Leading Change Towards Sustainability: Naina Lal Kidwai
Naina Lal Kidwai, Past President, FICCI, is Chairman, Max Financial Services and Advent Private Equity. She is also a Non-Executive Director on the global board of Nestle, CIPLA Ltd and Larsen & Toubro. She retired in December 2015 as Executive Director of HSBC Asia-Pacific and Chairman HSBC-India.
An MBA from Harvard Business School, she has been bestowed with many awards and honours; she was awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution to Trade and Industry in 2007. She has authored Survive or Sink: An Action Agenda for Sanitation, Water, Pollution and Green Finance, Contemporary Banking in India and 30 Women in Power: Their Voices, Their Stories.
She is one of the Government of India's representatives on the BRICs Business Council where she chairs the financial services working group, and the INDO-ASEAN Business Council.
In an interview with Manu Shankar, Naina Lal Kidwai emphasizes her commitment towards environment and elaborates on the role of the government and corporates:
Give us an insight into your book Survive or Sink…
I have been writing on environmental issues for the last decade in the main-line dailies and magazines and have been part of global think tanks on these subjects. Survive or Sink is an action agenda for sanitation, pollution and the environment – about utilizing our natural resources paving the path to an ecologically sustainable future. My book explores the interlinkages between water, sanitation and a cleaner environment highlighting the role that citizens, industry, civil society, media and the government needs to play in collaboration with each other to address these issues. Survive or Sink is a wake-up call and highlights viable solutions to these environmental problems.
This book also covers subjects like green finance and the financial framework for sustainability, inclusive growth, green jobs and the critical role of women in social transformation.
The book is replete with examples of corporate good practices in sanitation, water management and environment – success stories that should be celebrated and replicated. Climate change is a critical issue that is affecting one and all and the national climate action, unveiled by the prime minister ahead of the Paris climate talks too showcases India's effort to reduce the amount of carbon produced. Your take on that …
Climate change has no borders or biases. It does not care whether you are rich or poor, big or small. With time the world has realized the need to accelerate their efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. India, too, has taken the lead on climate change by firming up its stance to follow a low-carbon growth trajectory while looking to grow the economy. In fact, India has been taking the lead in addressing this issue while moving ahead with its development agenda. If we do it right, we will gain economically from liveable and productive cities and from clean sources of energy powering our homes and industries. We will have healthier and productive people. My book highlights the loss to GDP and the costs of pollution and poor sanitation. The role of the government is important in formulating policies, giving stimulus to climate-sensitive sectors and clean energy, building and assimilating the knowledge repository of climatefriendly solutions and technologies. However, these efforts will ultimately need to be put into action by large and small businesses, the financial world and citizens.
The government with the Swachh Bharat Mission has raised awareness and the situation of provision of toilets has improved from 40 to 76 per cent. But, what more can be done in the area of sanitation?
The magnitude of the sanitation crisis in India cannot be overstated, given its significant social, economic and environmental repercussions. It is one of India's greatest unmet challenges. There is an urgent need to build greater momentum around a broader understanding of what will make India truly clean. Construction of toilets will and must continue. However, we have to move forward, away from merely the provision of toilets to toilets that are used, maintained and where all human waste is safely treated and disposed. In order to do this effectively, all conversation and efforts around sanitation need to be viewed through a BUMT (Build-Use-Maintain-Treat) lens – which is the mission of the India Sanitation Coalition. Failing to do so will risk the current spends and structures lapsing into disuse by communities that have not been won over to consistent and universal use – leading to continued rise in diseases and deaths caused by exposure to untreated human waste in the environment. Without adequate and urgent attention to faecal sludge treatment, public health benefits that can accrue with universal access to safe sanitation will continue to elude us. We should all be asking “Where does my faecal sludge go?” You may discover to your dismay that it is polluting water bodies and fields, emptying into rivers and drains rather than being treated and, ideally, the waste water being re-used.
How can corporates play a greater role in sanitation and can PPP help drive the sanitation issue? Also do you think that stakeholders should look at sanitation issue beyond their CSR lens?
Corporates have a key role to play in the national Swachh Bharat agenda. Political will teamed with private public partnerships is critical in adding momentum to the Swachh Bharat Mission. When thinking of the role of corporate engagement in the sanitation space, we must base this on the value additions they can both bring and acquire. This could range from last-mile connectivity in terms of advocacy, skill development and capacity building, ecosystem building including provision for products and services, to a natural progression of their own businesses. CSR spends and engagement by corporates is already evident in setting benchmarks of best practice, or improvement in technologies and services – ensuring the shift towards 'sustainable' models for sanitation. We should also see corporates coming together to jointly work on large projects replicating success stories together rather than look for individual glory and credit .
Climate change has no borders or biases. It does not care whether you are rich or poor, big or small. With time the world has realized the need to accelerate their efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. India, too, has taken the lead on climate change by firming up its stance to follow a low-carbon growth trajectory while looking to grow the economy.
There is a need to develop an 'Ease of Doing Business in Sanitation' for the private sector making it easier for corporates to engage in the space. Examples could include partnerships of corporates and municipalities and creating sanitation awareness among school students under education or school programmes. With BUMT as its philosophy, the India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) works with experts who test and develop effective communication programmes. Another way could be by supporting institutional frameworks for certifications, standards and verification, which would help to flag areas of strength, areas that need improvement, and linkages between them.
To take this beyond CSR, there is a need to develop an 'Ease of Doing Business in Sanitation' for the private sector making it easier for corporates to engage in the space. Examples could include partnerships of corporates and municipalities and creating sanitation awareness among school students under education or school programmes. With BUMT as its philosophy, the India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) works with experts who test and develop effective communication programmes. Another way could be by supporting institutional frameworks for certifications, standards and verification, which would help to flag areas of strength, areas that need improvement, and linkages between them. What are the best global practices that India can adopt to make sanitation campaign successful?
Germany is a great example in forward planning and addressing the last mile as far as sanitation is concerned. German sanitation programmes and strategies have included a target-oriented approach, emphasizing that selected sanitation interventions must be localized taking into account the needs and circumstances of the users. Recognizing that Germany has been able to uphold the quality and efficiency of their centralized wastewater systems owing to its water and capital-rich profile, developing countries must explore better suited decentralized systems. Innovative solutions and supporting entrepreneurship are also important. This notion of promoting sustainable tailored solutions to respective localities and geographies will be imperative to the success of SBM in India, particularly given the diversity of the country. Closer home some of the success stories from Southeast Asia provide important learnings. For example, distributed smaller sewage treatment plants widely used in Indonesia and Malaysia are ideal for India. They can be set up at onefifteenth the cost and can be executed in a year versus eight to ten years as we are used to seeing in India.
You have been past FICCI President. Where would you like to see FICCI go from here as industry's voice for policy change?
Industry bodies such as FICCI serve as vital platforms for knowledge sharing and shaping policies, creating synergies between Indian industry, policy makers and the international business community. With its strong legacy of shaping the national development discourse, FICCI's role going forward will be critical in driving responsible, sustainable, business and good governance. Global investors and communities are beginning to demand this of business and we would be remiss to neglect this trend. And then there are huge business opportunities for us to grasp and implement therein too.
Naina Lal Kidwai, Past President, FICCI, & Chairman, Max Financial Services and Advent Private Equity, presenting a green certificate to Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry.