New Delhi, November 22, 2010While public awareness and concern about sustainable development issues are growing, opinion leaders are less optimistic that real progress is being made on sustainable development in India, according to the “BT Sustainable Development (SD) Index an assessment of business performance in India 2009-10.”
The BT SD Index, which is in its second year, has been developed in partnership with GlobeScan, an independent public opinion and stakeholder research company. Through a survey of senior opinion leaders across India, the index measures the performance of business and the progression towards sustainable development over time.
This year’s BT SD Index reveals that while corporate performance in India continues to be strongest on ensuring long-term economic growth, sustainability issues such as water resource management have emerged as the most urgent issues needing attention in India. Education (79%), health/healthcare and long-term economic growth (73% each), and climate change (71%) are also seen as critical issues needing attention.
Commenting on the Index, Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Director General, TERI, said, “Major social challenges can’t be addressed by only governments and NGOs; the role of business is crucial. While India Inc are facing the issues of Sustainable Development head on, there is still a long road ahead. Businesses can’t succeed in societies that fail.”
Speaking about the findings, Mr. Arun Seth, Chairman, BT India said, “As India moves ahead to the next stage of its social and economic transformation, it is paramount that critical investment is made into tackling the issues of sustainable development. While both government and business have realised the urgency of this action, there is still much more activity and development of this area that needs to be undertaken to ensure ‘real change’ and forward progress.” Seth continued, “Both government and corporations are now engaging in the dialogues and creating the platforms that will hopefully provide the greatest potential for making progress on the majority of sustainable development issues.”
Indian companies are taking positive steps towards sustainable development, though opinion is divided as to whether companies are truly committed or just “greenwashing.” The overall performance of the corporate sector needs to be more fully developed. Seventy-one per cent of India's opinion leaders surveyed point to a lack of political will, while 55 per cent feel that lack of awareness around sustainable development issues is the main cause of inaction. The study results reflect perceptions and not actual performance.
“Compared to last year, opinion leaders give lower marks to Indian business performance on sustainability. However, they also perceive increased sustainability and CSR activity coupled with a heightened sense of urgency. In this respect India joins other countries where our polling shows a widening gap between expectations and perceived performance of business.” said Doug Miller, Chairman, GlobeScan.
Globally, Japan, the European Union, and the United States are all considered to be making progress on sustainable development by at least half of opinion leaders. India continues with lower ratings as a developing nation, still having much ground to gain on the leaders.
While there are negative views of India’s progress, a majority of Indian leaders feel that the government and companies are taking more action towards sustainable development and anticipate an increase in activity related to corporate social responsibility/sustainability programs within their own organisations in the next 12 months.