Conclave on Sustainable Growth for MSMEs Focus: Mitigating Environment Footprint

·      Delivering the Keynote address at the Conclave on Sustainable Growth for MSMEs David Lelliott OBE, British Deputy High Commissioner Chandigarh said "The UK works closely with India on Climate Change and event is an important part of our follow up to the "Connecting the Dots" initiative that we launched with Utarakhand MLAs during His Royal Highness Prince of Wales visit to the state last year".

"The choice between economic development and tackling climate change is a false one; you can have both.  He expressed hope event will help to frame the debate in Uttarakhand and pave the way for tangible initiatives in both, the private and the Government sector."

Elaborating on the sustainability of the water resources, RD Singh Director, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, said that change of land use from agriculture to urban or industry creates an impacton the environment which impacts economic activity and also creates enhanced pressure on natural resources, including water.  Addressing the session Anand Sharma Director, Meteorological Centre, Dehradun, India Meteorological Department said that the start point of planning for reducing environmental footprint is to first asses the current impact position and then work towards achieving the set reduction targets.

He emphasised on giving emphasis on the multiple aspects of footprint mitigation including water & air pollution, waste management etc., in addition to the greenhouse gas emissions.  He also highlighted the importance of planning not just for long term but also for the immediate and short term future.


Most of the resources that are available to mankind and are necessary for its survival are limited in nature – be it water, land, our other natural resources like fossil fuels, minerals etc. The balance of nature is fragile and the negative impact of human activity on this balance is already being felt in the form of growing pollution, climate change, global warming, extreme weather incidents & dwindling biodiversity. 

In this context it becomes imperative that all our activities, including economic activity, be mindful of the impact on the environment.

India has witnessed rapid development post-independence, especially post liberalization. This has created its own environmental challenges - depleting natural resources, environmental degradation and rising GHG emissions. The negative impacts of these become manifold in case of ecologically fragile states like Uttarakhand.

Going forward the pace of development will have to be even greater, if India is to lift millions of its poor out of poverty. The requirement for greater infrastructure and greater economic activity will put even more pressure on the environment. Hence there is an ever greater importance of focusing on environmentally sustainable development.


India – towards a Green Economy & role of MSMEs

A developing nation like India needs to move on a development path which is also ecologically sustainable, and the nation is conscious of this responsibility. India has voluntarily committed to reduce its emissions intensity by 20-25% by 2020 basis 2005. The National Action Plan for Climate Change lays down a roadmap for adopting both mitigation and adaption measures for achieving environmental sustainability and mitigating climate change. 

The environmental footprint of industries is large accounting for 22% of the GHG emissions in the country. Hence industry has an important role to play in achieving the dream of a Green India. Significant efforts in the business sector are already underway in the areas of alternative power, green building, low-emission vehicles and energy-efficient manufacturing. However this is yet to percolate down to MSMEs in a significant manner.

The Micro Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs) are an important contributor to the Indian economy. They contribute 8% to the country’s GDP, account for 45% of manufacturing output and 40% of the country’s exports. They are the second largest employment generator in the country after agriculture. For Uttarakhand, a hill state, the economic landscape is dominated by MSMEs.

While the ecological footprint of individual MSMEs may not be very obvious due to the small size of their operations. However, given their large numbers collectively, MSMEs have a significant impact. Therefore the goal of India being a green economy cannot be realized without MSMEs participation.


MSMEs and low priority to Environmental Sustainability

While the agenda of Environmental Sustainability is gaining ground with large corporations in India, it continues to be largely a fringe priority for MSMEs. The reasons for this are many:

The perception amongst the MSMEs that their individual impact on environment is not much, prevents sustainability from becoming a key agenda for them

Awareness on environmental issues & understanding of their potential impact is often low

MSMEs have limited resources, including human and financial resources. These limited resources are prioritized for the current and the urgent business needs. In the process issues related to environmental impact of their own activities get neglected.

Limited resources often limit access to the necessary information and knowhow


Mainstreaming the agenda of Environmental Sustainability for MSMEs

The true spirit in embracing sustainability lies in going beyond the regulatory compliances and considering environment as an important stakeholder to be taken care of, like other stakeholders. There is enough evidence based on experience of businesses and organizations that have embraced environmental sustainability that making sustainability a part of strategic planning, processes and operations provides a competitive advantage. It leads to reduction in costs by helping achieve greater efficiencies and reducing wastages; greener products also tend to find better acceptance amongst customers.

However MSMEs often interpret Environmental Sustainability to mean compliances with environmental regulation. This creates a mindset wherein taking measures to protect the environment becomes a matter of ‘additionality’ , a matter of making additional compliances, often cumbersome and resource consuming, and considered as largely unnecessary.

This mindset needs to be changed by helping MSMEs make environmental sustainability a part of their DNA. Sustainability, like profitability, will have to become part of their systems and processes. This will in turn ensure that the initial costs/investments are more than offset by greater long term profitability, lower risks, and greater acceptance by customers


Role of Stakeholders

Government and Large Corporations can play a very important role in helping MSMEs, mainstream the agenda of mitigating the environmental footprint.


Government can encourage MSMEs to adopt environmental sustainability through

  • Creating awareness on the importance and benefits of environmental sustainability.
  • Creating mechanisms for capturing data on important environmental parameters. This is an essential input to strategic planning and also measuring progress
  • Offering appropriate financial incentives
  • Recognizing MSMEs who take leadership in achieving environmental sustainability. In the process others get motivated to adopt such practices as well as get to learn from the leaders
  • Setting appropriate standards for industry and at the same time also creating facilitator mechanisms/institutions which help MSMEs access the specialized knowhow and the financial resources. Also the monitoring of the implementation of these standards should be simple and hassle free
  • Creating common infrastructure /incentivizing creation of such infrastructure – for ex such CETPs, common pool of experts.
  • Including Environmental Sustainability in the curricula of various Technical Diploma and Degree courses which cater to industry. This will help in promoting a general culture which understands & values environmental sustainability

Large organizations can on the other hand be the role models and lead by example. They could take measures to encourage green supply chain and green vendors. They could play a role in creating awareness and sensitizing MSMEs, and also sharing their own expertise and experience.

Conclave on Sustainable Growth for MSMEs, Focus: Mitigating Environment Footprint

This Conclave aimed to address some of the above issues



  • Encouraging MSMEs to adopt environmentally sustainable practices.
  • To discuss current policy environment in the state for promoting sustainability amongst MSMEs & future plans.
  • Creating awareness among MSMEs through knowledge sharing.
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Knowledge Resources
You will get access to following Knowledge Resources by subscribing to the Digital Library of this event.
Conclave on Sustainable Growth for MSMEs, Focus: Mitigating Environment Footprint
Water Resources: Indian Scenarios
Environmental Policy of Uttrakhand
Sustainability Practices - Learnings from ITC
Sustainability: The Business Case
Sustainability Practices at ACC
Encouraging MSMEs to Adopt Environmentally Sustainable Practices
Wastewater Treatment, Recycle & Reuse
Technologies for Reducing Water Footprint of MSME - A Perspective by Ovivo India
SIDBI’s Initiatives in Sustainable Finance
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