India is booming. By 2030, it is forecast to be the world's third-largest economy and is likely to have a GDP of $4 trillion and a population of 1.5 billion. On one hand, the country's growth implies a unique opportunity to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. On the other, it means that India will face increasing environmental challenges.

This will indeed swell demand for critical resources such as oil and coal with a parallel increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Considering that 80 per cent of the India of 2030 is yet to be built, the country has a unique opportunity to pursue development while enhancing its energy security, managing emissions growth as well as creating some world scale clean energy industries.

This leapfrogging from today's technologies, assets and practices towards more efficient ones will require an incremental investment amounting to 1.8 to 2.3 per cent of GDP between 2010 and 2030.

what is meant by sustainable

Can these challenges contribute to set a whole new standard for driving sustainable and responsible growth? In order to answer this question, one must first understand what is meant by sustainable.

There is a classic definition which defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.

This definition, emerging from a UN process known as the Brundtland Commission in 1983, has been constructed in such a way that nobody would argue with it. After all, it is a sensible definition of development, sustainable or otherwise. Ten years ago at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, an African elder rephrased sustainable development as “enough for all forever”.

Driving forces behind progress

So if the definition is simple and the aim noble, why does progress seem so slow, and what are the keys to unlock it?

Entrepreneurship and social innovation have proved to be the driving forces behind India's economic expansion in the last decade.

The same themes may well prove to be the key to unlocking a more sustainable growth.

Moreover, to complement the inter-governmental ongoing processes, many businesses and NGOs are partnering with governments to forge bottom-up solutions on a national and regional level. Speed up ambitious partnerships between business and governments are definitely the key to solving global issues.

And to substantially increase the tangibility of outcomes, there is as well a need to explore the potential for business and civil society-led action and collaboration.

This collaboration is best demonstrated through scaled partnerships and initiatives, especially in the absence of ambitious government policies.

Such partnerships are not limited to specific fields, and are applicable to key sustainability themes such as clean energy and energy access, water, sustainable agriculture, sustainable commodity sourcing and consumption patterns.

This “bottom up” innovation within the world's largest democracy can help in a very practical way to drive sustainable growth in India, and offer replicable models for the rest of the world, especially other emerging economies.

Other global meets

Regarding the sustainability world agenda, there are several events which will depend bottom-up ambitions for their success. In less than one month, the world will turn its eyes to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Durban, South Africa. Additionally, there is an ambitious Rio+20 meeting in Brazil in June set to decide on goals for sustainable development over the coming decades, in essence exploring how to take the Milennium Development Goals into the next decade.

With a global stage looking for heroes, now is the time for India's green business innovations to be shared on a global level.

Economic targets

At the Sustainable Growth Summit taking place in Mumbai, leaders from business, social and youth activism, academia and international organisations will come together to discuss new forms of scaled collaboration to meet India's impressive economic targets, while setting new standards for environmentally and socially minded growth.

The summit will focus on innovations that have the potential to deliver sustainable economic growth through improved water, agriculture, commodities, waste and renewable energy management in the Indian context, with an aim to provoke new thinking on global partnerships.

Challenges bring opportunities. Faced by an open and creative mind, these challenges can encourage the search for new solutions. Finding such groundbreaking solutions is the aspiration for those who will gather at this summit in Mumbai.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 13, 2011)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.