Business leaders, notable personalities across various fields and climate change activists gathered at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2020 organised by ET Edge and asked for a "relook" at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being implemented in the country and its impact on business, brands and people in the post-pandemic era.
The dignitaries and speakers deliberated on the theme "Reimaging our Planet - Building Back Better", underlining the importance of inculcating awareness across levels to ensure the future remains green and sustainable.
It is pertinent to note that in September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of "leaving no one behind", the new Agenda emphasized a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.
Participants to the Times Group Summit felt that the Covid-19 pandemic infection early this year threw a spanner in the works of achieving the Sustainable Development goals. Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, New York, viewed COVID-19 as an opportunity to bring back the planet to its ecological order. "The current situation demands a fresh mindset where approach to development should be human centric. India's progress in SDGs is crucial for the entire world as the country is home to about 18% of the world population," he said.
Delivering the opening address at the Summit, Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change emphasized on India's preparedness to implement SDG Goals and reiterated the government's commitment to sustainability. "India has made tremendous progress in last 6 years in achieving all the important SDG targets. The government is committed to give every house portable tap water by 2024. We have set forth a target of 26 million hectares of land restoration. We have achieved 21% reduction in emission intensity and have created 37% of our energy mix capacity with renewables," he elaborated.
Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group, emphasized that India holds the key to saving the planet for the next 50 years. "Sustainability should include employment. Unemployed youth is probably the most dangerous situation any economy or any country can face," she added.
The UN-specified SDG agenda also includes diversity and inclusion. Talking about how the government remains committed to gender equality, Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of BJP and Member of Parliament from New Delhi Parliamentary constituency, she said, "Gender equality should start at party level that will lead to representation at the parliament level. Women leadership at the village panchayat level will only help eradication of many health hazards. Investment in preventive healthcare is crucial in this post pandemic era."
Namrata Rana, Director, Strategy and Brand, Futurescape, India Ambassador of University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership also launched the ET and Futurescape 7th Sustainability Index at the Summit. She said, "Financial growth and GDP measures still don't account for many things that we now value - health, education, environment, etc. The ESG framework covering environment, social and governance issues need to be adopted by many more financial institutions across the world, she recommended.
Dignitaries and participants were almost unanimous in believing that it is crucial for businesses to adopt SDGs. At the heart of any business should be sustainability concerns for a better future, they felt. "Great companies focus on the issues that align with their business strategy and where they can have the greatest potential for global impact," said Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India and SAARC. From understanding the plastics challenge faced by the globe to bringing diversity and disability into the mainstream, were few of the themes they shared.
The conference was well attended by leaders and exponents like Atul Sud, President WeCare & Director Government, Regulatory & Legal Affairs- Perfetti Van Melle India Pvt. Ltd., actor and Climate Warrior Bhumi Pednekar and Dia Mirza Actor, Producer, and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador & United Nations Secretary-General Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals, who closed the day's proceedings by calling for a better world. "The challenge of improving people's lives is greater now than ever. The SDGs are the perfect roadmap and guide to ensure ensures peace, health, equality, and justice for all," she concluded.