Sustainable Responsibility By Brig Rajiv Williams, YSM (Veteran)
Business responsibility in a free-enterprise system has a number of connotations and does not only reflect on the Company’s profit margins but is also measured by social impact and social consciousness. It has to behave in a manner of an inclusive growth in a new world order marked by the concept of ‘Sustainable-practices’ and ‘Business Sustainability’.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations member States in 2015, provided a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and planet, at the heart of which were the drivers encased in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All countries recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve education & health indicators, reduce inequality and promote measures for economic growth. However the bottom lime remains in tackling climate change innovatively through climate driven policies and climate adaptable practices.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a connect between the head and the heart, where the 3 BL Principle of People, Planet and Profit remain key toward sustainable development, of which the first ‘P’ i.e. “People” are the focus of all endeavour. Progressive CSR is what is the future of CSR and is directly to do with corporate leaders’ understanding of CSR as it has now become integral to business strategy and facilitates developing sustainable communities. The CSR Directors need to excite senior management in such an understanding and support them in adopting sustainable practices in various business processes. The outcomes of such engagement will contribute toward business profitability and encourage various stakeholders to adopt a positive value based approach. Such an adaptation by Corporations will have a direct impact on their business responsibility toward the second pillar of ‘Respect’ enshrined in the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on business and human rights framework – ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ and in essence contribute toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ecosystem Restoration as chartered for the decade 2021 – 2030, gives support to the preamble of the 2030 Agenda, wherein world leaders have affirmed their commitment – “Determined to protect the planet from degradation”. I feel we need to pause and think on this commitment and go beyond the statement and measure ‘The Where’ and ‘The What’ of things that need to be done to achieve the goals set out at the COP 21 – Paris Accord. After all it is the comity of nations under the UN umbrella that has established the Conference of Parties (COP) and has an important role to play in protecting the environment as projected by the apex decision making body of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC).
The World scenario on the targets set as of now seem to be rather farfetched with limited Action Plans on a host of climate indicators in place and limited resources being allocated toward achieving the designed goals. What I see most corporations are carrying out massive tree plantation drives to mitigate some of the challenges faced on the theme of ecosystem protection from degradation with the purpose of supposedly becoming carbon neutral by the year 2030, which later during various international debates and discussions have revised their plans for carbon neutrality by 2050 – 2070. It is time for corporations to reduce pressure on the existing environment, especially in this globalized economy, by respecting ‘Nature’ and protecting it from being further degraded. While ambition drives businesses to extract the maximum to increase their profit margins, yet from the business responsibilities standpoint, they need to plough back a fair share of their profits to make the world more sustainable and give adequate emphasis on responsible sourcing and responsible consumption.
Reduction of carbon emissions
As per the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) the process for carbon trading on various projects has been clearly defined for both – non-Annexure countries i.e., the developing countries as also for the Annexure countries, i.e. the developed nations. The protocol allows Annexure 1 countries to meet their GHG emission reduction commitment by acquiring GHG emission reduction credits from non – Annexure countries through Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). Although there are challenges around it and at times can be questioned on the principle of ethics, where in the developing countries for compliance, just buy off credits from non-developing nations instead of directly mitigating the problem of reducing carbon emissions directly in their own backyards.
To sum up I feel we need to go beyond our closed operational areas and support the Ecosystem Restoration in all its forms and move beyond rhetoric by demonstrating our resolve through a well-coordinated ‘Action plan’. We must contribute toward the achieving the indicators enunciated under SDG 17, which focuses partnerships. We must move toward sustainable consumption and keep our ambitious goals under check as that is the only way of making this world more ‘Sustainable and Inclusive’.
About The Author
Brig Rajiv Williams sought premature retirement from the Indian Army after a 33 years career and joined Jindal Stainless Limited Group (JSL) as Group Head CSR, where he served for 17 years. He is now continuing his professional acumen as Advsior and Consultant CSR, besides engaging on matters military.
During his military career, he served at different war and peace time locations having spent nearly two decades in Jammu and Kashmir to include some of the most difficult areas in Drass, Kargil and the Siachen Glacier. With JSL Brig Williams initiated several projects on Education & Skill development, Integrated health, Women Empowerment, Sustainable agriculture, Clean drinking water projects, Solar, Carbon mitigation strategies, Business and Human Rights developed ESG practices so on.
Brig Williams has been a member on boards of many organizations to include the United Nations Global Compact Network (UNGC), and has been member CSR Committees of Industry Associations and Educational Institutions. As Convener of the UNGC Human Rights Committee, he created ‘The India CEO Forum on Business and Human Rights’ under the Chairmanship of Mr. Narayana Murthy, Chairman Emeritus Infosy.
In his military service, Brig Rajiv Williams was awarded gallantry awards to include the Yudh Seva Medal and Mention in Dispatches for operations in the Kargil and Siachen Sectors.
His civil awards include the ‘Asia Pacific Leadership Award’, ‘Top 100 Most Impactful Global CSR leaders award’ ‘Top 25 CSR Leaders in India’, the Human Rights and ‘Most Excellence CSR Award’ and the Mahatma Award for CSR.
Brig Rajiv Williams is a prolific writer and speaker at various forums and conferences, He has been invited to speak at the offices of the United Nations in New York and Geneva besides other forums across the world.
He has co-authored books on ‘SIACHEN GLACIER’, The Indian Military Academy and on his JAK LI Regiment. He has written several papers on varied topics from conflict prevention and security to matters relating to Responsible Business and Corporate Citizenship. His recent paper on Corporate Social Responsibility finds a pride of place in the book – ‘CSR in India’ published by Springer International and released in Bonn, Germany.