Taking Action on the SDGs in India – TERI University

IMG_5233The new Sustainable Development Goals, agreed upon by world governments in September 2015, came into effect 1 January 2016. This new set of goals will help guide international priorities as well as the work of business and business schools for the next 15 years.

New Signatory, TERI University in India, has already begun implementing several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 12, which is related to Sustainable Consumption and Production. They have partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and EU-funded SWITCH-Asia programme, the largest European Union programme on SCP. This partnership allows them to support, train, and prepare various stakeholders (especially policymakers and students) for the forthcoming sustainable development challenges.

I spoke with Dr. Kaushik Ranjan Bandyopadhyay, Associate Professor at the Department of Business Sustainability at TERI University about this initiative.

Why is Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) important in South Asia?

South Asia is a region of diversity and is home to around a quarter of the global population. Besides registering a consistent pace of economic growth of around 6% over the past two decades, the region is also home to a lion’s share of the world’s middle class.

The growing economic activity coupled with rising aspiration of the middle class is reflected in growing material consumption and a concomitant increase in production. This trend will undoubtedly exert severe pressure on the environment, making it almost necessary for the region to focus on resource and material efficiency and internalise SCP in policymaking.

However, the internalisation of SCP in policymaking in South Asia may not necessarily be that challenging as the region also happens to have a unique character with communities still abiding by the traditional norms. These norms, with their fulcrum lying in age-old traditional knowledge, encourage sustainable consumption and production especially in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and other sectors. Backed by robust social institutions and a deep respect for the environment that are rooted in religion and culture, the region also appears to be conducive to assimilate the paradigm of SCP in policymaking.

How is TERI involved in SCP in the region?

From 2-6 November 2015 TERI ran The Winter School – BLISS 2015, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under the aegis of the EU-funded Switch Asia programme focused on interdisciplinary training on the theme: ‘Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.’ The primary aim of the Winter School was to facilitate an improved understanding of complexities relating to sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the significance of various strategy options and institutional arrangements to mainstream SCP for effective policy planning.

What are the key features of the programme (Winter School)? 

The Winter School hosted both national and international speakers from UNEP, 10 Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on SCP, Indian institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and TERI as well as heads of various government departments and development foundations. The Winter School was open to all interested individuals from policymakers to students.

The sessions in the Winter School covered the 2030 SCP Agenda– SDG 12 and the 10YFP on SCP and also addressed key thematic areas like Business Case for SCP, Behavioral Change and Education for SCP, Sustainable Procurement, Sustainable Urban Settlements and Integration of SCP into Policy at regional and national levels.

What have been some of the challenges and success?

The biggest challenge in organising this Winter School was demystifying the notion of SCP itself to a lay audience. This was coupled with challenges in identifying and obtaining the participation of relevant policymakers and participants from the region within a short span of time for a face-to-face interaction as well as simultaneously ensuring and managing the online participation from participants all across the globe. However, TERI University could successfully overcome the challenge by drawing on its past experiences in organising the summer schools on Building and Learning in Sustainability Science (BLISS) for the last two years. The Winter School was a success and was attended on-campus as well as online by more than 200 participants including Government officials from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India), researchers, practitioners, academics, and students.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar in place?

To identify the synergy that such a thematic school has with the institutions’ vision and mission and plan well in advance so as to have adequate and relevant participation of the intended beneficiaries from such schools or workshops.

What is next?

Under the Switch-Asia project, the university has been entrusted with the task of creating a course on SCP for policymakers in the South Asian region and executing three-start-up research projects addressing various themes on SCP. The first meeting towards developing the course curriculum on SCP involving experts and practitioners was held on 18 September 2015 and a subsequent meeting will be held early next year. A follow-up school will be held next year in line with the Winter School to further advance capacity building for policy makers in the region. The follow-up school will reflect on the outcomes of the three start-up research projects that are currently being carried out.

What other initiatives are happening at TERI in the field of sustainability that you would like to share with the wider PRME community?

Besides the Switch-Asia project, TERI University is also executing a project on Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings. The Project aims to strengthen two flagship missions promulgated by the new Government of India; National Skill Development and Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India). The proposed Project is of 3-year duration. It is a joint-initiative of the TERI University, Coca-Cola, India, and TERI with support from USAID to help achieve the Government’s sanitation targets by conducting a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) risk analysis in Kolkata and Chennai slums, developing participatory intervention strategies in urban areas, and building capacity of faculty and students through a model sanitation curriculum. Specifically, the programme plans to reach twenty municipal schools and 2,500 students through school WASH programmes, 50,000 beneficiaries in low-income settlements, and over 300 professionals through WASH governance studies.

TERI is also well-known for its flagship programme Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL). LaBL is a global initiative to facilitate clean energy access and the delivery of last mile energy services for basic and productive use. The initiative enables energy poor communities to transition from traditional and inefficient energy sources to modern, more efficient and sustainable energy solutions. Operating through an entrepreneurial model of energy service delivery, LaBL accelerates market development for clean energy technologies through knowledge sharing, capacity building, and market seeding.

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