India has been central to all climate-related discussions for the last decade or two. Developed countries often blame India for the growing greenhouse gas emissions but fail to acknowledge their soaring per capita greenhouse emissions. In reality, most of the emissions contributing to global warming come from rich countries. In contrast, most damage will be felt in middle-income and lower-income countries near the equator, including India.
India has been responding to these allegations through initiatives and addressing critics at global forums. As a result, influential people recognize India’s contribution to combating climate change. For example, bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and one of the most prominent philanthropists, recently acknowledged India’s progress in renewable energy and its low per capita emissions at an event organized by The Indian Express. While expressing his concerns about climate change, Gates called for scientific innovations to address the issue. He also pointed out that solving climate change is one of the most challenging problems, as modern economies rely heavily on hydrocarbons for over 80% of their energy.
India has been working towards a green future and is leading the world in green energy. Its promise at COP 26 in 2021 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 is a significant landmark in its efforts. In addition, not only is the government concerned about climate change, but private players are also making substantial efforts to tackle global warming through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Philanthropy for climate change in India is on the rise. The EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2022 reported a 46% increase in donations to the environment and sustainability compared to the previous fiscal year. In addition, data analyzed by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for CSR expenditures of all Indian companies in 2014-15 showed that 14% (Rs 1,213 crore) of total CSR spending in India was focused on conserving the environment. This was the third-highest expenditure on social impact issues after education (32%) and health (26%), and it exceeded the amount spent on rural development (12%).
Indian companies are increasingly focusing on sustainable projects with a long-term impact on their CSR activities. For example, companies are investing in renewable energy, water conservation projects, and watershed development instead of traditional CSR activities such as tree planting. These projects have several cascading effects on social and economic development, such as better education, health, income opportunities, increased safety for women, and reduced indoor pollution.
Companies are shifting from philanthropy to responsible business and strategic CSR. They are institutionalizing CSR activities strategically to bring business responsibility to the forefront. For example, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) firms that source raw materials from farmers invest in securing and sustaining farmers’ livelihoods and local water regeneration. Similarly, energy companies invest in environment-friendly projects to mitigate their risks from a reputation point of view.
Despite massive investments through CSR, which has increased by 15% in the past seven years, the funds directed towards climate change and the environment have formed the lowest share, averaging about 9% between 2014 to 2020. This needs to change, as climate change is one of the significant concerns that the world is facing now.