient grant program that reaches 12.5 million children through over 500 NGO partners and eight state governments across India. She holds a master’s degree in health policy, planning, and financing from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and London School of Economics.

SHWETAMBERA
Shwetambera manages TRANScend, an initiative by The Humsafar Trust aimed to enhance inclusion of transgender individuals in India through research and intervention into the socio-economic needs of the communities, capacity building of transgender community organizations, and sensitization of corporates, educational institutions, and other stakeholders. Prior to TRANScend, Shwetambera handled SAHYOG, a project aimed to address gaps in the National HIV program. She holds a master’s degree in development studies from the University of Manchester.

VAIBHAV JINDAL
Vaibhav is State Programme Officer, Chhattisgarh for Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme, an initiative of Ministry of Home Affairs that works towards the overall development of districts affected by extremism. Prior to living in Chhattisgarh, Vaibhav worked for more than four years in Jammu and Kashmir advocating for the betterment of education with UNICEF support to J&K government and as Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow in Bandipore district of north Kashmir. Vaibhav holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

VIVEK KUMAR
Vivek is Co-Founder and CEO of Kshamtalaya Foundation, an organization supporting communities to revive the spirit of learning in and outside of schools. Core to the organization’s program is a curriculum that provides space for self-directed learning, systems thinking, and mindfulness. Its learning manifesto and learning festivals aim to make education a community agenda. Vivek is also interested in using mindfulness and system thinking in theatre. He is an Engineer, a graduate of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and alumnus of the Gandhi Fellowship program.

Godrej Properties Launches Fully Water Positive Homes

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Godrej Aqua Bangalore

Godrej Properties’ has taken its green strategy to another level. It recently launched Bengaluru’s first fully sustainable water management system at its property Godrej Aqua. Its Quad-Step Treatment Process (QSTP) will be able to provide pure drinking water at all times and recycle most of the water on site.

Using the Recharge, Reduce and Recycle principle, the project aims to ensure that water sufficiency in every home is a reality. To address concerns regarding water quality in residential projects, Godrej Aqua has introduced an Advanced Treatment Plant, centralized RO and water softening facility to ensure better water quality.

The company says every drop used in Godrej Aqua is recycled with a rigorous three-step purification process. This process first begins with the Grey Water Treatment Plant. It then goes to the Swale where the water is purified naturally by plants within a giant trough specially designed to treat waste water.

After this, the water is sent to the Advanced Treatment Plant where it goes through Reverse Osmosis (RO), Ultra Filtration (UF), and UV filtration processes. And finally, the water is clean enough to be pumped back into the home.

It will install water meters with the belief that water conservation begins with only necessary consumption. It will install water-saving fixtures like dual flush toilets that help reduce the flow rate by 3 to 6 litres per flush. Water nozzles help reduce the overall water flow by about 50%.

The water that is leftover after the entire process of recycling goes into recharging and reactivating borewells. Waste water from homes is used for gardening during non-rainy seasons.

Ecolab Sets Up Digital Innovation Center in Bengaluru

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Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, in partnership with SMC2, is establishing the Ecolab Digital Center (EDC) in Bengaluru. The EDC will serve as a global ‘Digital Innovation Center of Excellence,’ for the company and drive digital customer and field technology innovation and scale using a team of leading global talent.

“Digital technology is already driving innovation and improving business outcomes in every industry we serve, and our customers are looking to us to lead,” said Charles F. Koontz, EVP & Chief Digital Officer, Ecolab. “Establishing the Ecolab Digital Center, powered by SCM2 in Bengaluru, India will help us scale our digital capability and unlock insights that create more value for Ecolab customers and simplify work for our sales teams.”

Ecolab is a long-term pioneer in solutions that help companies improve efficiency, ensure product quality and preserve natural resources throughout the world.

Currently, within India, Ecolab produces water treatment, food and laundry solutions in two manufacturing plants in Kolkata and Pune, and operates its Global Systems Assurance Centre in Pune, which monitors 40,000 global customer sites to help them save water and energy.

With annual sales of $14 billion and 48,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. For more Ecolab news and information. www.ecolab.com

“Ecolab’s digital solutions will enhance our ability to provide clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments around the world. Given that India is resource constrained in water, energy, and food our ongoing digital investments, including the Systems Assurance Centre and now the Ecolab Digital Center, will play a vital role in India. These investments will also help fulfil the ‘Make in India’ ambitions of our customers,” said Mukund Vasudevan, Ecolab Vice President and Market Head, India.

Ecolab aims to meet growing global demand for predictive solutions  using India’s deep talent pool for digital development. Partnering with SMC2, a leader in digital center development, Ecolab will increase the speed, scale and efficacy of its digital offerings.

India Urgently Needs a Water Vulnerability Index

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  • Water-efficient crop cultivation (especially irrigation) techniques today cover less than 20% of the total cultivable area under food grains in India. This low adoption is despite several government, industry, and philanthropy initiatives.
  • The study found that challenges to scaling and adopting water-efficient technologies include over-reliance on short-term philanthropic funding, lack of synergy among individual stakeholder initiatives, and insufficient credible and publicly available data for decision-making.
  • The report recommends using science and data to make better decisions, focusing on local agriculture ecosystems (LAE). It also recommends stronger collaboration among ecosystem players to collectivize intent and action.

DCM Shriram Foundation, supported by DCM Shriram, a leading India conglomerate with a strong presence in agriculture, and Sattva Knowledge Institute, a knowledge platform for the impact ecosystem, recently launched a report titled, Transforming Crop Cultivation: Advancing Water Efficiency in Indian Agriculture to identify actionable solutions to address the ongoing water crisis in Indian agriculture sector.

India, with its burgeoning population and limited freshwater resources, faces an imminent water crisis, aggravated by its heavy reliance on rainwater in agriculture. With only 4% of the world’s freshwater sources and 17% of the global population2, the  situation demands urgent attention and innovative solutions.

Agriculture today accounts for 90%3 of the water withdrawals in India, an indication of how water-intensive this sector is. Furthermore, within the agriculture sector alone, irrigation uses 84%4 of the country’s precious water reserves, followed by domestic and   industrial sectors. Unfortunately, this trend is estimated to continue, as per 2025 and 2050 projections, unless systemic changes are introduced to evolve from high water use methods to more sustainable options in the agricultural sector.

These systemic changes will need to address complex challenges, such as the myopic reliance on philanthropic funding, limited scalability of initiatives beyond pilot projects, and inadequate collaboration among stakeholders.

Addressing these challenges will require catering to Local Agricultural Ecosystems (LAE), whilst also enabling the scale of these solutions and techniques across states. Solutions that account for the LAE will not only foster localized insights to tailor water-efficient techniques for individual farmers and specific regions but also mobilize effective government and industry involvement to enable scale.

In the long term, addressing the water crisis from the agriculture sector will require diversifying funding sources, fostering partnerships with government and private sector actors, and promoting sustainable financing mechanisms.

Recognizing the gravity of this situation, DCM Shriram Foundation and Sattva Knowledge Institute undertook a comprehensive study to understand the complexities of water scarcity and the use of water in Indian agriculture. The study   sheds light on the intrinsic link between water and agriculture, emphasising the  challenges posed by cultivating water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane.

The report brings together insights from more than 50 public reports and over 40 sectoral experts to present three focused, actionable recommendations to scale water efficiency in agriculture.

  • The first recommendation is to build a public tool that can offer tailored techniques and practices contextualized to LAEs. By providing personalized recommendations aligned with the unique characteristics of each ecosystem, the aim is to empower industry players, policy, and smallholder farmers to make informed decisions, driving sustainable practices at the grassroots level.
  • The second recommendation introduces the concept of a Water Vulnerability Index, enabling science and data-led business and policy decisions. This comprehensive index consolidates diverse data parameters offering stakeholders a reliable resource to guide their actions. By integrating scientific insights into decision-making processes, we pave the way for more effective water management practices and informed policy interventions.
  • The final recommendation proposes developing a model for collaborative action among essential stakeholders in the ecosystem, including government entities, to encourage joint commitments to harness the industry’s capabilities to promote greater adoption of water-efficient practices in agriculture. This framework aims to facilitate collective learning and advocacy efforts.

Strong stewardship of these efforts by private industry and philanthropy will be key to driving these initiatives. With current projections estimating a further decrease in per capita water availability by 2050, enabling innovation in Indian agriculture to save and conserve this vital resource will bring us closer to solving the water crisis for the nation.

Read Full Report – https://sustainabilitynext.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Transforming-Crop-Cultivation.pdf

Cheap Power Could Make Cooking More Affordable

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Image credit - Greenway

Greenway Grameen has been providing sustainable cooking solutions to rural communities since 2010. Founded by Ankit Mathur and Neha Juneja, the company designs and manufactures efficient cookstoves that significantly reduce the amount of biomass required for cooking. By focusing on user-centric design and leveraging local needs and resources, Greenway Grameen addresses the critical issues of health, environment, and economic inefficiencies that stem from traditional cooking methods.

Ankit shares his journey in the clean cooking sector that spans over 14 years with Benedict Paramanand, Editor, SustainabilityNext. Edited Excerpts:

Ankit, you’ve been involved in the clean cooking movement for 14 years now. Could you share how fulfilling this journey has been for you?

It’s been quite a fulfilling journey. I started Greenway Grameen straight out of college with a couple of friends. We aimed to design products specifically for rural households, addressing the underserved segments often overlooked in product design. One of the first issues we tackled was the lack of access to cleaner cooking solutions, and it’s heartening to see the attention this issue has received over the last decade.

Is there still a significant gap between users of clean and unclean cooking methods?

Yes, there is. Despite some progress, a large segment still uses traditional methods like mud cookstoves or open fires. Urban households might have multiple cooking appliances, but rural kitchens often rely on just a mud stove. Though LPG connections have increased due to government initiatives, affordability remains a barrier in rural areas.

Greenway Grameen Co-founders from Left to Right – Shoeb Kazi, Neha Juneja and Ankit Mathur

Can you give us an idea of how widespread the use of cleaner cooking methods is?

Certainly. Over the last 14 years, about 30 million cleaner cook stoves have been distributed by us. However, data from recent surveys indicate that 40-45% of rural households still primarily use firewood. The gap is substantial, and there’s much work to be done.

What about the Clean Cooking Alliance? What role does it play?

The Clean Cooking Alliance is a global body that serves as a convening and fundraising entity to address the lack of access to cleaner cooking. It started as an initiative focused on wood-burning stoves but has since broadened its scope. While their focus has shifted towards sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, their work in setting standards and engaging with governments on policy has been crucial for manufacturers and consumers alike.

What innovations are included in your products?

Our stoves use unprocessed firewood but are designed to be much more efficient than traditional stoves, reducing the amount of wood needed and significantly cutting down emissions. This design innovation represents a crucial step towards cleaner cooking practices.

What future do you see for cooking solutions in rural areas?

I believe the future will consist of a mix of solutions including cleaner stoves, LPG supported by strong government backing, and increasingly, electric solutions as the cost of electricity, particularly from renewable sources, becomes more competitive.

Could you elaborate on how your work with voluntary carbon markets is impacting users?

Through carbon offset projects, we’ve been able to subsidize the cost of our stoves, making them affordable at just ₹500 for end-users, as opposed to the usual ₹2500 or ₹3000. This approach not only makes clean cooking accessible but ensures ongoing maintenance and support, enhancing long-term usage and sustainability.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into sustainability. While your stoves reduce firewood usage significantly, they do still rely on wood. Can you address the environmental implications?

That’s correct. Our Greenway stoves reduce firewood consumption by up to 65%. While many users are not cutting down trees but collecting fallen wood, the reality is that any wood use has environmental impacts. However, alternative sources like LPG are not always feasible due to irregular income patterns in rural areas. Our solution significantly reduces the quantity of wood used, which is a step towards sustainability within the constraints these communities face.

Speaking of alternative materials, are cow dung cakes usable with your stoves?

Yes, they can be used. They burn more efficiently in our stoves. The trend, however, is that fewer rural households own livestock now, which reduces the availability of dung cakes. This shift is also impacting the viability of biogas setups in rural areas.

Image credit – Asian Development Bank

What’s the next big innovation Greenway is working on?

We’re actively working to improve our existing products and exploring electric cooking solutions. The aim is to integrate a fan into our stoves to reduce emissions and wood consumption further. We’re seeing promising results in larger commercial models, and we hope to replicate this success in household models. Additionally, as electricity access improves, we’re evaluating the feasibility of induction stoves for rural areas.

Besides cooking, are there other community needs you’re aiming to address?

Absolutely. We’re exploring solutions in information access and household water filtration. For instance, we’re developing a water filter that doesn’t require regular servicing, aiming to provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution for rural homes. These innovations are part of our broader mission to enhance rural living conditions beyond cooking solutions.

Finally, any advice for budding entrepreneurs, particularly on the dynamics of working with co-founders?

A shared vision and ethical alignment are crucial. My co-founder, Neha Juneja, and I have always prioritized transparency and customer fairness over short-term profits. This foundational agreement has been key to our long-term partnership. Effective communication and understanding each other’s roles without overlap also contribute significantly to a harmonious and productive working relationship.

Watch Full Interview – https://youtu.be/D4RQ–rGYDE

Generative AI Can Take Agriculture to the Next Level

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AI in Agriculture: Innovative Opportunities to Cultivate the Future - Fresh Consulting

The agriculture sector is the most primitive when it comes to using technology. But Gen AI is going to change that big time. In a short chat with Santhosh Jayaram, Head Sustainability, HCL Tech, on the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum, Ranveer Chandra, MD, Research for Industry and CTO Agri-Food, said that AI has the potential to revolutionize agriculture and help Sustainability become more transparent.

As the CTO of Agri-Food at Microsoft, Ranveer is working on making FarmBeats a product. He also works on Azure Data Manager for Agriculture, a platform that leverages cloud computing and AI to enable data-driven farming. Ranveer has established himself as a visionary and an influential leader in the fields of technology, AI, and agri-food. Edited excerpts:

AI for agriculture

Agriculture is one of the most tech-primitive industry so far. The value AI can bring will be immense. For example, AI can help look at not just the quality of soil on the surface but also the quality of soil around the roots. Multi-modal AI – will be the future.

Weather prediction at the micro-climate scale will help farmers take right decisions. It can help them manage their resources better.

One of the biggest challenges techies face is how can we take all the data insights they generate to farmers. That is where generative AI can be a step forward. Farmers, even if they are not highly literate, can talk to an AI agent and get all the information and insights they want.

At the World Economic Forum council on food and water security Ranveer and his team were thinking of ways of using AI in addressing the food and water security problems in agriculture around the world.

Despite all the advances, we are still at the early stages, but the future potential is immense. This challenge has been intensified by climate change and geopolitical conflicts. The consensus among the participants was clear: while AI is not a panacea, it is a powerful enabler in our quest to address food security and build more resilient food systems. 

How Will AI Help Sustainability

AI will enhance transparency about data shared like how much water was consumed and where a crop was grown. Now, this info is not readily available.

The bigger contribution will be to help farmers predict the future outcomes thereby helping them make more informed decisions.

AI for science – people were so far limited by simulations. Now, AI lets you do these things much faster. For example, recently, AI was able to evaluate 32 million materials in a matter of a few hours. This would take a lifetime otherwise.

We are very bullish about AI’s contribution to sustainability like measuring  and verification.

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Amazon Cuts Extra Delivery Packaging by 83%

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Image credit - Business Insider

According to a recent study commissioned by Amazon, 69% of Indian consumers are content to receive their online purchases without extra packaging. This initiative is part of a broader effort by the e-commerce giant to reduce the consumption of packaging materials and minimize the environmental footprint of its delivery processes.

The survey revealed that most customers are comfortable receiving everyday items such as clothing, detergent, and stationery in just their original manufacturer’s packaging, which merely includes an added address label. However, there remains a preference for discreet packaging for personal care items like contraceptive devices, certain creams, and bikini wax strips, as well as high-value products such as mobile phones and laptops.

Amazon India’s Vice President of Operations, Abhinav Singh, highlighted the company’s commitment to sustainability. “We are not just aiming to reduce packaging but are working towards eliminating it where possible,” Singh said. “By collaborating with manufacturers to design packaging capable of withstanding the shipping process without additional layers, we have successfully enhanced our operational efficiency and sustainability.”

The items eligible for no added packaging have undergone rigorous testing by Amazon to ensure they can be delivered safely. These include various products ranging from tech accessories and homeware to shoes and luggage. Fragile items and liquids, however, continue to require extra packaging to ensure they reach customers without damage.

Customers also expressed confidence in this model because of Amazon’s robust customer service policies, which assure refunds or replacements for any issues with orders received without additional packaging.

Further aiding in these decisions, Amazon employs advanced machine learning algorithms that assess the durability of a manufacturer’s packaging based on the travel distance of the package, ensuring the safety and integrity of the products during transit.

As part of its global commitment to sustainability, Amazon is a co-founder and the first signatory of The Climate Pledge — a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040. The pledge now boasts over 450 signatories across 57 industries and 38 countries. Additionally, Amazon aims to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.

2023 UNEP Earth Awards For Combatting Plastic Pollution

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Image credit - BNE Intellinews

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a city mayor, a non-profit foundation, a social enterprise, a government initiative and a research council as its 2023 Champions of the Earth.

Josefina Belmonte Belmonte, mayor of Quezon City in the Philippines (Policy Leadership), the UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Inspiration and Action), China’s Blue Circle (Entrepreneurial Vision), José Manuel Moller of Chile (Entrepreneurial Vision) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Science and Innovation) were declared winners “for their innovative solutions and transformative action to tackle plastic pollution”.

“Plastic pollution is a deeply concerning strand of the triple planetary crisis. For the sake of our health and planet, we must end plastic pollution. This will take nothing less than a complete transformation, to reduce the amount of plastics produced and eliminate single-use plastics; and to switch to reuse systems and alternatives that avoid the negative environmental and social impacts that we are witnessing with plastic pollution,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

Belmonte is driving environmental and social action through a raft of policies to combat the climate crisis, end plastic pollution and green Quezon City.

“Her initiatives include bans on single-use plastics, a trade-in programme for plastic pollution, refill stations for everyday essentials and advocacy for strong global policymaking on plastics,” according to the UNEP statement.

The MacArthur Foundation has played a leading role in mainstreaming a lifecycle approach, including for plastics. “The foundation has published reports and established networks of private and public sector decision-makers, as well as academia, to develop lifecycle initiatives and solutions to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution and more,” the UNEP said.

Blue Circle is China’s largest marine plastic waste programme. It uses blockchain technology and the internet of things to track and monitor the full lifecycle of plastic pollution – from collection to regeneration, re-manufacturing and re-sale.

It has collected over 10,700 tonnes of marine debris.

Chilean Moller is the founder of Algramo, a social enterprise dedicated to providing refill services that reduce plastic pollution and lower the costs of everyday essentials. He also works to prevent, reduce, and sustainably manage waste through his role as Vice Chair of the UN Advisory Board of Eminent Persons on Zero Waste, an initiative set up in March 2023.

South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research uses cutting-edge technology and multidisciplinary research to develop innovations to tackle plastic pollution and other issues.

The announcement of winners comes even as countries gather in Nairobi next month to negotiate an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

Humanity produces around 430 million tonnes of plastic every year, two-thirds of which quickly becomes waste.

Every year, up to 23 million tonnes of plastic waste leaks into aquatic ecosystems, polluting lakes, rivers and seas. By 2040, carbon emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics could account for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions under the most ambitious targets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Chemicals in plastic can also cause health problems in humans.

The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honor. It has recognized 116 laureates: 27 world leaders, 70 individuals and 19 organizations since its inception in 2005.

ESG Demystified

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Globally, ESG has come under fire, which, experts say, is of its own making. Conceived a decade ago to rein in rogue companies from worsening the climate crisis, ESG is in all sorts of trouble today. 

Recent articles with headlines such as ‘The End of ESG’ in the Wall Street Journal, and ‘ESG is Beyond Redemption – May it RIP’ in the Financial Times, are certain to confuse investors, consumers and regulators who had high hopes about ESG’s potential positive impact. In India, ESG is still at a nascent stage. Maybe India can learn from the West’s current conundrums and come up with a better model. 

Just like most Indian regulations that are either ambiguous, opaque, or cumbersome to implement, ESGs too are regulated by multiple pieces of statutes such as the Companies Act 2013, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 (Listing Regulations) and many more. 

There is however a keen and growing interest in India on how companies are managing their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) footprint. But for ESG to move from a nascent stage to even a moderately mature stage in, say, three to five years, Indian consumers and civil society should push for comprehensive, simple, stringent, and yet practical ESG regulations. 

It is good to see a few books in the last couple of years on ESG written mostly by Indian consultants who want to be seen as thought leaders in the field. They are largely about how adopting ESG can benefit businesses in the long run. What about the short and medium runs? The big question is: When India is not yet ready for sustainability, how can it be ready for ESG?

A recent Kearney survey, excerpts published in SustainabilityNext, found that 72% of the Indian respondents view sustainability as a cost to business rather than an opportunity. And that this perception could be hindering the integration of sustainability into business operations. What’s worse, more than half the businesses in India (52%) view sustainability trends as a risk rather than an opportunity.   

Where are the ESG Professionals?

One of the key factors hindering India’s progress on the ESG front is a severe shortage of professionals at the middle and lower rungs. India not only needs to fill this shortage soon but will need to build a world-class talent pool for the future. It is common today to find people who call themselves ‘ESG Experts’ in their resumes and profiles after taking a couple of online ESG courses. 

Vipul Arora, Author – Essence of ESG – A Practitioner’s Perspective

Vipul Arora aspires to galvanize aspiring and early-stage professionals into making ESG a serious professional choice. His book Essence of ESG – A Practitioner’s Perspective published by Pendown Press, in early 2024, has tried to demystify ESG to the bone. Prof. Stuart Hart, the global guru of Corporate Sustainability, has endorsed his student Vipul’s book saying: “It takes deep understanding, mastery, and experience to simplify and boil things down to their essence….”  

Vipul has tried to make his book conversational and accessible. For a weary reader, Vipul’s credibility in the Sustainability field will matter. Vipul is a pioneer in building ESG ratings in India. He started Solaron in 2007 in Bangalore when no one in India was even talking about ESG. His firm expanded to 15 emerging markets briskly. He even created an Emerging Market ESG Rating Framework in 2010. By 2014, $13 trillion firms representing investments, he writes, had signed up to use Solaron’s methodology. His rating methodology helped several global investors understand current risks better so that they could prevent future risks from taking them down.

The Essence of ESG offers more than just the essence. It asks deeper questions and tries to answer them lucidly. It will help current and future professionals realize that sustainability, ESG and climate change need deeper understanding, learning and engagement if they are to pursue meaningful and fulfilling careers.

How Denial of Nature Deficit Disorder is Causing Bengaluru’s Water Crisis

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Amidst the vibrant allure of Bengaluru’s verdant landscapes and abundant water reservoirs lies a city grappling with a dire water crisis. Rapid urbanisation, a burgeoning population, and the looming spectre of climate change have stretched the city’s water supply to its limits, necessitating urgent and sustainable management measures. While technological interventions are undeniably crucial, the pivot towards behavioural change among residents emerges as an equally imperative aspect of the solution.

As a fourth-generation resident of Bengaluru and a fervent conservationist, my commitment to safeguarding our city’s water resources impels me to explore the significance of behavioural change in water management. Through this article for World Water Day 2024, I aim to illuminate the crucial role that shifting societal behaviours can play in addressing Bengaluru’s water woes. By delving into the underlying challenges and potential strategies, I hope to provide readers and decision-makers with insights that can guide transformative action.

Bengaluru, with its population of 13.6 million spread across 741 square kilometres, stands as the third most populous city in India and the 27th largest globally, boasting a staggering population density of 19,193 individuals per square kilometre. Nestled in the Deccan Plateau within Karnataka’s southeastern expanse, Bengaluru rises to an elevation exceeding 900 metres above sea level. Recent estimates peg the city’s daily water requirement at approximately 1.4 billion to 1.5 billion litres per day (BLD), with infrastructure including approximately 33 Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) processing a staggering 1440 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage, as reported by the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).

The root cause of the problem: Why is water a matter of Behaviour?

Despite its bustling economic activity and vibrant allure, Bengaluru faces the ominous prospect of water scarcity, teetering on the precipice of exhausting its drinking water reserves. Nonetheless, the city remains a beacon of opportunity, attracting youth, students, and professionals alike with its burgeoning IT, biotechnology, and startup sectors. In the hustle and bustle of Bengaluru’s fast-paced life, the imperative for sustainable water management resonates louder than ever. As we navigate the complexities of urban living, fostering a collective ethos of water conservation becomes paramount. Through this article, I aspire to ignite a dialogue that transcends mere discourse, paving the way for tangible action and transformative change. Together, let us embark on a journey towards a water-secure future for Bengaluru, preserving its essence for generations to come.

Source: The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) – India Water Professionals

The root cause of the water crisis in Bengaluru lies in the mindset towards water consumption. Water conservation transcends mere actions or practices; it embodies a fundamental shift in thinking and recognizing the intrinsic value of water in sustaining life and ecosystems. Embracing water conservation as a behavioural concern entails acknowledging its critical role in sustaining life, understanding its finite nature, and realising the collective impact of individual actions on water availability. Unfortunately, many Bengalureans have historically perceived water as abundant due to subsidised pricing and inconsistent supply, exacerbating the crisis by neglecting efficient water practices and failing to recognize the looming scarcity.

Aligning water conservation with principles of sustainable living is paramount for addressing the water crisis in Bengaluru. Prioritising long-term planetary health fosters a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living beings and creates social norms encouraging responsible water usage. However, several challenges hinder behavioural change efforts, including entrenched habits, socioeconomic disparities, inadequate infrastructure, and conflicting interests among stakeholders. Overcoming these challenges requires sustained educational campaigns, community engagement, and policy interventions to foster a collective effort towards sustainable water management. By empowering individuals to advocate for policy changes and educating others, Bengaluru can transcend water-saving practices and safeguard this vital resource for present and future generations.

Is it Imperative for Behavioral Change in Water Conservation for Bengaluru?

While engineering marvels, infrastructural enhancements, and technological innovations undoubtedly play pivotal roles in addressing water scarcity, their efficacy remains limited without a fundamental shift in people’s behaviours towards water conservation, particularly evident in Bangalore’s chronic water shortages despite significant investments in water management infrastructure. Engineering solutions, such as reservoirs and water treatment plants, provide temporary relief but must be accompanied by a multidisciplinary approach involving experts from diverse fields to define holistic strategies. Similarly, technological advancements offer tools for efficient water use, yet fail to address the root issue: human behaviour.

In Bengaluru, rapid urbanization and population growth strain already limited water sources, exacerbating unsustainable practices like excessive household consumption and industrial pollution. Changing these entrenched behaviours requires a paradigm shift towards a water-conscious mindset ingrained in society’s fabric, necessitating awareness campaigns, community engagement, and policy interventions. Educating individuals about water conservation’s importance and empowering them to implement conservation measures are essential, along with incentivizing responsible water use through economic measures. However, overcoming entrenched habits, cultural norms, and socioeconomic factors presents significant challenges, requiring concerted efforts from government agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, and the private sector.

Image credit – Yelahanka Waste-Water Treatment Plant, India Water Portal

Over the past two decades, Bengaluru has experienced a significant influx of people from various parts of the country. Many of these migrants come from regions with access to perennial water sources such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Sindhu, Godavari, and Krishna rivers. However, Bengaluru itself relies heavily on the Cauvery River, which is diverted from a distance of over 100 kilometres to meet the city’s water needs. As a result, there is a noticeable disparity in understanding water scarcity among these migrants, who may not grasp the challenges of water availability in Bengaluru and tend to waste water due to their accustomed access to abundant water sources in their places of origin.

While engineering and technological solutions are crucial for water management, transforming people’s attitudes and behaviours towards water conservation is equally vital. Bangalore’s path to a sustainable water future hinges not only on concrete infrastructure but also on fostering a culture of conservation among its citizens. Only through collective consciousness and concerted action can the city hope to mitigate the water crisis and ensure a resilient future for generations to come.

What are the strategies for Behavioural Transformations?

  1. Dominant and selfish human species: The dominant human species often operates under the belief that success is achieved by outcompeting others. However, this mindset fails to recognize the fundamental principles of nature, which emphasise cooperation and interdependence. If we continue to prioritise competition over cooperation, we risk damaging the delicate balance of the natural world. We must shift towards living in harmony with nature and all other species. By embracing cooperation and mutual respect, we can foster a sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.
  2. Address Migration Dynamics: The influx of migrants accustomed to abundant water sources contributes to water misuse in Bengaluru. Tailored strategies should address their perception and encourage responsible water use.
  3. Mandatory RWH Implementation: The government must enforce the RWH mandate rigorously to harness every raindrop efficiently. Over all a gap was noticed from the understanding that people have about RWH to the willingness to implement RWH and the main influencing factor for adoption was lack of awareness or knowledge on understanding of the return on investment factor (ROI) of RWH and the primary factor that influenced implementation was the financial barrier and expectation that the occupants of Bengaluru had from the Government and the reason that sustenance of the practice was hindered is primarily because the respondents never saw water scarcity as a major problem for Bengaluru.
  4. Consumer Behaviour: Reduce water wastage and consumerism. When greed overtakes life, nature has its answers to the humans with the most profound thinking capacity.
  5. Inculcate Pro-environment Lifestyle: The fear of scarcity has not set in as yet, but the city dwellers are bracing for the shortage and hence are not keen on preventive measures. The shortage of water is not felt for a long period so they take it for granted that as the weather changes everything will sort out. From some research, it is understood that even if it rains soon in Bengaluru, the chances of groundwater recharge are less due to over-concretisation and blockages of recharge paths in lakes and stormwater drains with plastic, waste cloth, tyres, thermocol, ceramic etc.
  6. Society has fired an expectation of convenience – to allow people to get what they want to get without having to think about the consequences – The Residence Welfare Associations (RWA’s) have to be educated on the consequences of their actions, the ill impact to the ecosystem, their health and the water lifecycle.
  7. Reuse of Reclaimed Water: Reuse of reclaimed water is the behavioural transformation required and not refusal to use treated water as considered unhygienic. The economic value of black gold (reclaimed water) is yet to be acknowledged. It is a very beneficial practice for the long term if the passing of good quality tertiary treated water through the wetlands, and recharge pits is considered for groundwater recharging.
  8. Policy and plans: To promote human behaviour modification for Sustainable Development Goals on water, particularly 6.5.1 on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRS).
  9. Government Exemplification: The government should lead by example, implementing RWH in its structures and acting as a role model for the public. They may also discourage the use of plastic bottles in their offices and conferences. Solutions offered generally are academic and bookish but those promoting conservation, which is key, have to walk the talk. For example, make events, functions, and get-togethers water friendly.
  10. Reevaluate Penalties: The Resident’s willingness to pay penalties for non-implementation of RWH indicates that despite it being made mandatory they don’t care. It is estimated that an average house which has not installed RWH pays an estimate of Rs 300- 800 every month as a penalty but will not choose to install RWH. Adjusting water charges in proportion to income can instil greater value, fostering a sense of responsibility. The implication is that water will never be considered as an asset as the value is always undermined.
  11. Simulation Exercises: Conduct simulations, like “Zero Water Day,” to instill a sense of urgency among the public, emphasising the importance of water conservation.
Image credit – Karnataka Urban Development and Coastal Environment. Asian Development Bank

Conclusion: In reality, World Water Day 2024, hardly matters in Bengaluru, despite the grave situation we are in with water scarcity. Behavioural change is the most difficult change and hence, unless the Government doesn’t bring about a very clear and practical mandate to bring in a forceful change in the behaviour of the population, with regard to a righteous use of water the situation shall stay grim. The key here is that behavioural change is indispensable for addressing the water crisis in Bengaluru and in fostering sustainable water management practices. Only by promoting awareness, nurturing community engagement, implementing incentive mechanisms, and improving infrastructure. Stakeholders have the power to empower residents in adopting water-saving behaviors, thus contributing to the conservation of this scarce and vital resource. With Bengaluru’s ongoing evolution, concerted efforts toward behavioral change are essential to ensure a water-secure future for generations to come.

Let’s leave a green, clean and safe Earth for all.

Let’s live and let all live.

Madhuri Subbarao, India’s first Conservation Psychologist, Earthitude Research Forum, Friends of Lakes (FOL).

By Earthitude: Your Attitude towards Earth

Most Indian Companies Still View Sustainability as Cost

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Image credit - ET2C

A new study (March 2024) by global management consultancy Kearney has found that 72% of the Indian respondents view sustainability as a cost to business rather than an opportunity. This perception could be hindering the full integration of sustainability into business operations. More than half of the businesses in India (52%) view sustainability trends as a risk rather than an opportunity.

The primary cause for this perception is clearly the poor buy-in from the boards. The study found that only 37% of respondents strongly agreed that sustainability trends are well understood by their board members and executive teams.

Kate Hart, Partner and APAC Sustainability Co-lead, Kearney

Kate Hart, Partner and APAC Sustainability Co-lead, Kearney said that the perception of sustainability as a cost instead of an opportunity is unfortunately a short-term business focus which hinders the full integration of sustainability into operations. Closing this gap requires strong leadership, innovation, and a resilient culture which demands more than just sustainability; it requires embracing regenerative principles.

The Kearney study, titled “Regenerate: an Asia Pacific Study on Sustainability and Beyond”, surveyed nearly 1,000 business leaders across diverse industry sectors in nine Asia Pacific (APAC) countries: India, Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The report aimed to capture regional business executives’ views on sustainability initiatives within their organizations, covering target setting, decarbonization pathways, and hurdles impeding progress.

Highlights

  • Less than one-third of businesses in the Asia Pacific region have decarbonization plans acutely aligned with the Paris Agreement. India (52%) is most aligned with the global objectives and decarbonization goals.
  • Most Indian businesses surveyed (91%) have set targets to reach net zero, with 51% of them viewing these targets as highly achievable.
  • The majority view sustainability as a cost to business rather than an opportunity (72%), hindering the full integration of sustainability into business operations.
  • 52% of organizations in India are taking a regenerative approach to sustainability with an aim to achieve their goals in the next 1-3 years.

Indian respondents said the 2030 deadline the country has set for itself seems unrealistic. The results of the study revealed that to achieve progress on the sustainability front, Indian companies need to adjust strategies and set achievable timelines.

The comprehensive report comes at a time when closing the gap between ambition and action is imperative, as businesses urgently need to align their sustainability goals with tangible measures to mitigate environmental impact.

In India, the pursuit of broader sustainability objectives also experiences hurdles such as complexities in overcoming technical challenges (65%), limited capabilities including the quality and quantity of resources (63%1), and businesses frequently grappling with the challenges of cross-team collaboration (57%1). 

Businesses across APAC are actively setting target dates for achieving net zero. A significant 85% of companies perceive the decarbonization targets set by their organizations as attainable, with over one-third (37%) indicating they are highly achievable. This optimistic outlook is most held by leaders in Thailand and India, where 56% and 51%, respectively, say their targets are highly achievable.

The majority of businesses in India (71%) believe that enhanced technologies would accelerate their decarbonization initiatives, with the highest in Thailand (76%) and Malaysia (73%). Additionally, over half (57%) consider support from the government crucial for expediting decarbonization efforts, with the Philippines ranking the highest (63%) followed by Singapore (58%) and India (57%). India had the highest number of leaders (69%) suggesting the need for a better ability to measure emissions.

Good and the Bad of Greenwashing Fears

It is interesting that concerns about greenwashing are prompting companies to invest more in sustainability. 86% said that greenwashing concerns have motivated their organization to increase investment in sustainability resources and capabilities. However, the study also found that 78% say it has made their organization more hesitant to discuss sustainability plans publicly.

87% of leadership in India has expressed concerns about greenwashing. To tackle this issue, business leaders in India are motivated to change their approach towards a more conscious supplier and partner arrangements (92%), more cautious in emissions management plans/target setting (92%) and tighten sustainability policies and processes (91%).

In addition, almost three-quarters (72%) of companies continue to view sustainability efforts as a cost to business rather than a value-creating opportunity. This sentiment is particularly strong in India (78%), followed by Australia and Indonesia (77%). More than half of the businesses in India (52%) view sustainability trends as a risk rather than an opportunity. This leads to companies adopting short-term sustainability plans (61%) and most (81%) having sustainability ambitions influenced by meeting societal expectations and keeping up with competition.

Regenerative Practices

Image Credit – Niche Agriculture

Asia remains especially vulnerable to climate impacts and as growth continues to surge, there is an urgent need for the region to transition towards development that is not only carbon-neutral but also climate-resilient. Regenerative businesses are at the forefront of adopting this transformative approach. More than 40% of surveyed companies perceive themselves as embracing regenerative practices, led by companies in Indonesia (57%), India (54%) and Thailand (54%). 

Notably, among the 54% of companies across India acknowledging the potential for regenerative practices to improve profit and long-term growth, 52% aspires to achieve regenerative practices within the next 1-3 years. By integrating their business systems with broader environmental and social systems, these companies are shifting away from viewing sustainability solely as a risk or cost, and instead, actively aim to contribute positively to the world. This strategic shift prioritizes long-term value creation, advancing sustainable and profitable growth across the region.

Arun Unni, Partner and APAC Sustainability Co-lead, Kearney, said: “In India, where sustainability is an increasing focus, businesses are exploring creative ways to achieve their decarbonization goals. By leveraging clean energy technologies supported by government interventions, Indian businesses are using immediately available greening opportunities to reduce their footprint.” 

India is ranked fourth in the world for its renewable energy installed capacity, and Improved technology, better ability to measure emissions, and increased government support will fuel momentum in driving investments in energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy generation, as well as the use of green hydrogen for energy storage.

Kate Hart said collaborative efforts and shared learning across businesses in the region can help bridge the knowledge gaps that we see and accelerate the overall transition towards regenerative sustainability.

Key India highlights and the link to the APAC report

Want to Take a Green Picture?

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Image Credit - EcoVisualLab

According to photographers, artists, galleries and museums, a company press note states, the quality is outstanding – so why not print as sustainably as possible? At EcoVisualLab, archival, museum-quality images, are now available in 12-color prints of the highest quality and new 5-color, less expensive prints in smaller stock sizes.

How Sustainable?

  • Prints on 100% cotton papers – acid free, chlorine free, tree-free, no optical brighteners. Papers made from the reclaimed fibers (linters) from cottonseed-oil manufacturing. Cottonseed oil is a cooking product and the cotton linters used in our papers are food grade. If not used for making the best quality papers, these linters can wind up in landfills.
  • The high-quality pigmented inks we use are aqueous (water-based) and contain no VOCs. They emit no toxic smells or fumes. They are lightfast and produce archival, long lasting, wide gamut prints.
  • EcoVisualLab prints have been displayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The Smithsonian Museum, and in numerous galleries, print competitions and collections.

Rick Colson says, “I don’t believe in greenwashing or false claims of sustainability. I’d like to send you our sustainability fact sheet that outlines exactly how we are green, no hype, just facts.” 

How Conventional Pictures are Toxic?

  • Darkroom and inkjet chemicals are often toxic.
  • Prints made with VOC-off-gassing inks can be toxic indoors.
  • Plasticized substrates can be toxic in both manufacture and disposal.
  • Bleached papers can contain elemental chlorine which, when mixed with cellulose (wood fiber) can create dioxins, the single most carcinogenic group of chemicals known to man.
  • And one typical transatlantic crossing of a cargo container vessel transporting inkjet papers uses about 485,000 gallons of dirty marine diesel.

The climate crisis has made the role of photography in advocacy and behavioral change cannot be stressed more. Now that the photography itself is turning green, is good news.

https://ecovisuallab.com

Have You Killed An Idea Lately? 

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Image credit - medium.com

Key Mantras

  • Small steps can help prevent killing an idea.
  • Share your ideas widely, don’t just download others’ ideas.
  • Don’t hesitate to display ignorance.
  • Get surprised at least once a day.
  • If you don’t track the change in your ideas, it will slip away.
  • Passion is not enough, process is key.
  • Don’t make current competence an enemy of desirability.

We can unfreeze a frozen imagination by tracking some of the paradoxical pointers of our daily lives.  Making breakthroughs requires a sync, though not completely between the inner and the outer voice of ours. But why do so many of us get stuck in trivia? We tend to get satisfied with too little too early. We adapt too much; we adjust far too often. Resilience is good, but too much of it can reinforce inertia. How to remain unsettled, ‘baichain’, impatient with inertia?

Many small steps can help us prevent killing our ideas. I often ask young learners, is there anyone who has not killed one’s idea ever? I never find anyone raising their hands. Why are we so unjust and unfair to our ideas? 

There are many reasons. One is that we seek affirmation from others often. If peers don’t like my thoughts, I tend to discount my ideas. If it entails acquiring skills beyond what I know, it deters me; fear of failure is of course well known. But most importantly, we miss the dictum: when the cost of failure is low, try. What do those who make breakthroughs do?

They have an upload-to-download ratio of more than one. It is tragic that most of us download a great deal of the content but don’t upload even a fraction of that. Naturally, we consider those whose ideas and content we download are leaders. Uploading ideas no matter how tentative brings strangers into our lives. They are likely to resonate with those ideas. It is the chain of ideas across unconnected domains which facilitates breakthroughs. But unless we share, how do those knowledge nodes in such domains discover us? Open sharing leads to open innovation and reciprocal learning.

Another trait of those who make a difference is that they don’t hesitate in admitting their ignorance. They don’t mask by beating about the bush. They are precise and upfront about the inadequacy of their knowledge in a specific case. Solutions follow from people below, around or outside the team.

Getting surprised at least once a day is a necessary feature of a determined learner’s life. If such a moment has not occurred even once a day, then we have not lived that day, we have just existed. Surprises indicate the boundaries of our ignorance. They help us gauge the gaps we need to fill. They also indicate that we have not lost the child-like spirit of seeking wonders in life yet.

During COVID-19, the entire humanity was under the pressure of the pandemic. There was limited time to find new drugs. Almost all the drugs used were repurposed drugs. It is alright to repurpose existing solutions to new contexts and generate innovations around them. That is an easier route to find innovative solutions to emerging challenges. Search for such niches needs a tracker to act as a reminder.

I have often argued since the early eighties that a ‘change not monitored, is a change not desired’. It is here that our metrics matter. If we don’t identify the changes we cannot live without, and don’t track the trade-offs we need to make but we don’t, then we don’t have to regret our failure to make a breakthrough.

Passion to pursue a larger-than-life purpose with a process leads to peak performance. It gets better through collaborative platforms. Many of us don’t lack passion, nor do we find it too hard to find a purpose but where we often falter is the process. The breakthroughs don’t happen just through persistence but often require a self-correcting and self-design process, what I also call an autopoietic model of innovation.

Unicorn Born in a Classroom

One should never make feasibility with current competence or capacity as an enemy of desirability. Siddharth Shah and his other team members Anuj Jhaveri, Muralidhar Jetty, Rajesh S. Saurav Ghosh and Vivek Iyer presented a project to deliver medicines and various health services through an online pharmacy as a part of CINE course in 2011-2012.

Pharmeasy Founders; from Left to Right – Harsh Parekh, Siddharth Shah, Dharmil Sheth, Dr. Dhaval Shah, Hardik Dedhia

Many aspects of it seemed very difficult to achieve with the prevailing regulatory framework. Some of them persisted with the idea led by Sidharth and by 2021-22, they had become a unicorn. Perhaps, the first classroom project-based unicorn in the country. Several aspects of the project did not seem to be feasible then, but its desirability was beyond doubt. Today millions of people get discounts along with home delivery, thanks to a student project ahead of its time. They founded India’s first online pharmacy called PharmEasy which was merged with Medlife in 2020.

Let me close by saying that when I set up SRISTI (1993), GIAN (1997) and scaled up the model of GIAN into NIF (National Innovation Foundation) way back in 2000 (with the help of the Ministry of Finance and the Department Of Science and Technology, (GOI), there was no template Honeybee Network could have followed. No other country had attempted to create a Grassroots Innovation Ecosystem for frugal and inclusive innovations by then. 

Thanks to the support from IIM Ahmedabad and numerous other HBN volunteers, a beginning was made which has now been institutionalized. The concept of Grassroots Innovations has become a global movement and numerous variations have emerged worldwide. It is possible that some of our students and faculty could make bigger breakthroughs in their lives by dreaming visions bigger than their current capacity, but not bigger than their ability to dream and deliver.

anil-gupta2

Prof. Anil Gupta is a visiting Faculty at IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker. He is an activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots and institutions. He is committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and a collaborative place.

18% GST on Plastic Waste Should Go

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Sachin Sharma, Founder and Director of GEM Enviro Management

Sachin Sharma left lucrative jobs at Morgan Stanley, Rabo Bank and Edelweiss to work on plastic waste recycling in 2013. An engineer and an IIM Calcutta grad, Sachin is today one of India’s leading leaders in waste management and extended producer responsibility (EPR) solutions provider. 

In a deep dive with Benedict Paramanand, Editor of SustainabilityNext, Sachin Sharma, Founder and Director of GEM Enviro Management, shares how India can solve its waste problems smartly and efficiently.

GEM Enviro Management was started with the purpose of enabling sourcing plastic waste into the recycling stream. We collected plastic waste from companies like Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Bisleri, which they were selling to the unorganized players. Today we help them recycle their plastic waste as per the legal and management norms. We also installed nearly 40 reverse vending machines in different cities. 

Reverse Vending Machine (GEM Enviro Management Limited)

Reverse vending machine is a machine where a user can put a bottle in it and collect a coupon or a gift as an incentive. We did a lot of experimentation also with these machines and we found that it’s always better to give a cash incentive.

The plastic waste EPR regulations were introduced in 2016 and from the year 2018 the government became serious in implementing the same. Initially we worked with companies like Coca Cola and PepsiCo to fulfill their EPR requirements. Last year we collected around three lakh tons of plastic waste and looking forward to gearing up to do one million tons shortly. 

Today we work closely with 150 odd companies and help them meet their EPR needs. We also do nearly 50 awareness activities every year. We organize these programs in schools, colleges, universities, even in office space, in manufacturing organizations. 

It is not cheaper as on today. It’s about 20-25% more expensive compared to bottle made from virgin plastic. The primary reason for this is that the capacities are too low. Once the capacity increases it will become cheaper. 

Yes. In Europe and North America. They mix R- PET chips with chips from virgin plastic to make recycled plastic bottles. 

There is a lot of delay mainly because of constant policy changes. New capacities for recycled plastic are being I’m confident that the industry will meet the deadline.

Recyclers are the major beneficiaries. Since 2023, more than 1.5 million tons of EPR credits were issued. This is a big number. 

Image Credit – GEM Enviro Management Limited

We started this program to avoid plastic going into landfills and make our mother earth green. We also focus on making merchandise out of plastic made of polyester fiber – a byproduct of recycling PET bottle. 

I am happy to say that more than 70% of the PET plastic is already being collected and recycled in India – better than many developed countries. In India, hard plastic is largely collected and recycled – the kind of plastic used by soft drink companies. 

This plastic is recycled to form the recycled polyester fiber (RPSF). This is almost similar in characteristics to the normal plastic and is cheaper as compared to the normal fiber. This is used in various textile applications such as carpets and pillows. 

The government had not permitted it so far but recently the FSSI, the food quality certification body, has permitted it. Many companies have started adding infrastructure for bottles to be made from R- PET in India. The deadline for adding recycled material in packaging is 2026.

 We have about 50 employees headquartered in Delhi NCR. We work throughout the country and working with close to 150 brands. We have about 50 collection centers and more than 20 recyclers across the country where we send the material for recycling. 

The waste sector is beginning to mature with infrastructure and capital coming in. It is going to flourish in the coming years. 

GST of 18% on waste collection and recycling is huge. It was 5% before and we want that back. Because the informal sector is still big, such high GST tempts people to evade. This is a priority sector so imposing such high GST, which is equivalent to luxury products, does not make any sense. 

We want the government to invest heavily on waste collection and sorting infrastructure. There are good technologies today for recycling efficiently. 

We also need good subsidies to attract more investors in recycling.

Watch Full Interview – https://youtu.be/gLmATgkTmSs

Indian Philanthropy Needs to Become More Inclusive, Long-term Oriented

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Alex Counts, Author, Philanthropher

Highlights

  • Move from focussing heavily on health and education to supporting conservation, liberal arts, and sports. 
  • American Indian youth contributions are getting bigger
  • Philanthropy should be a joyful experience
  • Indian CSR needs to focus on long-term sustainability
  • Cap on administrative cost big hurdle for Indian NGOs

The India Philanthropy Alliance (IPA) is a coalition of nonprofit, philanthropic, and charitable organizations dedicated to mobilising people and funding in the United States, and elsewhere, to foster development and alleviate poverty in India. It started in late 2017 when leaders from various nonprofits based in the United States shared a common vision for humanitarian and developmental goals in India.

Benedict Paramanand, Editor of SustainabilityNext caught up with him to chat about several promising trends and hard challenges philanthropy is facing today in India and worldover.

I don’t believe so, but I can understand why you would think that. In my book, “Small Loans, Big Dreams,” I delve into the transformative journey of microfinance over the past 15 years. Initially, microcredit emerged as a solution to an invisible market— the vast demand for credit among the world’s poor, particularly women. As microfinance gained momentum, it transitioned into mainstream financial systems. This absorption into the larger financial ecosystem may have led to the perception of stagnation. However, it signifies a healthy integration. Now, the focus has shifted towards financial inclusion and impact investing, underscoring the enduring relevance of microfinance.

While India has encountered regulatory challenges at times, it’s important to acknowledge the dual nature of its policies. On one hand, certain laws may pose obstacles to philanthropy and microcredit. On the other hand, India has also implemented progressive policies that foster philanthropy and enable microfinance. Despite occasional hurdles, the overall environment for microfinance in India has witnessed significant advancements, especially in the last decade. Notably, the presence of world-class microcredit banks underscores India’s potential as a hub for financial inclusion.

Absolutely. The younger generation of entrepreneurs and affluent individuals are increasingly embracing philanthropy, propelled by factors such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandates. India’s CSR law mandates corporate entities to contribute to social causes, fostering a culture of giving back. Moreover, Indian Americans, known for their altruism and volunteerism, are poised to play a significant role in shaping philanthropy. As awareness grows and trust in charitable organizations strengthens, we anticipate a substantial rise in philanthropic contributions, both in quality and quantity.

My marketing pitch emphasizes the impactful role of high-quality nonprofits in addressing critical societal and environmental challenges. I highlight the effectiveness of these organizations, showcasing their capacity to effect meaningful change. Philanthropy is portrayed as a joyful endeavour, offering individuals the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world. By fostering trust and highlighting the transformative potential of donations, we aim to inspire greater engagement and support for philanthropic causes.

The current CSR framework in India could benefit from reforms to foster long-term sustainability and strategic philanthropy. Firstly, extending the planning horizon beyond a single year would enable nonprofits to undertake comprehensive initiatives with lasting impact. Additionally, there’s a need to address geographic disparities in funding allocation, ensuring equitable distribution across urban and rural areas. By aligning CSR regulations with the long-term goals of social impact, we can optimize the effectiveness of corporate philanthropy.

The fixation on minimizing administrative costs overlooks the critical role of organisational infrastructure in driving impact. Instead of rigidly adhering to cost ratios, donors should prioritize effectiveness and outcomes. By investing in talent and operational excellence, nonprofits can amplify their impact and foster sustainable growth. It’s imperative to shift the narrative towards valuing efficiency and efficacy over simplistic cost metrics, thereby empowering NGOs to attract and retain top talent.

Beyond traditional focus areas like health and education, philanthropy must adapt to address emerging challenges such as environmental conservation and climate resilience. Issues like access to clean water, biodiversity preservation, and sustainable agriculture demand concerted philanthropic efforts. Moreover, there’s a growing recognition of the importance of arts, humanities, and animal welfare in fostering holistic societal development. By diversifying funding priorities and embracing innovative approaches, philanthropy can effectively tackle evolving global challenges.

The dynamics vary significantly between federal and state levels. While federal politics can be ideologically driven, state and local governments often showcase pragmatic, collaborative efforts with NGOs. This “competitive federalism” has led to effective partnerships that could serve as models for other countries. However, fostering trust and cooperation remains an ongoing challenge.

IPA aims to further the tradition of India Giving Day, fostering a culture of philanthropy among Indian Americans and beyond. The focus is on making philanthropy more inclusive, especially for the youth, and transforming it from transactional to transformational experiences. Through initiatives like the youth essay competition and highlighting effective, innovative charities, IPA seeks to build trust in philanthropy and encourage a legacy of giving back.

Watch Full Interview – https://youtu.be/V6pd3P6i8f4

Amazon Launches AI-guided Robot Recycling Startup

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Image credit -https://techcrunch.com/

The Climate Pledge Fund and New Enterprise Associates are leading Glacier’s $7.7 million round, bringing the company’s total raised to $13 million. Amazon’s participation marks the second investment for its Female Founder Initiative, a dedicated pool of $53 million.

A company note said that the AI-endowed robots and other automation technologies could help materials recovery facilities build capacity and create revenue streams for selling collected material back to manufacturers eager to meet goals for using recycled content in their products and packaging. They work by using sensors and software intelligence to visually identify materials of the same type and separate them from waste streams. 

Highlights

  • They can pay off in less than a year.
  • They can identify more than 30 materials ranging from aluminum cans to toothpaste tubes. 
  • They can squeeze into tight spaces.

Amazon is collecting data from Glacier’s commercial pilot at a Northern California materials recovery facility to study how recycling recovery rates can be increased and how to sort materials that can be returned to manufacturers for use against their waste reduction and circular economy targets.

Market revenue for recycling robots is forecast to reach more than $10 billion by 2030, as facilities struggle with understaffing and the sheer volume of unique materials — nearly 300 million tons in the U.S. alone — that they are expected to process. Aside from Glacier, two companies that sell recycling robots are AMP Robotics and TOMRA

How India Can Leverage its GST Model for Building a Sustainable Future

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Johan Rockstrom, recipient of the 2024 Tyler Prize, often dubbed the Nobel Prize in Environment, has warned that six of the nine planetary boundaries have been breached, pushing Earth out of the safe zone. These boundaries encompass land systems change, freshwater change, biogeochemical flows, biosphere integrity, climate change, novel entities, stratosphere ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and ocean acidification, with only the last three remaining within safe limits. The scientific evidence of our planet’s peril is unequivocal, and we have a limited window to rescue it from intensive care. See the link – https://earth.org/earth-is-entering-a-danger-zone-as-six-of-nine-planetary-boundaries-already-past-safe-limit-scientists-find/

Several factors have contributed to our current state. Specific to India, these include the tripling of India’s population since its independence, massive changes in lifestyle, adoption of a fossil fuel-based economy dependent on coal and oil, deforestation, and so on. Fundamentally, our culture transitioned from a reverence for respecting the five foundational elements of nature, namely, soil, water, air, fire/energy, and space, to a culture that showed indifference to these elements.

Furthermore, societal perceptions equating happiness with material possessions and wealth have exacerbated the issue. In contrast, historical wisdom, such as that found in our own country, emphasized finding happiness by overcoming desires through wisdom without suppressing them, a philosophy now overshadowed.

Our modern concept of running our economy by GDP as a measure fails to distinguish between activities that enhance well-being and those that degrade it, underscoring the urgent need for a new economic model to restore India’s health.

Fortuitously, in 2017, India launched the Goods and Services Tax (GST) model with a mission to simplify the multiplicity of several indirect taxes and eliminate the cascading effect of taxes. A bold, novel, and innovative move. Almost the entire population is now aware that GST has five tiers, ranging from 0% to 28%. Most of us, including our planners, view GST as a tool to collect indirect taxes by placing the products and services in the tiers in a manner that is fair for the entire population based on their affordability and income levels.

For example, luxury goods are in the highest tax tier. The logic is sound. However, it is now time to leverage GST to build a more sustainable India. We must use the current tier structure to allocate products and services regardless of their cost in higher to highest tax tiers if they are wreaking havoc on any of the five foundational elements: soil, water, air, energy, and space. This will achieve the dual purpose of rehabilitating the climactic health of India while creating a clean tech entrepreneurship culture that one would have never witnessed. Examples are provided below on how we could implement this.

Soil

Chemical fertilizers that degrade soil must be placed in the highest tax tier, and plant-based fertilizers in the lowest or 0% tax tier. This will encourage several small startups to shift their focus to develop plant-based fertilizers since the demand for chemical fertilizers would dampen. Entrepreneurs will leverage several microbial innovations to extract fertilizer inputs from wastewater, including the generation of electricity as demonstrated by Dr. Nikhil Malvankar, Malvankar Labs, Yale University, USA.

Similarly, textiles using cotton grown in a lab may be in the 0% tax tier rather than cotton coming from a farm as monocultures are degrading our soil, plus lab-grown cotton occupies significantly less land and other resource inputs such as water. This analogy may hold true for other lab-grown products such as meat, coffee, or leather. Building products such as bricks are ruining our topsoil, manufacture of steel, cement, and so on directly or indirectly ruin the soil and emit greenhouse gas emissions. Several green alternatives, indigenous materials, and green composites are already replacing these products, Correct GST placement of these eco-friendly alternatives in the right tiers can make them competitive.

Fortunately, when India added the extra 2 digits to the 6-digit Harmonized System of Nomenclature (HSN), one of the backbones of GST that classifies products, the resultant 8-digit HSN added more specificity and granularity to products. Therefore, GST is well-positioned to differentiate between a shirt that is made from lab-grown cotton versus a shirt that is made from cotton coming from a farm. A feat no other indirect tax system has achieved.

Water

If a small laundromat business owner purchases a washer cum dryer that runs on liquid CO2 instead of water and uses significantly less electricity compared to a traditional washer and a dryer, then this product should be in the lowest tax tier at 0%, and the traditional washer and dryer at the highest tax tier of 28%. The rationale is that a liquid CO2 washer cum dryer will encourage several startups and save us billions of gallons of water.

Air

Every citizen of India is aware of traffic congestion, poor air quality index, and high levels of asthma in major cities. This is unsustainable. A full-time Uber, Ola, Lyft, Autorickshaw driver who buys an electric vehicle, or a highly fuel-efficient vehicle must pay 0% tax. Whereas a private car owner may need to pay the highest 28% tax regardless of the type of car he purchases, potentially a surtax if it runs on diesel or petrol. This strategy may reduce congestion and improve air quality.

Energy

If a homeowner were to install a blade-less windmill, a vertical bifacial organic solar photovoltaic unit, or a bio-digester that converts food waste to cooking gas, and so on should be at the lowest tax tier of 0%. This will encourage several companies and startups to enter the market creating a renewable energy revolution and lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Similarly, any textile material that uses natural dyes, liquid CO2, and no water, waste milk to make fabric, lab-grown cotton, and so on could be eligible to be in the lowest 0% tax tier.

Space

If electric vehicle batteries use metals derived from the moon or even from the Clarion Clipperton Zone (the underwater seabed in the Pacific Ocean), the final product will have a high surtax over and above the highest tax tier. There are myriad startups armed to mine the moon and the ocean floors. The moon has significant positive influences on Earth such as control of reproductive behavior in several life forms including plant growth and so on. A coalition of six hundred marine scientists objected to deep-sea mining, but the International Seabed authority unfortunately allowed some startups to exploit our seabed under the guise of it being experimental.

The above is just a sample illustration of the scope of GST to influence consumer behavior patterns to create a sustainable India. The following key considerations may need careful deliberation by the GST council.

  1. Compressing the GST tiers – Debates surrounding simplifying GST with 2 or 3 tiers will hinder the progress of implementing existing GST to foster sustainability. The existing tier structure allows flexibility in titrating product placement in the tiers. Current tier flexibility also allows a revision to the tax amount collected in each tier based on prevailing economic demands.
  2. Phased implementation – Every year placement of products in tiers needs careful consideration so that market forces have time to adapt to the change. For example, when it comes to single-use plastics, in year 1 start with plastic water bottles in the highest tax tier, and slowly titrate every year to other single-use plastics. Virgin plastic is very cheap, this is one of the main reason biodegradable materials or recyclers are unable to compete. This mechanism now enables clean startups to prosper.
  3. Talent – GST council could strengthen its staff with scientific talent who are more in tune with climate and sustainability concepts. Law must keep their decisions independent of outside influences.
  4. Mission and Name change – Consider revising Goods and Services Tax (GST) to names such as Progressive Holistic Tax (PHT) or Pancha Bhuta Protection Tax (PPT) – (Pancha Bhuta in Sanskrit denotes the five essential earth elements), to more accurately reflect its expanded scope and mission, i.e., a phased transition to sustainable development with the ultimate goal of creating a circular economy.
  5. Going Global – India could become the first country in the world to demonstrate how GST/PHT/PPT is utilized to create a new sustainable or cultural economy in the world.

GST along with the information technology industry must export the new GST/PHT/PPT model to all countries of the world in exchange for clean tech know how. The direct taxation or income tax model is archaic for our present challenges, except for a few in the very high-income category.

In summary, a GST/PHT/PPT model holds immense promise to reshape the landscape of India towards a more sustainable future. Success in India could be the harbinger of using indirect taxes as a tool to create sustainability across the world.

Ram Ramprasad is a sustainability advocate and author with graduate degrees from Yale University, USA, and Madras University, India. With a background in global marketing, he has contributed to environmental publications in India and abroad, championing sustainable practices for a brighter future.

Mid-Day Meals That Educated Generations: Lessons from Tamil Nadu

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Image credit - https://tamil-desiyam.com/kamarajar-photos/

This is an excerpt from a chapter written by Chandra Mohan and A.R. Meyyammai in “Anchoring Change: Seventy-five years of Grassroots Interventions that Made a Difference” edited by Vikram Singh Mehta, Neelima Khetan and Jayapadma RV, published by Harper Collins India. The book is a recipient of the GLF Honour Award 2023.

In 1956, poverty was rampant in India, with up to 73 per cent of the population in rural areas living below the poverty line and the number of children enrolled in schools was abysmal. The chief minister, K. Kamaraj, was acutely aware of how poverty and hunger were conspiring to keep children out of school. He sought to address the issue by introducing a hugely ambitious and transformational scheme of serving an afternoon meal in all schools of Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj overcame opposition from many quarters to ensure that the government started providing hot meals to students in schools. For many impoverished children, it often became the only meal of the day. School enrolments saw a dramatic increase.

Among the new students was Mahendran, who ran barefoot to the elementary school in his village early every morning. The noon meal at school not only satiated him but also gave him a respite from his strenuous work. The meal made it possible for Mahendran to break the shackles of hunger, go to school, study and reach for the skies. It was his ticket to freedom from hunger, illiteracy and deprivation and would go on to change his life forever. He went on to become the first post-graduate from his community. Mahendran says, ‘If the school had not served me a hot meal, there was no way I would have gone to school. I would have continued to wash clothes for a living.’

Like Mahendran, who went on to become the first post-graduate from his community in the village, many generations have benefitted immensely from this scheme, and it has changed the destiny of many from a life of stark poverty and hunger to dignity, self-respect and a life-changing education. The noon-meal scheme not only eradicated hunger from classrooms but also substantially improved student enrolment, retention and education levels in Tamil Nadu, laying the foundations for the state to emerge as an economic powerhouse.

Origins of the Noon Meal Programme

The early 1900s saw many swift and dramatic political and social developments in the then Madras Presidency. Established power structures were challenged, and long-suppressed communities found their voice with the self-respect movement gaining traction. The South Indian Liberal Federation, which would later go on to become the Justice Party — was responsible for ushering in many of these sweeping social and political changes in Tamil Nadu.

One of the Justice Party leaders was Sir P. Theagaraya Chetty, who also served as the president of Madras Corporation. He found that boys studying in a corporation school came from very poor families and constituted an insignificant proportion of the student population. After much deliberation, the Madras Corporation council passed a dramatically progressive resolution in November 1920: it would provide free tiffin to the students of the corporation school at the Thousand Lights area. The daily cost was capped at one anna per student. No one could have guessed that this small beginning would in years inspire one of the largest programmes for social transformation in the state.

Madras Corporation later made concerted efforts to introduce and expand the noon meal scheme and included four more schools. There was an increase in enrolments by children from poorer communities who were earlier reluctant to attend school. Policymakers were pleasantly surprised when the attendance in these five schools doubled in just two years—from 811 in 1922-23 to 1,671 in 1924-25.

However, the colonial British government played spoilsport by refusing to allot the required funds to support the scheme and it had to be suspended in 1925. Sustained pressure on the government from various quarters eventually forced it to revive the funding after two years. This time the scheme was further expanded to cover about 1,000 poor students in twenty-five schools in the city.

The Architect of the Noon-Meal Scheme

Kamaraj, who was appointed as chief minister in 1956, was deeply disturbed at the sight of malnourished and emaciated children when he visited a school in Madurai district. Despite the state facing a severe financial crunch, he immediately resurrected the noon-meal scheme in 1956 in an attempt to bring all children who remained out of classrooms to schools. Political commitment coupled with administrative leadership led to the scheme being successful. Buoyed by this, the government decided to provide midday meals to school children from poor families for 200 days a year.

The proposal initially sought to cover 65,000 students in all the primary schools in the state by establishing 1,300 feeding centres. The chief minister was strongly committed to expanding the scheme but the state’s financial situation was a major constraint. Undaunted and undeterred, Chief Minister Kamaraj made a fervent plea to the public to donate liberally to this project. A school in Nagalapuram was the first to embrace the scheme. Local philanthropists were more than happy to provide food free of cost to those children who attended school. 

With the help of public donations, Kamaraj first introduced the scheme in government schools in Madras and later extended it to all districts. In 1956, the first state-sponsored school outside Madras implemented the scheme. It was in Ettayapuram, the village where the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati was born. Kamaraj found it appropriate to launch the scheme to honour the poet who had written the immortal lines: ‘Even if one person is deprived of food, we shall destroy the world.’

This was followed by many other initiatives by the state government—such as the distribution of free uniforms, which led to the revamping of the entire school education system. These measures laid a strong foundation for the state’s growth and development of education.

After Kamaraj, Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) extended the scheme to preschool children in the age group of two to five years in 1982. Later that year, children between five and nine years of age studying in primary schools in rural areas were also included. By 1984, the scheme had been extended to all children from age two to fifteen years studying in government (and government-aided) middle and high schools in both urban and rural areas.

Nationwide Application of the Scheme

The ‘Puratchi Thalaivar MGR Nutritious Meal Programme’ has emerged as a pioneering example for the rest of India. The Central government announced the ‘National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education’ (NP-NSPE) on Independence Day in 1995. Initially implemented in 2408 blocks around the country, within two years the scheme was in force in all blocks in all states and union territories. In 2007, upper primary children were added to the programme.

In September 2021, the cabinet committee on economic affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved a budget of Rs 1.31 trillion for the scheme to be in force at government and government-aided schools for the next five years. The programme has a special provision for providing supplementary nutrition to children in districts reporting a high prevalence of anaemia and other health issues.

The initiative started in just one school of Madras in 1920 has now not only continued for more than a hundred years but has also become one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. The journey of a hundred years is a story interspersed with stellar milestones, each of which added substantial value to the programme and its sustainability.

Alt Carbon to Help Farmers’ Improve Productivity

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Image credit - Alt Carbon

Shrey Agarwal, a 23-year-old Chemistry graduate from BITS Pilani, wants to permanently remove five million tons of CO2 durably and securely by 2030. His pioneering silicate weathering technique promises to propel the world towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2035.

He founded Alt Carbon which raised $ 550K pre-seed round recently. Led by Shastra VC, strategic angels who participated include Awais Ahmed from Pixxel, Anirudh Singla from Pepper Content, Utsav Somani from AngelList.

Shrey Agarwal, Founder Alt Carbon

The firm’s engineered process of accelerated silicate weathering not only creates high-quality carbon removal credits but also empowers farmers by providing them with amplified yields and increased income. Operating from Darjeeling and Bengaluru, he plans to collaborate closely with diverse agricultural communities and leading scientists to achieve his mission.

Since securing funding and incorporating just six months ago, Alt Carbon has initiated a pilot program to remove carbon from the air permanently and securely. “There is no Plan B,” Shrey Agarwal said adding, “We must leverage technology, market solutions, and India’s indigenous geographic and climatic advantages, as we plan for a Green Transition. To meet the 1.5 °C benchmark, a number of innovative climate action companies like ours must flourish in India.”

Silicate Weathering

Alt Carbon’s process of accelerated silicate weathering combined with its proprietary MRV (measure, report and verify) process, he says, ensures traceable high-quality long-tenure carbon capture creating a high impact in reducing carbon footprint. “Globally, there is a massive shortage of high-quality credits which Shrey and his team are best positioned to leverage,” Ashis Nayak, Partner at Shastra VC said.

By supplying vital soil nutrients for free, Alt Carbon empowers farmers to enhance their crop growth, resulting in amplified yields and increased income. “It’s not only about environmental protection; it’s about uplifting farmers and ensuring a sustainable future.” Shrey said. 

Shrey was raised in Darjeeling amidst a struggling tea industry. He witnessed firsthand the impact of climate change on local businesses and livelihoods. This experience fueled his belief in the crucial role of farming in addressing climate change.

How AI Can Significantly Improve Farms’ 3Ps

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Image credit - FarmERP

In a free-wheeling chat with Benedict Paramanand, Editor of SustainabilityNext, Sanjay Borkar, co-founder of the Pune-based FarmERP, delves deep into how his company is working with large commercial farms to improve their 3Ps using latest technology.

To start, could you share the three key transitions FarmERP has undergone since its inception?

FarmERP is now almost 27 years old. It’s always been an IT company, founded by Santosh and me. We are both Computer Engineering graduates from the University of Pune. Initially, we worked on various technological applications for industries.

Coming from farming families, we had a passion for agriculture. In 2001, we got an opportunity to work with the Department of Agriculture, Maharashtra state. We built multimedia content which introduced us to the agricultural field. It connected us with agricultural experts, agriculturists, farmers, and farming associations. That’s how our journey in agriculture began.

Mr. Sanjay Borkar – Co-founder and CEO – Farm ERP

So, your strong foundation in the tech industry led you to focus on the agricultural sector?

Yes, exactly. Farming was largely neglected by technology. We believed that introducing technology into farming would enhance productivity and profitability. That was our initial purpose. Eventually, we thought about developing software because creating content alone wasn’t enough. We realized the potential of quality certification, like the European CAP, to introduce quality in farming through software. That marked the beginning of our focus on software solutions.

From software, you then moved to ERP, and now to machine learning and AI. It’s quite a journey. How has the experience been?

It’s been thrilling to use cutting-edge technologies to solve problems in agriculture. Transitioning from developing software for farmers to creating an ERP system was a significant challenge. We serve farms of varying sizes, and their requirements differ greatly. Integrating a basic business layer into ERP, and then adding intelligence to it with AI and machine learning, made the process even more interesting. Our focus has always been on the three Ps: profitability, productivity, and predictability.

Considering the productivity challenges in Indian agriculture compared to countries like China, do you face similar challenges with large farms?

The challenge for large farms is indeed bigger due to the higher risks involved with managing larger land areas, inputs, labour, and machinery. However, these farms can be more organized and are usually more open to using technology, which aids in addressing these challenges.

And your platform focuses on B2B, serving corporate farms and not individual farmers directly?

Correct, we are a B2B platform. We serve plantations and farms, contract farming companies, and exporters. Working with smaller farmers indirectly through enterprises allows us to address different challenges, including those related to technology adoption and investment capacity.

On improving productivity in India, what are the key areas to focus on?

Improving soil health is paramount. Adopting regenerative practices and enhancing farm circularity are crucial for sustainable productivity. Managing the various factors affecting productivity is essential, and while not all can be controlled, the majority can be managed effectively.

Do you work with countries like Israel, known for their high productivity in agriculture?

While we don’t work directly with Israeli companies, our clients span 30 countries, including a notable example in Azerbaijan with 80,000 acres of farmland. Our solutions have helped increase their productivity significantly over the last five years.

With AI being a hot topic, how is it being integrated into the farming sector?

We’re just at the initial stages of integrating AI in agriculture. There are many challenges to address and problems to solve. For example, optimizing crop water requirements involves analyzing numerous data points to make precise irrigation recommendations. Similarly, pest and disease detection requires extensive data to achieve high accuracy in diagnosis and treatment.

Have you developed these technologies in-house, or do you integrate external solutions?

FarmERP is primarily an ERP platform, but we’ve added an agricultural intelligence layer called FarmGyan. It utilizes artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to provide advisories on climate, water requirements, nutrition, pests, and diseases. We’ve also developed solutions for plant counting and raw material assessment, among others, in-house to address specific agricultural challenges.

Would you say FarmERP is unique in the global market, and is FarmERP planning to cater to micro to mid-level farms soon?

I believe we are one of the unique companies in this space. There aren’t many players in agricultural ERP, but we are among the top, offering a complete suite from Farm to Fork, including traceability. Additionally, FarmERP is already SAAS-based, and we are indeed looking to expand our services to micro and mid-level farms, potentially starting in 2025.

How does FarmERP differentiate from earlier models like e-Choupal, especially since it was providing free information to farmers?

E-Choupal focused on procuring from farmers and giving them some advice. FarmERP offers an end-to-end solution, not just advisories but also managing the entire operational flow from procurement to consumer, including traceability. This holistic approach sets us apart and caters to a broader range of companies’ needs.

Lastly, what’s your vision for FarmERP over the next five years?

The future of FarmERP involves enhancing predictability through AI and machine learning, addressing climate change, and integrating sustainability and carbon reporting into our ERP solutions. We’re focusing on solving these significant challenges and driving forward with technology.

Watch Full interview – https://youtu.be/i9gWkKVKPHU

Why India Should Support Lithium Battery Recycling

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Image credit - Flickr

As the world transitions towards cleaner energy sources and electric mobility, the demand for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) has skyrocketed. In India, this trend is particularly pronounced, with the government pushing for electric vehicle (EV) adoption and the growth of renewable energy sources. However, with this surge in demand comes the challenge of managing the end-of-life disposal of lithium batteries. Recycling plays a crucial role in mitigating environmental impact and ensuring the sustainable use of resources. In this article, we’ll explore the current capacity and future challenges of lithium battery recycling in India.

Indian Market Overview

Utkarsh Singh, Co-Founder & CEO of Batx Energies

India’s lithium-ion battery market is set for a massive jump, reaching a value of about USD 2.48 billion by the end of 2023. By 2028, the market is expected to grow to USD 5.49 billion, with a significant growth rate of 17.21% from 2023 to 2028. In India, the potential for battery storage is huge, with the total cumulative potential reaching a remarkable 600 GWh by 2030. Electric vehicles (EVs) and electronics (behind the meter) are likely to be key factors driving the widespread adoption of battery storage solutions in India. This growth highlights the increasing importance of lithium-ion batteries in the country with a promising outlook for both market value and cumulative potential for battery storage.

Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) Recycling in India

Cumulative demand and recycling potential 2022-2030

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite limited domestic resources for battery metals, India’s lithium-ion battery industry faces challenges. Recycling becomes crucial, providing a secondary source and reducing import reliance. However, the lack of strict regulations for battery disposal poses environmental risks. A structured recycling ecosystem is vital to minimize these hazards. Moreover, geopolitical concerns and dependence on China for battery components add to the challenges. Recycling can help mitigate these risks by fostering domestic production and increasing resilience in the face of global uncertainties.

One major worry is the environmental strain caused by metal mining, which increases emissions, water use, and deforestation. Recycling offers a viable substitute, lowering the environmental effects and requiring less virgin mining.

Ultimately, one of the most important aspects of the sector is price discovery for used electric vehicle (EV) batteries. To determine the batteries’ resale value, a healthy recycling market can be crucial in fostering investor trust and increasing the range of financing choices available for electric vehicles.

Breakdown of EV Market in India

  • The electric vehicle market in India is experiencing rapid growth, with electric three-wheelers (E3Ws) leading the charge, accounting for 40% of total three-wheelers sold in FY21. Electric two-wheelers (E2Ws) are also gaining popularity, especially in metro cities, while electric four-wheelers (E4Ws) and electric goods vehicles show promising potential for growth.
  • Recycling Potential of EV Industry
Electric vehiclesLFPLMONCANMC111NMC662LTO
Cumulative recycling volume 2022-2030 (GWh)110.44.33.931.87.5
Cumulative recycling volume 2022-2030 (thousand tons)76.82.615.418.5149.792.3
  • The recycling potential of electric vehicle batteries varies depending on the vehicle type. Two-wheelers and three-wheelers have limited second-life potential due to their higher number of charging and discharging cycles. On the other hand, electric four-wheelers and e-buses exhibit higher second-life potential, with an estimated 60% of retiring batteries expected to be reused in various applications.

Behind The Meter (BTM) Applications and Consumer Electronics

Battery recycling in India is expanding with new opportunities in areas beyond traditional applications. Telecom and UPS backup systems are contributing to the growing demand for battery recycling. India’s dominance as a global telecom market drives the need for reliable power solutions, leading to increased battery consumption. Consumer electronics are also a major player in the Indian lithium-ion battery market. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets substantially contribute to battery demand. By 2030, the consumer electronics sector is projected to provide around 14.7 gigawatt-hours of recyclable batteries. This highlights the integral role of consumer electronics in driving the demand for recycling solutions in the evolving landscape of India’s lithium-ion battery market.

Recycling Potential of Grid Applications +  BTM

Stationary storage (BTM + grid)LFPLMONMCNCA
Cumulative recycling volume 20222030 (GWh)48.60.93.10.9
Cumulative recycling volume 20222030 (thousand tons)338.36.314.53.4

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Despite the growing demand for lithium-ion batteries, India faces several challenges in establishing a robust recycling ecosystem. Limited domestic sources of critical battery metals, environmental hazards from informal recycling practices, and geopolitical risks from global supply chain disruptions are some of the challenges that need to be addressed.
  • However, there are also significant opportunities in the lithium battery recycling market. Establishing comprehensive recycling policies and incentives, investing in research and development of sustainable recycling technologies, and promoting a circular economy approach can accelerate the growth of the recycling industry in India.

India faces hurdles in developing a strong recycling system for lithium-ion batteries. These challenges include a lack of domestic metal sources, environmental risks, and global supply chain issues. However, there are also opportunities for growth in this sector. India can implement comprehensive recycling policies, offer incentives for recycling, and invest in eco-friendly technologies to boost the industry. Furthermore, embracing a circular economy model that focuses on recycling and sustainable resource management could yield substantial benefits. By tackling these challenges and capitalizing on opportunities, India can foster a thriving and sustainable lithium battery recycling sector.

Recycling Market Potential

  • The Indian LIB recycling market is nascent but expected to grow rapidly by 2025, fueled by increasing EV and grid storage adoption.
  • LFP, NMC, and LCO chemistries will dominate. Those containing nickel and cobalt are most attractive to recyclers due to their value.

India’s Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) recycling industry is just starting out, but it will likely grow a lot by 2025. This growth will be fueled by the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and grid storage options. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC), and Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO) are expected to be the most common types of batteries recycled. Recyclers are especially interested in batteries with nickel and cobalt because they are worth more. The LIB recycling industry in India is expected to grow quickly as people become more interested in green energy. This will give companies that focus on recycling valuable chemicals a lot of good business opportunities.

Recycling Technologies

  • Pre-treatment: May involve discharging, dismantling, sorting, and thermal (pyrolysis) or mechanical processing to prepare batteries for further recycling.
  • Pyrometallurgy: Extracts a metal alloy containing cobalt, nickel, iron, and copper. This alloy undergoes further processing to recover individual metals.
  • Hydrometallurgy: Uses acid-based leaching, solvent extraction, and other techniques to produce pure metals or metal salts for battery manufacturing.
  • Emerging Technologies Direct recycling seeks to separate, recondition, and directly reuse cathode and anode materials, shortening the process and maximizing recovery.

As India progresses towards electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, the need for lithium-ion batteries is rapidly increasing. To handle the rising number of batteries reaching the end of their useful life and minimize their environmental impact, India must prioritize developing effective recycling systems. Solving current problems and leveraging new chances can make India a leader in lithium battery recycling, creating a more sustainable future. To address environmental and resource concerns while promoting a circular economy, it is essential to create a comprehensive lithium-ion battery recycling ecosystem.

Moreover, government initiatives and incentives can boost the expansion of the recycling industry. Continuous research is also crucial to developing more effective and environmentally friendly recycling techniques, ensuring a smooth and sustainable shift toward recycling practices.

Energy Conservation Theme A Big Hit at IIT Madras’ Saarang 2024

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Saarang launched ‘Urjam’. It emphasized the urgency of adopting sustainable practices in our daily lives. This campaign went beyond mere awareness creation, it actively involves students in identifying and addressing issues related to energy consumption. Through collaborations with various organizations, Saarang strives to make a lasting impact on the mindset and behavior of the youth, paving the way for a more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious future.

Understanding the everyday energy needs on campuses, from sustaining extracurricular activities to charging electronics, ‘Urjam’ seeks to link sustainable practices with students’ immediate experiences. By highlighting minor yet significant adjustments, such as shutting off lights and adopting energy-saving devices, the campaign motivates students to actively participate in environmental preservation. With the screening of the ‘Urjam’ launch video to signify the official launch the social campaign, the fun-filled night came to an end on a somber note.

Teach For India is dedicated to changing lives through education. Through a program called the Teach for India Fellows, where passionate individuals spend two years in underprivileged schools, their fellows shape young minds and create lasting change. Teach For India also advocates for systemic change and collaborates with government schools to improve education for all.

‘Urjam’ aims to develop kids into proponents of environmentally friendly behaviors, and make them mindful that decisions taken in this stage have the potential to influence and mold future leaders. Hence, through this collaboration, students from the Saarang, IIT Madras team visited several Chennai schools and conducted engaging and informative sessions with the students about the importance of energy conservation. Through fun interactive activities, they navigated through the fundamentals of electric energy and fuel, gradually addressing their environmental impact.

Teach For India also conducted a workshop during Saarang where the focus was largely on the power of leadership and voicing one’s opinion about energy conservation. It included interactive activities and daily scenarios in which your decisions have a massive, compounded effect on the environment, thus encouraging the attendees to alter their lifestyle to use electricity and fuel more judiciously.

Spotlight, a lecture series that hosts esteemed personalities during Saarang, showcased Suraj Vallamkonda, a distinguished IIT Madras alumni and head of Ather Energy’s Battery Engineering team, as a featured speaker. His spotlight, specifically a part of the social campaign ‘Urjam’, provided insights into Ather’s transformative journey in the electric vehicle sector. The lecture highlighted Ather’s technological milestones, including the Ather Grid charging network, emphasizing sustainability with 86 patents, 169 trademarks, and 150+ Indian and International design registrations. By offering intelligent electric vehicles and a wide-ranging charging network, Ather actively promotes energy-saving practices and contributes to reducing carbon footprint.

The ‘How to Come a Grassroots Entrepreneur’ seminar organized by SustainabilityNext

The panel of speakers included Nagaraja Prakasam, who offered invaluable guidance on navigating the entrepreneurial geography. Sanjeeta Kumar spoke of the transformative power of sustainable husbandry and empowering pastoral communities. Manjula spoke about sustainably growing mangoes and without using harmful chemicals. Benedict Paramanand, the founder of Sustainability Next, moderated an engaging dialogue that reverberated with every attendee. Tech workshops seamlessly integrated technology and sustainability, offering participants a unique opportunity to explore innovative solutions for environmental challenges.

Punjab and Haryana Farmers to Earn Carbon Credits for Sustainable Farming

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Image credit - Outlook Planet

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana, two of India’s major rice and wheat-producing states, are set to be awarded carbon credits for adopting environmentally friendly farming methods. This initiative, a first in India, aims at incentivising farmers to switch to sustainable agricultural practices, such as direct seeding and reduced tillage, that contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The pioneering carbon farming program is spearheaded by Grow Indigo (GIPL), a collaborative venture between India’s domestic seed giant Mahyco and the US-based agricultural technology company Indigo. According to Umang Agarwal, the head of carbon initiatives at Grow Indigo, the program has successfully completed its audit under the Verra protocol—a global framework for voluntary greenhouse gas reduction. Farmers participating in this program are expected to receive carbon credit certification in the coming months, marking a significant milestone in their journey towards sustainable agriculture.

Grow Indigo’s program is designed to reward farmers with carbon credits and offer them the opportunity to earn a premium for their low-emission crops. “Our carbon program assists food companies in procuring crops that are produced with lower emissions. Farmers have the option to benefit from carbon credits or receive a premium for their produce,” Agarwal explained. This initiative underscores a comprehensive approach to promoting sustainable farming practices while ensuring economic benefits for the farmers.

With more than 300,000 hectares of farmland currently enrolled, GIPL aims to expand the program to 1.5 million hectares across various states in India over the next few years. The program covers a wide range of crops including rice, wheat, maize, cotton, sugarcane, and also agro-forestry, spanning 15 states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra, among others.

Farmers participating in the program can earn one carbon credit per acre annually, each valued at $40 and equivalent to a reduction of one tonne of CO2 emissions. The initiative targets practices such as the cultivation of direct-seeded rice, which enhances water efficiency, and no-tillage farming, which conserves soil organic biomass.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) lends its expertise in remote sensing technology for satellite monitoring of the paddy and wheat fields enrolled in the program. This technology is crucial for validating the sustainable practices claimed by the farmers.

This innovative program aligns with the broader efforts by the Indian government, which recently released a framework for a voluntary carbon market. The aim is to unify all stakeholders under a common goal of transitioning to sustainable practices and enhancing mitigation efforts against climate change.

As India continues to be a leading global player in rice production and export, initiatives like these are vital for ensuring that the agricultural sector remains sustainable and environmentally friendly, contributing positively to the global fight against climate change.