World Environment Day 2019: Industry Efforts for Sustainable Development

04 Jun 2019

World Environment Day is celebrated every year on 5 June and it is the United Nation’s main channel for creating awareness and joint action to protect Mother Earth. This year, the focus is on air pollution, which is a matter of grave concern for all.

Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. It is being termed as a global health emergency by the UN.

Air pollution and climate change are closely related and are getting worse. While driving climate change, the main cause of CO2 emissions – the extraction and burning of fossil fuels – is also a major air pollutant. Under the CII4India theme, air pollution is identified as a key focus area for improving quality of life in India and CII is gearing up for actions across its offices and geographies to bring air quality improvement, starting with rural districts of Punjab and Haryana.

While the biomass management efforts are going to be scaled up across 200-300 villages in North Western States in 2019, the initiative will be replicated in six pilot cities across the country. This would also strengthen the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in cities not complying to National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

CII initiated the ‘Cleaner Air, Better Life’ platform in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) in November 2016 when more than 1,800 primary schools were shut down due to dangerous level of air pollution. It brought different stakeholders together for designing actionable steps to address four key sectors ([i],[ii]) and implementing projects in North Western States for adoption of sustainable agricultural practices replacing farm stubble burning.

Under CII4India theme, which guides CII’s activities for next three years, air pollution is identified to a key focus area for improving quality of life in India by 2022. It is envisaged that strengthening of ‘Cleaner Air Better Life’ platform will enable scaling of solutions across sectors in India

Bringing the focus to climate change, natural calamities are part of the normal weather cycles. However, the scale of these calamities that the world is witnessing today is severe. In 2017 alone, a series of devastating climate disasters in various parts of the world, such as Hurricane Irma, deadly heat waves, floods and droughts in India, and flooding in south-east Asia took place.

The growing trend of extreme climate disasters point directly to climate change that has contributed exponentially to their severity. Climate change is the biggest threat to human civilisation. Economic damage from climate change includes several aspects that need to be considered at the global and regional levels to achieve an equitable common solution.

Critical resources such as water, air and food, along with forest and ecosystems are depleting at an accelerated pace due to rising temperatures. “Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues, we may see temperature increases of 3-5 degrees C by the end of the century,” Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) annual statement on the state of the climate, in November 2018. This puts life at a heightened risk.

Business, workers, government and civil society are deeply concerned about these challenges. With India’s growing population and emissions, its ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals will decide the fate of the planet.

The Government of India has been engaging with partner countries, multilateral development banks, United Nations agencies, the private sector and academia to tackle climate change. The International Solar Alliance with more than 122 countries was initiated in 2016, a landmark initiative by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi reflecting India’s deep commitment to climate change.

At the fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly held in Nairobi in March 2019, India piloted a resolution on sustainable nitrogen management as low efficiency in nitrogen use leads to pollution by reactive nitrogen which threatens human health and ecosystems and contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion. Also, the Indian government, renewing India’s pledge to the Paris agreement, has voluntarily revised our targets to achieve 225 GW of renewable energy in the next five years.

In another significant first, 21 countries and allied stakeholders were brought together to explore potential ideas for building the resilience of key infrastructure sectors, such as energy, transport, telecommunications, and water, and the first International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) was hosted. At the second WDRI held in March 2019, an agreement was reached among 33 countries to establish a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Given the extent of pollution caused by single-use plastic, many policy directives are aimed at managing its usage and disposal. India has announced its commitment to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, which is one of the most ambitious amongst the 60 nations around the world working towards combating plastic pollution. As a developing nation, such initiatives and ambitious targets send a strong signal to global communities and urges developed nations to put in extra efforts to combat climate change.

A major portion of India’s economic growth as well as increase in emissions is attributed to India’s industrial sector. As a key partner in India’s national development, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is committed to promoting sustainable growth of Indian industry across sectors. Sustainable industry has figured at the top of the CII agenda since 1992, when we attended the landmark Rio Summit. We strongly believe that sustainability is a key component of competitiveness for Indian industry.

 Under the CII theme of Competitiveness of India Inc – India@75: Forging Ahead for 2019-20, energy security and environmental sustainability are two of the five thematic pillars. CII through its Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CESD) and CII – Godrej Green Business Centre (GBC) and multiple specialized committees and sub-committees has been providing technical assistance to industries in the field of energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change.

To enable India to emerge as a global leader in renewable energy, CII aims to catalyse implementation of the “Integrated Energy Policy” recommendations and interact with Government on policy issues to ensure accelerated deployment of renewable energy projects.

CII is also working on making the Indian biofuels sector viable and sustainable. It acts as a bridge between government and industry on policy issues and climate change initiatives and spearheads policy advocacy on climate change in India.

CII has launched several IGBC Green Building Rating Systems and developed the ‘Greenco rating’ system to assess and analyse the environmental impact of a company’s activities. The ‘GreenPro’ Certification guides manufacturers to position their products as green and eco-friendly.

By 2018, cumulatively 1587 buildings were rated as green buildings, 235 companies were GreenCo certified, 1700 energy audits and energy efficiency audits were conducted, including large corporates and MSMEs, and 187 green products were certified as GreenPro.

CII also facilitated green power procurement to the scale of 450 MW, with annual recurring monetary saving of more than INR 1,500 million. There is a reduction of more than 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent, which accounts for 1.2% of India’s annual GHG emissions. CII has been providing technical assistance to industrial units and over 6,000 professionals have been trained on energy efficiency, water conservation, water efficiency and wastewater management, biodiversity and conservation, carbon neutrality, green supply chain, GHG mitigation and adaptation strategy.

For managing plastics, CII has been working on better policy frameworks such as Extended Producer Responsibility Rules of Plastic Waste Management and end of life plastic management projects.

The joint initiative with United Nations Environment, The Un-plastic Collective, seeks to contribute to minimise externalities of plastics on the environmental, ecological, and social health of our planet. The word ‘un-plastic’ specifically alludes to moving of plastics in the circular economy and removing unnecessary plastic in the long-run, which, in practical terms would imply the use of alternative materials. This multi-stakeholder collective has business at its helm, and outlines evidence-based approaches for managing plastics across the value chain.

To recognize businesses’ actions in combating climate change, CII has introduced a recognition programme called Climate Action Programme (CAP) 2.0° in 2018. This aims to acknowledge credible action taken across all sectors to adapt to or mitigate climate change. In its first cycle, 20 large companies and 50 SMEs had shown enthusiasm and participated in this initiative.

The complete exercise identified the urgency of capacity building of industry to analyse the physical and transitional risks related to climate change and its impact on their business continuity. The SME sector contributes to 45% of total manufacturing output of the country and needs technical guidance to help understand, measure and reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. CII has been working extensively with SMEs on many aspects of action and is introducing a new capacity building programme for SMEs in 2019 on climate action.

On a positive note, though the earth is facing a climate crisis,  it is also getting greener and leafier. According to new research, a study by NASA, based on extensive satellite imagery and published in the journal Nature Sustainability, has revealed that since the turn of the new millennium, the planet’s green leaf area has increased by 5%, or over two million square miles and a third of the rise is largely courtesy of India and China,  two countries with the world’s biggest populations. This is due to the implementation of major tree planting projects alongside a vast increase in agriculture. So, it is safe to say that India is leading the way in greening our planet. As an important partner in national development, CII through its various centers of excellence will remain committed to sustainability in the areas of air pollution, climate change mitigation and adaptation, promoting energy efficiency, environment conservation and forest protection, and reducing emissions through green practices.


[i] CII-NITI Aayog (2018). Biomass Management Report; Clean Fuel Report; and Clean Transportation Report.

[ii] CII-NITI Aayog (Forthcoming 2019). Clean Industry Report.

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