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Monday, December 11, 2023

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Finally, Here’s Water from Air @ Affordable Cost


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


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


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.

New Rule Book Dilutes Paris Agreement on Climate Change: CSE


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.”


  • 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.

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


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


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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

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


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.

“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.

Landfills Soon to Become Feedstock for Industries

Unveiling of NCEF at the 8th International Conference on Waste to Worth

The Government of India estimates that over 18 crore metric tons of waste is lying in over 15,000 acres of land across the country. Can landfills be recovered and converted into feedstock and eco-parks? 

India is the third largest consumer of resources after China and the United States. It imports 80 per cent of its oil and gas and 100 per cent of its precious metals. The irony is that a good percentage of all these materials which India pays huge money importing, are lying idle in the landfill mountains across the country. At last, India seems to have woken up to the abundant wealth its waste promises. 

The Confederation of Indian Industries in collaboration with the Government of India, released the Waste to Worth – Draft Circularity Taskforce Report on 30 November 2023 in New Delhi. It shows that the central government and the industry are serious about driving the transition from waste to worth through aggressive policy outreach and collaboration with the industry. 

India’s largest waste-management company ReSustainability values Indian waste at five trillion dollars by 2030. Most of the waste can be converted into various forms of resources and supplied as raw materials to industries. The optimum way to utilize these resources is when waste recovery companies are set up in clusters alongside companies that need the waste as their raw material. 

SustainabilityNext, the media partner to the CII-led International Conference on Waste to Worth’ captures a few significant insights from the conference:  

The draft draws a roadmap for stringing together various policies that exist around circularity. They are currently disparate and fragmented. The Circularity Draft is a collaborative effort with several experts and central government officials from various departments. 

Unified Circularity Policy

The draft framework has proposed a holistic circularity framework that involves several commodities from a recycling and resource recovery point of view. So far only a few regulations exist for plastic, e-waste and construction waste. The draft recognizes that the approach, the direction related to recycling goals, and the obligations associated with each of the resources are different. There are many commodities and materials, which form a big part of the waste, that are not addressed so far and will come into the ambit. 

Design for obsolescence or longevity – the choice is now clear. The corporates are eager for early obsolescence of their products so that they can introduce newer products soon while consumers and environmentalists prefer longer shelf life of products. 

Masood Mallick, CEO of ReS, said there was little understanding about design for repair, reuse or life extension in the country. “What we have now is designed for obsolesce, not a design for longevity. There is a need to reverse this.” He notes, “The first radios had an average life of 28 years, today they may not last even a year. The life of products has been reduced significantly. No one is asking this question from a regulatory standpoint.” 

Mobile phone companies used to provide replaceable batteries. Today, they are embedded in the phone. Mallick adds: “Products are becoming complicated, and their lifespan is decreasing. We need new regulations on producer responsibility. We need to challenge the make, take, throw culture. This can happen if the government helps to make recycling profitable. If they don’t comply, penalize them. We need a level-playing field for producers to help them comply.” 

National Waste Exchange 

Prof. Anil Gupta, grassroots innovation evangelist and former faculty at IIM Ahmedabad headed the panel that gave away awards for innovative companies in waste recovery and recycling. He urged policymakers to add ‘Repair’ to the popular 3 Rs of waste management – recycle, reuse, and reduce. “Indians have a knack for repairing anything, we should support this talent,” he noted. 

For him, the categorization of waste is a critical aspect of the circularity policy which the draft had not focused on enough. 

He proposed a waste exchange, similar to commodities exchanges, for other materials. But for that categorization is critical. 

Roopa Mishra, Joint Secretary – SBM, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, said a pilot is on for setting up waste exchanges in 30 cities and towns. She hopes a national exchange for waste would boost the waste recovery sector immensely. 

India is likely to have materials recovery centres in most cities in the next three years. They could create two crore jobs in a decade. Energy waste offered immense promise in cities. What is important, she noted, is to de-risk it so that entrepreneurs would find it worth investing.

Masood Mallick believes that the waste exchange has immense potential. However, waste exchange as a concept needs a lot more infrastructure around it to become sustainable and scalable. Waste needs processing before it gets value. The real value is in processing. Transformation of this waste into feedstock from a downstream industry is where value unlocking will happen. Only then can economic value be attached to waste, which will be much higher than the commodity value it currently offers. 

“Commodity offers extremely low margin and is subject to vagaries of the market and little opportunity to scale. However, if we could create products from this waste or raw material for several industries, we would have added immense value. This is the sweet spot for those in the waste business,” he told SN on the sidelines of the conference.

Waste exchanges need to become circularity parks – a cluster of different industries that are complementary to each other. For example, Mallick observes, “We are setting up an end-of-life car recycling facility at Manesar. If there were electronics plastics or metal recycling facilities nearby, we could supply them with all the raw materials. A lot of value is lost in transportation. So, circularity parks are good both economically and environmentally.”

ReS is working on a blueprint for setting up circularity parks in various parts of the country. The first draft is being discussed with the government. 

Several countries are exploring the idea of circular parks. ReS wants to lead this transformation. “We think our opportunity is unique. Given India’s resource intensity and import intensity of resources is high, so we are in a good position to leverage this, from an environmental, economic and resource security point of view,” Mallick noted.

The L1 Curse 

As per law governments are obliged to offer tenders to the lowest bidder. However, this policy has been responsible for the stalling of most infrastructure projects. And low quality of roads and bridges in India is blamed for the L1 policy. 

How to get around the L1 curse? Experts believe a more detailed tender specifying capabilities needed at every stage will encourage weaker companies to apply. 

Redefining Waste to Wealth to Waste to Worth

The transition from waste to wealth to worth reflects maturity; it reflects pragmatism. The waste-to-wealth movement emerged from the belief that the value of waste has not been recognized sufficiently. Since value is often measured in terms of wealth, there was a cost attached to converting waste to a resource. Most often, the cost is higher than the value of the derived resource. 

Also, there is risk and uncertainty in extracting wealth out of waste. And at the end of the value chain, we find no residual wealth. However, what we do have is resources. Something worthless in an economist’s view has been transformed into something that has worth. 

We hope that soon worth gets translated into wealth. That is why investors are interested in this as a business proposition. At scale, investments are being made and innovative business models are being created. It is the promise of wealth. We have to measure ourselves in terms of the worth we are creating. It is a long-term play. We are in it to make it a long-term sustainable and profitable endeavor.

Seva Mandir: Exploring the intersections of Seva, Sadhna, and Kranti

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Seva Mandir has come to be recognised for its deep community work and its introspective culture. Incorporated in 1967, it made a conscious choice to stay focused on southern Rajasthan and has developed strong insights into community development. While its direct engagement is with 1,300 villages in two districts of south Rajasthan, Seva Mandir has impacted the development discourse at the national and international levels. 

The core of Seva Mandir’s approach has been the belief that change from within is the most essential ingredient for building a more just, equal and caring society. This inner transformation is the sadhana (sustained practice) that has been a constant in the organization. Another core element of Seva Mandir’s approach has been its belief that constructive work is the most enduring lever for change. Hence, service or seva, has been a strong thread that has run through all its efforts – whether it is in terms of running a preschool centre or doing community forestry. This requires a community to work on constantly holding each other to account, ensuring equity in efforts and rewards as well as transparency in operations. Seva and Sadhna thus go hand-in-hand for Seva Mandir, each remaining incomplete without the other. 

Both Seva and Sadhna are in some way incomplete if they do not ultimately lead to Kranti (defined as a deep/significant change in the way things are done or organised). In that respect, Kranti is the only one in this triad who is both an intervention and an outcome. 

Some of the lasting contributions by Seva Mandir to the development landscape in the country include – pioneering efforts in adult education, people’s movement around afforestation and bringing communities together around common lands, innovating the concept of the Gram Vikas Kosh (Village Development Fund) as a nucleus of community cohesion and autonomy.

Building ‘social capital’ has been both a means and an end for Seva Mandir. In almost all its programmes, Seva Mandir attempts to bring in a community dimension. The Gram Vikas Kosh thrived by involving beneficiary families in contributing to a shared fund from immediate wages and long-term productivity gains. It evolved into a virtual ‘commons’ embedding democratic values and empowering villages with financial autonomy.  

Seva Mandir’s approach establishes the principle of non-exclusivity – that it is not just inspired leaders, but every one of us who can and must contribute to building a better society.     

Seva Mandir also realised early that constraints to development come not only from the outside (such as through policies or lack of resources), but also from inside. Seemingly homogenous tribal communities were also divided internally, eroding their ability to cooperate or hold others to account. These internal contradictions were factored into the way the organisation approached its work of rebuilding communities.

Even though everyone would agree that it’s not possible to succeed all the time, yet, somehow the discourse among civil society organisations is mostly centred around successes. However, Seva Mandir was able to build a microculture where honest reflection was the norm, not just internally but also with its donors and supporters, or with visitors. 

This helped build some truly strong programmes, especially in the areas of natural resources development, education and building community institutions. Acknowledgement of its failures and a constant review of its own beliefs and interventions have enabled Seva Mandir to remain relevant and adaptive to the constantly changing context.

Two key external factors that helped Seva Mandir enormously in its work have been the rootstock of social capital that exists in tribal communities, and a set of exceptional donors during a critical phase of the organization’s evolution. Some enlightened donors introduced a completely different paradigm of partnering by asking Seva Mandir to make its own full and comprehensive plan for three years. Seva Mandir seized this opportunity and put in place processes whereby every village developed its plan and budgets, which were then factored into a larger goal and direction. 

Looking back can be both easy and difficult – there is hindsight-enabled clearer vision and one can forget the reality of actions and decisions taken while being on the ‘dance floor’. 

There are tensions related to conversations around the positions of ethics and morality of the sector’s functioning, especially when there are overlaps with other non-profits working in similar geographies or domains. The balance between constructive work and the struggle for rights, the elusive balance between Seva and Kranti, is another area the organisation has grappled with. 

The work of organizations such as Seva Mandir is ultimately located in the space of community aspirations and beliefs, with an attempt to both understand those aspirations and influence them. Most of Seva Mandir’s focus was on strengthening options in the village (through forestry, agriculture and even some small enterprise development), and it kept receiving positive reaffirmation on this direction from the communities. However, the reality was also that migration continued to increase. Often when communities sense a wider chasm between their belief systems and those of the outside agency—and where they feel that engagement may only lead to disharmony—a kind of ‘weapons of the weak’ syndrome begins to work in the shape of overt agreement and acquiescence. There is no sure way to avoid this, except to keep working on one’s ability to listen and look beyond one’s own perspectives.

Another dilemma has been – where do the boundaries of the institution end and where does it merge into the society it is a part of? Does an organization (especially one like Seva Mandir which is trying to bring about social change) worry only about how people behave within its institutional boundaries or should it also worry about how they behave beyond the organizational boundaries? Being conscious of this has led to Seva Mandir adopting more of an approach of reform (and not just a punitive one). This has resulted in the creation of a far more caring organizational environment and has led to (maybe) values which have permeated into spaces beyond the institution. 

Seva Mandir’s experience suggests that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the way we think about development. It is not enough for the government to make large allocations of funds for poverty alleviation and rural development. What is needed is that villagers themselves and civil society be empowered to play a significant role in the conceptualisation, execution, and governance of development. In this approach of autonomous development, the differences in education and class backgrounds can give way to more wholesome identities of shared purpose. 

At another level, Seva Mandir also realised that those who are oppressed are often complicit in their exploitation. They tolerate the poor quality of public services—such as health provision, education and stable property rights—as well as the arbitrary behaviour of the authorities. They often seek benefits to which they are not entitled and thereby bend to those in power rather than seeking to transform their relationships. Realigning self-interest so that it supports, rather than undercuts, the common good is the challenge for development, not just improving individual well-being in terms of health, education and income. Seva Mandir has found that constructive work programmes can bring this change. It, however, needs time, patience and a vision for development that acknowledges the damage being done by development sans democracy.

This blog is a summary of a chapter written by Neelima Khetan 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.

The chapter summary has been prepared by Jayapadma RV.

Climate Collapse in Real Time

Photo: Beata Zawrzel/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

At COP 28, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that humanity is in “deep trouble.” “Things are moving so fast that a full month before the end of the year, we can already declare that 2023 is the hottest year recorded in human history,” Guterres said in a video message to delegates in Dubai.

“We are living through climate collapse in real-time – and the impact is devastating,” he said, also pointing out rising sea levels, record high sea surface temperatures and the loss of glaciers globally.

“This year has seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods, and searing temperatures. Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders. And it should trigger them to act,” he said.

The climate summit gathers representatives from some 200 states.

This year’s COP28 climate talks began with a moment of silence to honour the victims of the Gaza war and Saleemul Huq, a well-known Bangladeshi climate researcher who recently died.

Germany and UAE pledge $200m to compensate for climate damage

Germany and the United Arab Emirates pledged $200 million to compensate particularly vulnerable countries for climate damage, as the UN’s climate summit kicked off in Dubai on Thursday.

On the first day of the summit, Germany and the United Arab Emirates announced both would contribute $100 million each to assist countries most affected by climate change.

These nations, such as island states, expect rich industrialised countries in particular to help since they are the biggest polluters.

Britain, the United States and Japan also made smaller financial pledges. This is the first time that money has been channelled into the loss and damage fund, which was agreed last year at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt.

Earlier on Thursday, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said 2023 would top 2016 as the hottest year on record, with the global mean temperature rising 1.4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.

“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record-high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said.

Dr. Ullas Karanth Bats For an Inclusive Approach to Conservation

Dr Ullas karanth at the Green Literature Festival 2023

Dr Karanth lamented the diminishing space for books, a metaphor for the shrinking room for nature amidst human expansion. “Reading is the window to knowledge and the world. I’ve been to big libraries and bookstores across the world, and one thing that saddens me is that gifts, trophies, and other stationeries are sharing spaces with books, making other potential books not have a space. The space for books is shrinking,” he remarked, drawing a parallel to the encroachment on natural habitats.

As a keynote speaker at the recent third edition of the Green Literature Festival –, Dr. Karanth, a luminary in wildlife conservation, remarked on the urgency of preserving our planet’s biodiversity. He founded the Centre for Wildlife Studies and his extensive work in tiger ecology brought to light critical issues facing nature conservation today. His research delved deep into the ecology of tigers and other large mammals, providing invaluable insights into their behaviours.

Distinguishing Environmentalism from Nature Conservation

Dr. Karanth emphasized the distinction between environmentalism and nature conservation, noting that while environmentalism aims to make the world better for humans, nature conservation adopts a more holistic approach. He stated, “Nature conservation is about all underrepresented species on Earth. Everyone and every species. Big species and domesticated animals are bearing on wild nature due to our actions.” This perspective underscores the need for a broader, inclusive approach to conserving biodiversity.

The Impact of Human Development on Biodiversity

Highlighting the dramatic shift in the balance of nature post-agriculture, Dr Karanth shared startling statistics: “10,000 years ago, human biomass was just 1 percent of all biomass of mammals. Now, we occupy 97 per cent, leaving just 3 per cent for all other creatures. We can’t let go of that percentage; we must be serious about nature conservation.” This profound change underscores the critical need for sustainable practices in agriculture and energy production, which are the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.

Optimism in the Face of Challenge

Despite these challenges, Dr. Karanth’s speech was not without hope. He reflected on changes in land use, from agrarian to forested areas, and the potential for nature to rebound if given a chance. “I’ve not seen a wild tiger free in nature since 1982. But nature has come back for good in certain areas. With the right chemistry of reason and logic, supplemented by emotions, we can be optimistic about our conservation efforts,” he said.

Dr Ullas Karanth’s speech at the Green Literature Festival 2023 was more than a call to action; it was a profound reminder of our responsibility towards the myriad species sharing our planet. His words, steeped in decades of experience and dedication to wildlife conservation, offered a blend of realism and hope, urging us to rethink our relationship with nature. As Dr Karanth concluded, the audience was left with a renewed sense of urgency and the realization that preserving our planet’s biodiversity is not just an environmental issue, but a moral imperative for all of humanity.

Dr Karanth’s expertise is recognized internationally, evident in his roles with the World Conservation Union’s specialist groups on diverse species, and his co-founding of the academic program in wildlife biology and conservation at NCBS-TIFR Bangalore. His association with prominent conservation organizations in India, such as the Wildlife Institute of India and the Bombay Natural History Society, further underscores his influence in shaping wildlife conservation policies and practices.

Watch the full speech here:

The World Needs More Citizen Scientists

Sabita Malla (front), tiger expert at WWF Nepal, is walking with citizen scientists responsible for monitor tigers in the Khata Corridor.

Our planet is home to an estimated 8.7 million species, with 1.2 million already described, and new discoveries emerging continually. However, the balance of these ecosystems is under threat due to human activities and a lack of awareness, leading to the extinction of numerous species. This loss has profound implications, not just for nature, but for humanity itself. Citizen scientists can help.

“Local communities are the custodians of natural resources. They have the most knowledge about their surroundings and in training them we help build the capacity of communities to understand and address conservation issues; recognize changes in local ecosystems such as forest cover including invasion of alien plant species; monitor the movement of wildlife; and ultimately develop local stewardship for overall conservation,” says Shant Raj Jnawali, Biodiversity Coordinator, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal.

The concept of ‘Citizen Science’ is increasingly relevant in this context. Citizen Scientists are individuals from local communities who contribute to scientific activities such as data collection and analysis on forests, wildlife, water, and climate.

“Citizen scientists can be students, wildlife enthusiasts, or anyone with a diary, smartphone or recording device, and interested in collecting data. They can record and upload their findings on several online portals such as,,, and many more. The ideal method of documentation follows the Primary Biodiversity Record model: What species, when, where and who recorded it? 

It is common for diligent citizen scientists to record rare species outside their habitats, discover new species, and find invasive species in an ecosystem. Additionally, this data can also be used in People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR) and for environmental impact assessment (EIA) considerations, and will be of great help to conservation and climate science” ” says  Dr. Vijay Barve, Researcher in Biodiversity Informatics and Citizen Science 

The unique advantage of citizen science lies in its accessibility and reach. Citizen scientists, often young people and community members, can access areas and communities that professional scientists might not, bringing invaluable local and national conservation insights. They support professional scientists by providing systematic data, sharing experiences, and spreading conservation awareness within their communities.

Community Engagement in India

In India, the integration of citizen science initiatives into educational and community spheres has a profound impact on environmental consciousness. These initiatives are increasingly being woven into the fabric of educational systems, from schools to universities, where students are actively participating in hands-on scientific activities. This approach not only enriches their academic experience but also instills a deeper understanding of complex environmental issues such as biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution. 

Beyond formal education, numerous organizations conduct workshops and training programs, effectively broadening the reach of environmental education. These programs not only impart knowledge but also emphasize the importance of biodiversity and the need for its conservation, thus fostering a sense of environmental stewardship among participants.

The role of citizen science in community engagement and empowerment in India is particularly noteworthy. Projects often focus on involving local communities, especially in rural and ecologically sensitive areas. This inclusive approach not only values and utilizes the traditional ecological knowledge of these communities but also integrates it with modern scientific research. Such a synergy between traditional wisdom and contemporary science promotes a holistic approach to environmental management and conservation. 

This participatory model of citizen science is instrumental in bridging gaps between communities and conservation efforts, ensuring that conservation strategies are both effective and culturally relevant.

Public Awareness is a Byproduct

Citizen science initiatives in India play a crucial role in raising public awareness and influencing behavioural change towards the environment. Through various awareness campaigns and the use of media and online platforms, these projects reach a wide audience, sparking discussions and spreading knowledge about environmental issues. This heightened awareness often translates into a collective call for action, influencing public attitudes and encouraging sustainable practices. 

Moreover, the data collected by citizen scientists is invaluable for informing local and national environmental policies. Success stories from projects like ‘SeasonWatch‘ and ‘Marine Life of Mumbai’ exemplify the positive impact of such initiatives, highlighting how citizen science can not only contribute to scientific research but also educate the public on critical environmental phenomena.

The growing role of citizen scientists represents a shift in conservation paradigms, acknowledging the interconnectedness of all life and the power of local knowledge. As we face unprecedented environmental challenges, the synergy between professional science and community engagement might just be the key to preserving the delicate balance of our planet’s biodiversity.

MYRADA and the Emergence of Self-Help Groups in India


The Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency, MYRADA, was established in 1968, to support the resettlement of Tibetan refugees. By 1978, they shifted focus to work with rural communities in backward and drought-prone regions across Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. MYRADA is renowned for pioneering micro-finance and sustainable rural development initiatives through people-driven institutions.

The Self-Help Group (SHG) movement’s evolution, linked with MYRADA, stemmed from joint efforts by the RBI, NABARD, state entities, and thousands of voluntary organizations. They recognized the challenge of integrating informal workers into the formal financial system, and fostered the SHG-bank linkage as a transition, aiding the poor to engage with the formal financial sector while leveraging their own institutions. 

SHGs acted as a stepping stone, addressing societal disparities, involving women, and promoting financial inclusion utilizing existing bank branches and cooperatives. Acknowledging that financial provision alone wasn’t sufficient, NGOs and women’s corporations assisted in addressing social issues and empowering the poor. MYRADA focused on fostering SHGs as confident, income-enhancing institutions, circumventing hurdles to self-reliance posed by powerful entities controlling resources. 

Working with Primary Agriculture Credit Societies in the 1980s, MYRADA discovered inherent inequalities within these structures, dominated by powerful families exploiting the marginalized. Encouraging marginalized women to form Credit Management Groups (CMG), MYRADA steered away from direct confrontation with PACS. 

They facilitated the evolution of CMGs’ by harnessing traditional strengths of mutual trust and support. Recognizing these groups’ potential as institutions, MYRADA supported their development through institutional capacity building and fostering gender balance. CMGs initiated savings programs and provided a safe space for women. They faced resistance but persisted amid disruptions. This approach led Women’s Development Corporations to adopt the CMG/SHG model for women’s empowerment in various states.

Self-help to Credit Management Groups 

The periods between 1987 and 1996, was a pivotal era for the SHG movement’s policy framework. NABARD, recognizing the limitations of previous programmes, invested in the CMG approach, which emphasized savings, regular meetings, skills training and capacity building. This marked a shift from individual loans with subsidies, allowing groups to decide loan purposes and repayment schedules. Banks also extended support by opening savings accounts for unregistered CMGs. RBI’s involvement and NABARD’s strategic efforts, including naming the groups as SHGs in 1988, enabled these changes. The linkage model found early success, notably in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, demonstrating the potential for women’s empowerment and lower transaction costs compared to traditional lending. These pioneering efforts offered insights into diverse livelihoods and the transformative impact of SHGs.

MYRADA recognized the need for comprehensive loan data to engage with banks effectively. Between 1990 and 1995, it meticulously collected and analyzed SHG loan information, revealing diverse loan types and amounts, unlike the standardized loans in the governments Integrated Rural Development Programme. SHGs empowered their members, familiar with local nuances, to allocate funds, fostering adaptability. NABARD invested in nationwide data collection, ensuring SHG expansion to remote regions, elevating it as a priority program. 

Such insights influenced MYRADA’s watershed management initiative to reduce dryland agriculture risks, demonstrating a broader ‘credit-plus’ focus for sustainable growth and empowerment. SHGs prioritized social issues, compelling decisions like girls’ education and sanitation. Studies highlighted positive societal changes due to SHG interventions, exemplified by meetings on non-financial topics and SHG members actively engaging in public initiatives. The social impact also extended to political participation, observed in SHG members’ successful panchayat election bids, chronicled in MYRADA’s ‘Rural Management Systems’ papers.

MYRADA convinced rural banks to open CMG/SHG accounts as Associations of Persons. By 2004, 573 banks, through 41,323 branches, aided 4,323 NGOs in training SHGs. This effort reached 16,18,456 SHGs and around 12 crore impoverished individuals by March 2005. Dr. C. Rangarajan, then Governor of RBI, hailed it as the world’s largest cooperative microfinance initiative, exemplifying the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

The SHG movement evolved from a transition strategy to a poverty eradication tool through financial inclusion. Yet, in the process of mainstreaming there was an emphasis on finance over empowerment. Despite this, SHGs succeeded in bridging the gap between banks and members who were otherwise out of the formal banking system. SHG representatives managed transactions, earning respect from bank staff, and over time members opened personal accounts. Banks relied on SHG credit history for larger personal loans. 

The spread of SHGs in India, was a slow process that did not fit into the typical five-year project time-spans of government or private donors. First set up in 1984-85, they gained recognition only in the mid-90s within banking practices.

The emergence of SHGs from grassroots initiatives prompts consideration of whether similar organic growth could occur within current government policies, given the constraints on NGOs and civil society. There’s a growing inclination in government programs toward uniformity, potentially hindering the scalability of innovative models. MYRADA’s experience reinforces the importance of gradual transitions, stakeholder involvement, and the value of local dynamics in fostering ways for poverty reduction, empowerment and sustainable growth.

This blog is a summary of a chapter written by Aloysius Prakash Fernandez 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.

The chapter summary has been prepared by Jayapadma RV.

How Facility Managers Can Be Green Warriors

Sudhakar Murthy, Head – Specialist Services Group, Embassy Services

A recent McKinsey report estimated that real estate drives approximately 39 per cent of total global emissions. Approximately 11 per cent of these emissions are generated by manufacturing materials used in buildings (including steel and cement), while the rest is emitted from buildings themselves.

In this context, the urgency to address climate change and meet ambitious emission reduction goals by 2030 requires a strategic, collaborative effort across industries. Facility management emerges as a linchpin in this endeavour, orchestrating a comprehensive approach to reshape the landscape of sustainable energy use within organizations.

Implementation of cutting-edge technology: Significant reductions in emissions associated with real estate can be achieved through technologies that already exist. For example, upgrading to more energy-efficient lighting systems and installing better insulation have positive financial returns. Today, newer technologies also make low-carbon heating and cooling systems, such as heat pumps and energy-efficient air conditioning, more cost-competitive in many markets and climates. These cost-effective upgrades can create meaningful change while also de-risking assets.

Many opportunities are available for a facility manager to achieve energy reduction or transition to green energy and mitigate emissions. Some of the known measures include – Energy Efficiency Improvements by assessing current energy consumption within buildings and facilities, identifying areas of inefficiency, and implementing energy-saving measures. Upgrading energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and insulation to reduce energy waste. Regular maintenance and monitoring of equipment and systems can ensure they operate at their peak efficiency, reducing energy consumption and emissions.

Renewable Energy Adoption: Among the rapidly expanding sectors, renewable energy stands out, and facility managers can actively engage in harnessing and integrating renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal heating and cooling systems directly on-site. This strategic adoption of renewable sources presents a substantial opportunity to curtail the facility’s carbon footprint. Additionally, exploring the option of procuring renewable energy from external sources through power purchase agreements (PPAs) provides an alternative avenue to diminish dependence on fossil fuels.

Sustainable Building Design and Retrofits: Facility managers actively contribute to the planning and construction of energy-efficient, eco-friendly structures that not only meet but often surpass energy efficiency benchmarks. This involvement encompasses the selection of environmentally sustainable materials and the strategic optimization of building layouts to enhance natural lighting and ventilation.
Moreover, the retrofitting of existing structures with energy-efficient technologies and sustainable features, overseen by facility managers, can result in noteworthy reductions in both energy consumption and emissions. The pivotal role of facility managers extends to shaping sustainable building designs, where considerations range from the choice of eco-friendly materials to meticulous spatial planning for enhanced energy efficiency.

These decisions significantly influence the overall carbon footprint of a facility. Concurrently, the implementation of waste reduction strategies within facilities, such as the establishment of recycling programs and the adoption of responsible disposal practices, underscores the unwavering commitment of facility managers to fostering environmentally conscious spaces.

Smart Building Technologies: The integration of smart building technologies, such as advanced energy management systems and IoT sensors, allows facility managers to monitor and control energy usage in real-time. This enables quick adjustments to optimise energy consumption.

Proactive Maintenance for Asset Lifecycle Extension: Through vigilant monitoring and upkeep of assets, facility managers prolong their lifecycles, mitigating the necessity for premature replacements. This method not only guarantees peak performance but also harmonizes with overarching sustainability objectives by diminishing the environmental repercussions linked to the production and disposal of new assets. Implementing predictive maintenance, informed by data derived from advanced technologies, serves to avert energy-wasting breakdowns, and further contributes to emissions reduction.

Behaviour Change and Employee Engagement: Facility managers can engage building occupants in sustainability efforts through education and awareness campaigns. Encouraging energy-saving practices and a culture of sustainability can lead to significant energy reductions. Implementing occupancy sensors automated lighting and climate control can also help reduce energy consumption when spaces are unoccupied.

Carbon Accounting and Reporting: Facility management can monitor and disclose carbon emissions resulting from their operations. By comprehending their carbon footprint, they can establish reduction targets and formulate strategies to attain them. Consistent reporting and transparency not only showcase a dedication to sustainability but also assist organizations in fulfilling regulatory mandates and meeting the expectations of investors.

As we navigate the path towards a sustainable future, organizations are urged to prioritize and invest in facility management practices that align with emissions reduction goals. By doing so, they not only contribute to global environmental initiatives but also ensure a resilient and sustainable future for generations to come. Embracing these principles positions organizations at the forefront of the global movement towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible tomorrow.

Alstom and NSRCEL Launch Second Sustainability Incubation Program


Alstom, a global leader in smart and sustainable mobility, and NSRCEL, the startup hub at IIM Bangalore, announced the launch of the second cohort of their Sustainability Incubation Program. This initiative is aimed at supporting innovative startups committed to combatting climate change and addressing various sustainability challenges. The program is dedicated to fostering the development, scaling, and market integration of technology solutions that replace high-emission, energy-intensive, and non-recyclable incumbents.

The Sustainability Incubation Program plays a pivotal role in helping startups build sustainable technology, create favorable policy environments, and establish scalable go-to-market and revenue models that prioritize climate-centric solutions. This program is designed to assist startups in their early revenue stages and will focus on innovations in areas such as green manufacturing, mobility infrastructure, energy and renewable energy, climate technology, alternative fuels, and vehicle technology.

Olivier LOISON, Managing Director at Alstom India, stated, “As one of the leaders in sustainable mobility, the NSRCEL Sustainability Incubation program is core to Alstom’s impact investments in the country. Following the success of the first cohort, we are excited to expand the scope of the program to include sustainability more holistically. The second cohort is aimed at positively impacting India’s climate challenges, and we look forward to seeing the solutions achieve their full potential.”

“We are delighted to unveil the second cohort of the Sustainability Incubation Program in partnership with Alstom. This program reflects our commitment to nurturing and supporting initiatives aimed at making a positive impact in the climate tech space. Together, we’re sowing the seeds of a greener, more prosperous tomorrow,” said Anand Sri Ganesh, CEO of NSRCEL.

The selected 22 ventures have been shortlisted from a pool of 344 applications, based on the viability of their ideas and their proposed solutions to the problems at hand. These shortlisted ventures will proceed to a pre-incubation program, which will reinforce their foundational business fundamentals and provide mentorship based on their specific needs. Subsequently, these ventures will enter a six-month incubation phase, during which they will develop prototypes and refine their pitches presented to the screening committee.

The program is designed to enhance knowledge and expertise among ventures in the sustainability space, enabling them to analyze their product-market fit for various contexts. It offers interactive capacity-building workshops, contextual mentorship, and valuable ecosystem connections for startups.

The program’s content is customized to meet the unique requirements of each participating startup. Throughout the program, startups will receive guidance on navigating the ecosystem, understanding policies, and complying with regulations. A funding grant pool of Rs. 1.5 crores have been allocated to support startups with the highest potential for creating a meaningful impact.

Throughout the first cohort of the Sustainability Incubation Program, NSRCEL shortlisted and nurtured ten ventures out of a total of 20 startups. These ventures have collectively generated a monthly revenue of INR 31,105,000 and received a total funding of INR 221,400,000 from prominent venture capitalists. Notably, the program has attracted an impressive client roster, including industry leaders such as SEG Automotive-Mahindra Electric, Zypp Electric, Tata Elxsi, Shell Foundation, and Bounce, underscoring its significant impact within the industry.

Kerala’s Green Worms Gets Funding from Nivea’s Beiersdorf


The Kerala based waste management firm Green Worms in India is among the four from around the world, have been shortlisted for Beiersdorf’s four million Euro funding. The other shortlisted firms include Delterra in Argentina, Recycle Up! Ghana, and TakaTaka Solutions in Kenya. These organizations were selected based on their social impact in regions heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beiersdorf is a world leader in skincare products. Nivea is its most popular and top-selling brand. The initiative, a press note states, is to strengthen the recycling infrastructure in emerging economies and provide substantial support to plastic waste management organizations with a strong social business approach. A key focus of the program is to empower women, who constitute a majority of waste collectors, through training and development opportunities.

It is the company’s CARE BEYOND SKIN Sustainability Agenda and aims to address the dual challenges of plastic pollution and poverty.

One of the major projects under this initiative includes the establishment of a Material Recovery Facility and a Plastic-waste Recycling Plant in rural Kerala, India, by Green Worms. This ambitious project aims to create over 500 jobs for women in waste management across 20 villages, recover 6,000 metric tons of plastic, and recycle 2,760 metric tons annually.

The initiative goes beyond environmental concerns, aiming to improve the social status of women in these regions. It includes workshops, scholarships, menstrual hygiene education, regular health check-ups, health insurance, and vaccination drives to ensure a safe work environment. Additionally, a Waste Workers Welfare Fund has been established to enhance economic security for the local community.

Jabir Gharat, CEO Green Worms

Jabir Gharat, CEO of Green Worms, underscored the resilience of women waste workers, many of whom were the sole earners in their families and faced significant economic challenges during the pandemic. He stresses the importance of providing women with stable and safe work opportunities. The “Women in Circularity” initiative, launched in four countries, represents a redefined approach to tackling environmental challenges and promoting women’s empowerment in the waste management sector. It underscores the role of businesses as catalysts for positive change, contributing to a sustainable future with a focus on inclusivity and circular resources.

Aditya Birla Fashion Launches Green Careers Program

Dr. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer at ABFRL

Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL), in partnership with 1 Million for 1 Billion (1M 1B), recently concluded its Sustainability Accelerator Program 2023. The program conducted in November 2023 was designed to promote green skills among Indian students, aligning with ABFRL’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Participants in the program received co-branded ‘Certificates of Participation’ from ABFRL and 1M 1B, acknowledging their engagement and efforts. Additionally, twenty students were selected for their exemplary performance during a 5-day internship and awarded diplomas at an ABFRL campus.

The program aimed to encourage young individuals to actively engage in climate change initiatives and provided insights into advanced sustainability technologies. Students were involved in practical activities, bridging theoretical learning with real-world applications.

Dr. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer at ABFRL and Co-Chair of the program, highlighted the importance of fostering a sustainability mindset among India’s youth. He noted that the program aimed to shape responsible leaders focused on societal well-being.

Manav Subodh, Founder of 1M 1B, described the partnership as a significant collaboration between a large corporation and a social venture, focused on integrating sustainability into core practices.

The program included a series of learning days with seminars on sustainability concepts and innovations, culminating in an industry day where students presented their ideas to industry executives.

ABFRL, a part of the Aditya Birla Group, continues its efforts to promote sustainability, emphasizing the importance of environmental consciousness in the fashion industry. The company operates a wide network of stores across India and owns several major fashion brands, reflecting its significant role in the Indian fashion sector.

SN is CII’s Media Partner for Global Conference on Waste to Worth 


The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) announces SustainabilityNext as its media partner for the 8th edition of the International Conference on Waste to Worth 2023.  on 30 November, in New Delhi.  The full-day conference will focus on sustainable waste management and circular economy.

This year’s conference theme, ‘Moving towards a Circular Economy through Innovative 3R Approaches’, highlights the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste in the context of India’s environmental policies and practices. 

The conference is expected to draw significant attention from industry leaders, policymakers, environmental experts, and stakeholders in the waste management sector both from India and abroad.

The conference is particularly significant for India, which is grappling with the challenges of rapid urbanization and increasing waste production. By showcasing innovative solutions and facilitating partnerships, the conference aims to contribute to India’s journey towards a more sustainable and cleaner future.

As the media partner, SustainabilityNext (SN) brings its expertise in environmental reporting and advocacy to the conference. The magazine will provide extensive coverage, and insights, amplifying the conference’s impact and reach. SN is India’s most read ten-year old weekly e-magazine on the business of Sustainability. It is edited and published by Benedict Paramanand from Bengaluru.  

The conference will feature a range of sessions and discussions including:

  • CII 3R Awards.
  • Panels on innovative solutions for sustainable waste management in India.
  • Discussions on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in managing plastic waste and e-waste.
  • Debates on the role of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) in the circular economy.
  • Strategies for improving circularity in solid waste management.

Click here to download the program flow.

Climate Action Requires Collaboration Between Businesses, NGOs and Communities


Global warming is no longer just a theory. While the earth’s climate has changed throughout history, reports show that the current warming is happening at an unprecedented rate. We have experienced the ten warmest years since 2010.

In such dire times, when industries and economies are booming and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, our approach to combating the challenge must be collaborative rather than isolated. In these times, the 4P model (people-public-private-partnership) recognizes the role of various stakeholders — government, private sector, community, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) — to help achieve climate change commitments.

Advancing all relevant stakeholder engagement through a coherent and systematic model, such as the 4P model, strengthens governance at the national and local levels by making it more effective, inclusive, and accountable. Let’s look at how these stakeholders, with a strong commitment to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, can help create innovative solutions to mitigate the impact.

Corporates transition to clean energy

Not only the government but business houses and corporate giants are also following suit in their responsibility towards climate change. According to a government report, about 24 industrial houses, including Piramal, Tata, Reliance, Tech Mahindra, Essar, Ambuja, Sun Pharma signed the Declaration of Private Sector on Climate Change on November 5, 2020, at the India CEO Forum on Climate Change.

With India setting its eyes on generating 50% of all its energy demand through renewables by 2030, a united effort is necessary. With high-efficiency solar rooftop implementation made available easily both through policy and in supply, buildings, large institutions, and massive office complexes can contribute significantly to the government’s target by installing solar modules. This can further be aided by other best practices like better waste management, bolstering energy efficiency, judicious water usage and adopting circular economy practices for a cleaner future, all of which align with ESG principles.

NGOs to bridge the gaps between government and community

In areas where the government is still building its capacity to bolster its efforts in combating climate change, NGOs can come into the picture with their on-ground presence and extensive reach, even in the most remote corners of the country. While the government’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), with eight critical climate combating missions, is a regulatory framework in the right direction, it needs support from non-governmental partner bodies for its execution.

An interesting example is that of a specific NGO partner on a mission to establish a green community. The organisation achieves this by constructing homes for communities in need of decent housing using eco-friendly materials and ensuring a supply of solar energy to reduce carbon emissions. Similar initiatives to create eco-friendly living spaces can lead to a more extensive ecosystem within the green revolution. And NGO partners can serve as catalysts for sustainable practices with minimal environmental impact.

Awareness can inspire communities to create a greener world

Community is the first nodal point to activate any change we envision for the future. People are at the core of every movement aligned with public goods. Those working in NGOs, government, and business institutions are members of civil society. When there is awareness, it will begin to reflect in the decisions and choices individuals make in their institutions and organisations.

For example, a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) indicated that an electricity bill that prominently features comparative consumption statistics for individual users and communities can nudge them to save energy by 5% to 10%. Notably, a 35% to 55% reduction in energy use persisted even after the informative billing approach was no longer in use.

Publicity campaigns, introducing climate change concepts in education curricula, and mandatory regulations in every organisation can have a far-reaching impact beyond what is commonly imagined.

Climate action is not an isolated movement where a single stakeholder can bring in the desired change. Instead, everyone should bring in their expertise to collaborate and contribute their bit in achieving climate change targets.

When a community is aware and informed, they can collaborate with governments to form regulations. These regulations then should call for corporate players to make informed and ethical decisions. At the same time, NGOs should partner with communities to raise awareness and assist the government in reaching every corner to make a more significant impact. An integrated approach, rooted in ESG principles, ensures that we collectively work towards a greener and more sustainable future for generations to come.

Despair to Hope


In the realm of green business literature, “Anchoring Change: Seventy-Five Years of Grassroots Interventions That Made a Difference” stands as a testament to the power of narrative in redefining the discourse on sustainable development. Rather than focusing on the macroscopic failures of the socio-economic system, this anthology skilfully steers towards the micro-successes – the noteworthy initiatives that have brought about positive societal change in India. This shift in perspective serves as a resounding call to action, compelling us to explore the successful grassroots initiatives that often operate beneath the radar of public attention.

Each of the narratives in this curated selection is a testament to the diversity and resilience of grassroots interventions across India. The stories span decades, topics, and geographies. This intentional inclusivity ensures that readers embark on a journey through the annals of effective interventions, gaining insights into the challenges overcome and the lessons learned.

The book provides an overview of grassroots interventions in India over the last 75 years. This chronology is not merely a storytelling device. It provides historical context and presents the evolution of responses to diverse and evolving social challenges in India. It also amplifies the impact of the narratives, framing them as not just individual success stories but as interconnected chapters in the evolving saga of India’s grassroots initiatives.

“Anchoring Change” is more than a mere celebration of successful interventions. It transcends that role by condensing the principles of sustainable development, making it a valuable resource for individuals engaged in social development practice, policy influencing, and program design and implementation.

The 24 narratives penned by different writers offer insights into the development challenges addressed, actions taken, and the organizational reflections and dilemmas faced by them over time. Vikram Singh Mehta, Neelima Khetan, and Jayapadma RV showcase remarkable editorial expertise, transforming the narrative on sustainable development from despair to hope.

The inclusion of personal anecdotes and reflections humanizes the narratives, providing readers with a profound understanding of the challenges faced and the resilience demonstrated by these organizations. This approach aligns with the evolving landscape of science communication, where storytelling has emerged as a powerful tool for engaging audiences and fostering a deeper understanding of social issues and solutions. The balance between academic rigor and personal narrative makes the anthology not just informative but engaging.

As an editorial director of a scientific journal, and as a science journalist, I recognize the immense value of stories that not only inform but also inspire. The anthology’s focus on micro-successes and impactful interventions aligns with the broader narrative of positive societal transformation, providing a refreshing departure from the usual discourse on failures and challenges.

“Anchoring Change” celebrated at the Greenlitfest 2023 stands as a beacon for sustainable development, affirming the enduring influence of grassroots interventions in India’s developmental landscape.

Ann Rochyne Thomas is the Founder and Director, BIONOVA

Ecological Spatial Planner, Centre for Climate Resilience

61% of India’s Offices are Green

  • Green buildings can lead to 35 per cent reduction in emissions and 20 per cent reduction in maintenance costs
  • At 421 mn sq ft, over 61 per cent of Grade A office stock in India is green as of 2023
  • Top 10 micro-markets account for 62 per cent of the country’s total green stock

The real estate sector is a major source of global carbon emissions, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the total emission. By 2040, it is expected that roughly two-third of the existing building stock would continue to contribute to CO2 emissions, posing challenge to the target under the Paris Agreement to restrict temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

In light of the aboveKPMG in India and Colliers present a report titled‘Sustainable real estate: an opportunity to leverage’, that delves into the rise of green building certifications, the growing influence of informed investors and consumers and the impending global building expansion that underscores the undeniable importance of sustainable practices in the real estate sector today.

Yet, the real estate sector finds itself at crossroads. Most real estate firms have strted integrating sustainable solutions into their operations, across different phases of the project life cycle with many green buildings gaining momentum from both developer’s and occupier’s perspective.


  • In 2023, the office real estate market witnessed a significant shift towards sustainability, registering an 83 per cent growth in green office stock compared to 2016. 
  • In India, 61 per cent of the office market stock was green in 2023, reflecting a growing trend.
  • Moreover, 94 per cent of the surveyed real estate companies acknowledged the potential of green buildings to boost valuation. This surge in interest aligns with the increasing demand for energy-efficient buildings, given the projected doubling of global building floor area in the next three decades.
  • From the supply side, developers are making conscious efforts towards creating sustainable commercial real estate by following prevalent green building rating systems such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) and WELL building certification.
  • India’s sustainability goals, which include achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2070 and deriving 50 per cent of energy from renewables by 2030, highlight the nation’s commitment to a greener future.
  • At present, green penetration of Grade-A office stock has been significant in metropolitan and Tier-1 cities of India, which include Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune accounting for 421 mn sq ft.
  • About 16-26 per cent of the existing ageing buildings in the top six cities have scope for upgradation to improve building performance. 

“India contributes to about 7.3 per cent global emissions with real estate being one of the largest contributors. The carbon emissions may reach 4.48 giga tonnes by 2030 from 2.88 giga tonnes in 2021, however, reduction in emissions by 22 per cent today can keep 2030 emissions lower, at 3.48 giga tonnes.

Energy-efficient technologies such as automated HVAC systems, solar panels, and green roofs may result in 70 per cent less waste and 10 per cent savings in operational cost every year. Notably, about 56 per cent of the stakeholders shared high importance for sustainable buildings since these may have 5-10 per cent higher valuation, high occupancy rates and allow them to be better positioned to succeed in a rapidly changing market.

The report highlights that in top 10 office micro markets in India, including Bengaluru ORR, Whitefield and SBD; Hyderabad SBD; Chennai OMR Zone1, Pune- Kharadi; Delhi NCR- Noida Expressway; and Navi Mumbai, account for the bulk of country’s green building stock at 62 per cent.

These top micro markets are largely a part of suburban and peripheral areas that consist of newer developments. At the same time, the vacancy levels in green buildings of most of these micro markets is lower than that of non-certified buildings.

Green Buildings Double

The report states that green certified office buildings have almost doubled since 2016 to an impressive 421 mn sq ft, forming over 61 per cent of India’s Grade A office stock. This showcases developers’ and occupiers’ rising commitment towards sustainability. This is likely to reflect in terms of favorable pricing and asset valuation resulting in increased brand value, client retention and rental upside.

Going ahead, faster adoption of sustainability in real estate, green financing, innovative interventions undertaken at portfolio-level and attracting sustainable investment through dynamic policy making becomes an imperative. “Concerted efforts towards provisioning better funding for sustainability research and development must be augmented,” the authors of the report urged.

Colliers is a leading diversified professional services and investment management company. With operations in 65 countries, our 18,000 enterprising professionals work collaboratively to provide expert real estate and investment advice to clients. KPMG is one of India’s leading management and business consultancy firms.

Cooling Ceramic Can Cut Energy Use by 20%


Associate Professor Edwin Tso Chi-yan, a key researcher in the project, highlights the unique attributes of this cooling ceramic, including its advanced optical properties, colour stability, weather resistance, and mechanical strength. A notable feature is its ability to suppress the Leidenfrost effect—a phenomenon where a liquid, upon contacting a surface significantly hotter than its boiling point, creates an insulating vapour layer preventing rapid boiling. This characteristic allows the cooling ceramic to maintain indoor coolness naturally, making it ideal for building construction.

In terms of manufacturing, cooling ceramic stands out for its simplicity and affordability. Made from common inorganic elements like alumina, it involves two primary processes: inversion and sintering. These steps do not require highly sophisticated equipment or costly materials, enabling cost-effective large-scale production. Moreover, the material exhibits exceptional fire resistance, capable of withstanding temperatures over 1,000°C—far exceeding the capacity of many traditional polymer or metal-based materials, which typically withstand up to 360°C.

The development of cooling ceramic also draws inspiration from nature, incorporating two unique properties. The first mimics the exceptional brightness of Cyphochilus beetles, while the second is based on Mie scattering, a light-scattering phenomenon. These natural properties enable the material to scatter nearly all sunlight wavelengths, achieving an impressive solar reflectivity of 99.6%, one of the highest values on record. When applied to structures like roofs, cooling ceramic can significantly reduce the need for space cooling, cutting down electricity usage by 20% and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This innovation represents a significant step forward in sustainable construction. As global temperatures rise, materials like cooling ceramic that reduce electricity consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and alleviate urban heat island effects become increasingly important.

This material’s nature-inspired properties and environmental benefits position it as a key player in the pursuit of sustainable building practices. Cooling ceramics from the City University of Hong Kong could revolutionize building design, emphasizing eco-friendliness and efficiency in an era increasingly focused on environmental sustainability.

Turning Adversity into Advocacy

Smitha Kamath, Founder PraanaPoorna

Smitha founded PraanaPoorna Natural Products and PraanaPoorna Collective. Her company blends ancient wisdom with modern sustainability; challenges conventional norms and inspires a new paradigm in eco-conscious living.

The firm offers diverse products encompassing natural disinfectant cleaners, antimicrobial detergents, and skincare products. It says the products go through minimal industrial processing thereby retaining the potency of raw materials.

Smitha’s journey began with a critical examination of the everyday products her family used. “I was inspired by my daughter’s problem with skin allergies and realized that everything you apply on your skin penetrates into the bloodstream,” she explained. This realization opened her eyes to the interconnectedness of our lifestyle choices and overall well-being. Her response was the creation of Praanapoorna Natural Products and PraanaPoorna Collective, ventures dedicated to revitalising handcrafted natural products and promoting sustainable lifestyles.

At the heart of Smitha’s philosophy is a deep belief in the principles of the circular economy, community production models, and utilising local resources to replace harmful petrochemical-based products. She emphasizes the importance of natural alternatives, developed using locally sourced raw materials. “Every product goes through minimal heat so that the praana, or vitality, stays in place. That’s what every skincare product must be – minimally packaged, minimally heated, minimally processed, for a sustainable skincare journey.”

PraanaPoorna Collective is not just a brand; it’s a mission to embrace nature’s vitality for ecosystem restoration. The collective’s products, described as “full of prana,” reflect a commitment to go beyond surface cleaning, focusing on reviving bio-based, locally sourced natural ingredients. These solutions are designed to be biodegradable, rejuvenating the soil and water sources they come into contact with.

Smitha’s vision extends to ensuring these products are effective and accessible. “Our R&D has helped make our products economical. Maintaining the retail margin while producing economical products is difficult, but we made it possible.”

Farmer and Lake Friendly

Central to PraanaPoorna’s product lineup are natural disinfectant cleaners and antimicrobial detergents that are non-toxic, effective, and environmentally friendly. These innovations are geared towards reducing water usage and preventing the detrimental effects on water bodies commonly associated with conventional cleaning products.

Smitha’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond her products. PraanaPoorna’s operations are geared towards minimizing ecological footprints. “We ship everything Plastic Free, reducing our plastic footprint by approximately 2.1 Kgs per product sold,” Smitha elaborated.

A key aspect of Smitha’s approach involves supporting local communities, particularly farmers. She explains, “Apart from these initiatives, I am also helping local farmers who are tied up with the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.” This collaborative approach not only fosters community engagement but also ensures the authenticity and purity of the ingredients used in PraanaPoorna’s products. Smitha Kamath’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and dedication. Her journey from a concerned mother to the founder of an eco-conscious enterprise is a testament to the power of individual action in driving meaningful change. As PraanaPoorna continues to grow, it stands as a shining example of how businesses can thrive while prioritizing the health of both people and the planet.

Can Poetry Save the World?


Edited excerpts:

Jhilam: Can poetry save the world? W.H Auden says poetry makes nothing happen.

Ranjith: What does Auden say after that? It goes, it lies in a valley of its own making or something like that.

I think the important thing is that poets are not expected to transform the world, but they hope to shift to some degree the sense of consciousness and imagination. For me it is vital to remain connected to the debates. I don’t think I can write without addressing the work that is being done in genetics, geology, climate studies and migration studies. All of this goes into the research backdrop of a book.

Also, poets can never be isolated voices; we have to be a part of a larger solidarity. Poets can’t change the world nor change what happens with the press and regimes.

Sudeep Sen:  What we can do is shift micro which then has a larger resonance in shifts of the geological. Tectonic plates move in millimetres, but the impact they have is monumental. Poets do that.

Jhilam: Ranjith, in your book, Icelight, there were 16 instances of use of the word ‘light’. I find the best way to read a poetry book is to read the first poem and the last one and to see the connection there. I saw the connection to light in your book, something that binds all the poems together. I was reminded of John Keats’ Ode to Nightingale and how he uses the technique of chiaroscuro in his poems. Would you like to comment on your relationship with light?

Ranjith: The title (Icelight) has to do with a sense of luminosity in the night and the book opens with the sense of chasm in light and it ends with light returning. I’ve always been fascinated by the cosmic contrast of light and darkness. But is seems to me that at this point, it is through this tenability that we have to make our way. For me it is not Keats at all. It is phrase from Hyena I read as a teenager which stuck with me: the lit and light in night/ the light that illuminates. So, what fascinates me is the possibility that one might look in most unlikely places for sources of light.

Jhilam: Light and colour. At times I am confused if it is colour that gives life to form or form that gives life to colour.

Sudeep: Colour is intrinsically linked to light. White light is basically an abrogation of seven colours and more. When you refract light, you get seven colours. That is what human beings can see. There is much more beyond the ultraviolet and infra-red and human vision is limited. Without light, we can’t live. Though one-third of Anthropocene is morose and dark, large parts of the book are about hope and light. There is so much beauty and light around us.

I particularly like these lines by Czeslaw Milosz, the polish poet which goes,

My generation was lost. Cities too.  And nations.

But all this a little later. Meanwhile, in the window, a swallow

This was in context of the First World War.

Jhilam: The next question is to Sudeep about your books ‘Anthropocene’ and ‘Red.’ Anthropocene has your private observations of the pandemic; you speak about your neighbours reading newspapers and you have depicted the private space of an individual. In Red, it is about communities and nations. Yesterday you spoke about poets coming together as communities. I would like you to comment on the idea of community. How do you address this idea of coming together?

Sudeep: Community is crucial. Why do you think the western civilization came down? They think in I’s, not us. Where are we (s) and the us? There is a shared space that is negotiated in modern relationships. The ‘us’ and ‘we,’ the beautiful polysemic monostitches is the way to go. Without community you cannot do anything. You have to look up and out to see the geographic and cosmic models and relate that to ourselves.

In my own limited way, I try to bring the poetry community of India together. I have done many anthologies and the whole idea of an anthology is to destroy the walls and bring everybody together in one room without any hierarchy. We need to hold hands and we need to hug. Before we leave, everyone please hug your neighbour and we will hug all of you.

Ranjith: My guru Mr. Nizzim Ezekiel used to say let’s not go to extremes. My sense is that the idea of community is marvellous. It is always a work in progress that demands a constant ethical rededication. All too often it happens that the community develops an idea of what it needs to be which then becomes a dogma and then that divides people into two; the believers on one side and the blasphemous or heretics on the other side. Or the community develops some kind of bureaucracy which then takes over and the quest or ideals or the values of that community tend to recede a bit. I would prefer to work on the operational notes of solidarity which allows for criticality or dissent and for the reshaping of purpose.

Jhilam: We have spoken about the content of your books, and we have many readers who are interested in poetry in general. I would like to know about the idea of imagination. A well-known poet Octavio Paz once wrote, imagination can turn sex into ceremony and language to rhythm and metaphor. Most poets say that they write for themselves, and they don’t think about the reader when they do. When you are in the phase of crafting the poem, playing with the idea of imagination, is the reader on your mind?

Sudeep: Initially, I write for myself. If I can’t negotiate the inspiration in light or the source of love or whatever it is I strive, if I can’t process it through my blood and DNA and craft into some kind of shape, there is no way I could offer it to the world – it could be one reader or many readers. So, the process of thinking about the readership is very distant when I begin writing a poem. The crafting of the poem is hard work and very unglamorous, but it is incredibly important to me. 80% of the poems I write, I throw out.

I also like form. It is a fascination for me, and my early work is very formal and metrical. For instance, in my first book, there is a poem called ‘Durga Pujo’ which is in couplets. It basically reflects the ‘Chandipaath’ hymns in the same metrical phraseology as the original Bangla. I wrote a poem called ‘Bharatanatyam Dancer.’ Initially when you watch a performance, you are seeing it in a proscenium stage. It took me six months to write this poem because I was watching this dancer rehearse and I asked her if she could be photographed.

When I was developing the film, in the negative stage I could study the footprint mapping she was making. I stored that in my imagination and the day when I saw her dance, I realised there was an interesting similarity and overlap between the mapping and the taal she was dancing to. By the time I reached the 37th draft of the poem, I thought I could invent a rhyme scheme similar to the beats the dancer followed. So, it turned out to be a-b-a-c-c-a, a-b-a-c-c-a.

We as Indian poets have contributed to English prosody by doing these things.

Ranjith: You wouldn’t be doing poetry or any creative art without any imagination.

Jhilam: What would be your technique?

Ranjith: For me, also because I have this hybrid practice, since I am involved in visual arts and architecture and with music, this condition of being among the arts, working across the arts is very important when it comes to shaping a poem. For instance, in many of the poems in my book ‘Jonahwhale,’ I was preoccupied with how to open up the short English lyric to a diversity of voices. In some cases, I had to open up the language. I went through this period when I was importing into some of these poems the lines from Hindustani classical music. Those poems were about the oceans, about the crossing of identities. It seemed to be that by being interlingual that you could achieve this kind of expressiveness.

The entire conversation is available at:

GLF Third Edition Returns on November 25

Bookstore during GLF2, at BIC

SustainabilityNext magazine is proud to announce the return of the Green Literature Festival for its third edition on November 25, 2023, at the Century Club, Bengaluru.

The Green Literature Festival (GLF) brings together authors, environmentalists, and readers to explore the intersection of literature and sustainability.

GLF 2023 features a lineup of distinguished personalities, including Bittu Sehgal, founder of Sanctuary Asia magazine and the author of “The Sundarbans Inheritance,” Nagaraja Prakasam, impact investor and mentor at IIMB NSRCEL and the author of “Back to Bharat – In Search for a Sustainable Future,” Prof Anil Gupta, a social sector activist and former faculty member at IIM Ahmedabad. He is the author of “Grassroots Innovation: Minds on the Margin are not Marginal Minds.”

Audience at GLF2, 9 December 2022 at BIC

More than twenty authors representing children, adult fiction/non-fiction and green business will discuss hot topics that concern the future of India’s green space.

Classics and current books will be on display at the bookstores by Attagalatta and Funky Rainbow, catering to a diverse audience.

In addition to the main sessions, the GLF 2023 will also feature workshops such as Masterclass on Writing Stories with Animal Characters and Masterclass on Curating Green Libraries in Schools and Homes, a workshop for teachers by author and educationist Meena Raghunathan. Workshop on Citizen Science by WWF India and much more.

New book launches and an exhibition of sustainable brands promises to offer a rich experience on the Green Day Out. 

The festival’s grand finale will showcase the GLF Honor Book Award Ceremony which will celebrate the GLF’s selection for the best book published in 2022 on children, adult fiction/non-fiction and green business books.

GLF is a free-to-attend festival. A nominal charge of Rs. 500/- is being charged for workshops.

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About the Green Literature Festival

The festival was founded in 2021 by a team of authors to bring together people who are passionate about literature and sustainability. GLF is a platform for authors, environmentalists, and readers to share ideas and learn from each other.

The first offline festival in 2022 drew dozens of authors and a few hundred readers.  GLF has a wide array of partners – WWF India, India Youth of Climate Action (IYCN), India Climate Collaborative, among others. It is supported by The Habitats Trust, Azim Premji University and the Rainmatter Foundation.

Tea Industry is in Turmoil

Image credit - Thrillophilia

India and China must work together to save the tea industry. Carbon credits and tea tourism are big opportunities the industry should explore.

India is the second-largest tea producer globally, producing 1.3 billion kilos from around 637 thousand hectares of land. 50% of this tea was made by smallholders who cultivate 10.12 ha or less land. India exported about 201 million kilos of tea in 2021. India is the second biggest tea consumer in the world, consuming 1.1 billion kilos of tea.

The Indian tea market is predicted to develop at a CAGR of 4.2% from 2021 to 2026. On the Employment Front, Tea Industry provides direct employment to over 1 million persons in India. Another 10 million persons (100 lakhs) derive their livelihood from tea through its forward and backwards linkages. However, the Indian tea industry faces some critical challenges. Can the Indian tea industry overcome these challenges and convert them into new opportunities?

Supply-demand imbalance: The supply of tea is growing at a much faster pace than the demand. In China, the total tea production was 1607 million kilos in 2011, and by 2020 it has become 3180 million kilos. On the other hand, Kenyan tea production increased by 43 per cent from 399 million kilos in 2015 to 570 million kilos by 2020. Indian tea production is also growing, primarily driven by small tea growers.  It is leading to an oversupply situation and falling prices. It is visible from the fact that auction prices between 2012 and 2019 have grown at a CAGR of 1.7%, while input costs have grown at a CAGR OF 8% to 14% during the same period. The tea industry lacks a global platform to establish support structures for production that align with demand, quality, and prices.

Flawed marketing model of tea: Traditionally, the tea industry has promoted tea as the world’s second most consumed beverage after water. However, the old model of selling tea in bulk at prices similar to bottled water no longer works. Selling cheap tea may increase sales volume but doesn’t improve profits, especially for producers.

Under-leveraging of black tea’s healthfulness: Green and black tea both come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The key distinction is that black tea is oxidized, while green tea is not. Research (Food Chemistry, 1997) has suggested that both types possess similar antioxidant capacities. Surprisingly, the black tea industry has not promoted the health benefits of black tea consumption through research or advertising.

Climate change-only lip service: Annually, at various tea conferences, climate change is repeatedly mentioned, yet concrete actions are lacking, despite the evident threat. Climate change disrupts local weather patterns, altering rainfall, and leading to more floods and droughts, along with shifts in temperature, humidity, and sunshine hours. The outcome includes reduced yields, lower leaf quality, new challenges, soil fertility decline, and erosion.

Competition for land: Growing populations and urbanisation are increasingly and inevitably putting pressure on all available agricultural lands. Consequently, the Indian tea industry has to compete with other, more staple food crops like edible oils to access land for production. It is the Tea Act of India of 1853 that is holding back such conversions. But for how long?

New climate regulations: With higher carbon levies and climate concerns, EU businesses are shifting towards Net Zero Targets that encompass their suppliers. This entails swiftly reducing emissions along scientific pathways and offsetting the rest with carbon removal. Soon, most global tea companies will adopt net-zero tea sourcing. To join these supply chains, tea producers must attain carbon-neutral certification. However, many, especially smallholders, are unprepared for this transition.

How to Brew the Tea Industry

  • Excess supply resulting in falling prices
  • Promote black tea as a health drink
  • Climate change impacts not addressed well
  • Smallholders unprepared for net zero transition
  • Promote tea tourism
Kerala Tea Estate – Pixahive

So, what could be potential solutions to these challenges?

International Tea Organisation (ITO): Tea industry stakeholders worldwide need a unified platform. Unlike coffee, cocoa, sugar, and other commodities, there’s no global platform for tea. An International Tea Organization (ITO) could help bring stakeholders together, fostering balanced demand and supply growth, and addressing systemic issues. India and China, key tea producers, could initiate the ITO.

Value addition and product diversification: The tea producers must change their business model and start exploring business beyond the factory gate. It could involve fundamentally three strategies.

First, the producers must take the cudgel to market black tea as a high-quality, premier wellness drink. An advertisement campaign on the health benefits of black tea, like the egg campaign of the 1980s in India that struck a chord with the masses, could be introduced.

Second, special schemes with tax benefits should be provided for setting up tea extract factories. The demand for tea extracts is rising in the food industry, cosmetics as well as in nutraceutical industries. It is expected to grow at 8.7 per cent CAGR from 2022 to 2032.

Third, tea tourism can enhance the brand image of Indian tea-producing destinations while providing significant additional revenues to tea producers improving livelihoods. It has already become a big success in many regions in China, such as Hangzhou, Wuyi Mountain area, Wuyuan and Xinyang etc.

Research and technological innovation to cope with climate change:  Collaboration among Asian tea-producing nations is vital. We must create high-yield tea clones with reduced fertilizer requirements, stress resistance, quality maintenance, and rich bioactive compounds. Modern biotechnology enhances tea quality and productivity, surpassing traditional breeding limits. A profound understanding of physiological and biochemical factors can boost existing plantation yields.

Carbon credits may generate new revenues and employment: Developments are moving at an incredible speed in the carbon space. Tea producers can produce carbon besides tea in the near future while also taking care of the net-zero carbon targets of the tea companies. The potential in the tea industry is to sequester 6 to 7 tons of carbon per hectare which could generate around Euros 1500 or Rs. 1, 26,000 per ha for the next 15 years from carbon credits. The trees planted for carbon farming in 5% of the permissible grant areas could help tea gardens diversify into other products. It will generate new green jobs and assist producers in coping with the rising labour prices.

The tea industry has survived different challenges in the last 18 decades by constantly reinventing itself. However, the challenges faced in this decade are extraordinary and systemic. It requires the tea industry stakeholders to come together and develop a road map for transforming the tea sector with shared responsibilities and clear accountability.

Shatadru Chattopadhayay
Managing Director, Solidaridad Asia

AI to Prevent Elephant Collusion with Trains 


Did you know that a total of 11 elephants, including young calves and juveniles, have been killed since 2008 on the railway tracks at the Madukkarai forest range in Coimbatore? This information comes from statistics provided by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department.

The forest division has two railway tracks passing through the Solakarai forest beat and Bolampatti Block – I Reserved Forests. The presence of a water source at the Walayar River is a key reason why elephants frequent the forest region adjoining the Kerala border.

Deaths of elephants in this region will hopefully be a thing of the past, thanks to the Artificial Intelligence-based surveillance mechanism set up by the Forest Department on a pilot project basis.

After consulting with experts, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department has started using artificial intelligence (AI) to track elephant movements and prevent rail collisions in a pilot project in Madhukkarai, Coimbatore. The system uses 12 towers with thermal and normal cameras to detect elephants near railway tracks.

Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, of Environment Climate Change & Forests

The data sent to a control room alerts loco pilots to the presence of elephants, giving them enough time to slow down or stop the train. Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, of Environment Climate Change & Forests is promoting this project enthusiastically. ₹ 7.24 crore was spent to establish the technology at the 7-km-long vulnerable region of Madukkarai. The system is currently in a pilot phase, but the department plans to expand it to other areas of the state in the future.

Supriya Sahu is also leading the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and Nilgiris net zero initiatives.

The AI-based surveillance system is a significant improvement over traditional methods of tracking elephant movements, such as human patrols and camera traps. The system can detect elephants at night and in low-visibility conditions, and it can track multiple elephants at the same time. This makes it much more effective at preventing elephant-train collisions, which are a major cause of elephant mortality in India.