Trends impacting social landscape

The collective efforts of corporations, philanthropies, government, and citizens are crucial in navigating towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The year 2024 is already bringing significant shifts to the socioeconomic and political landscape of the world. The last year saw rising geopolitical tensions in the global arena and the tipping of several planetary boundaries – raising concerns […]

The collective efforts of corporations, philanthropies, government, and citizens are crucial in navigating towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The year 2024 is already bringing significant shifts to the socioeconomic and political landscape of the world. The last year saw rising geopolitical tensions in the global arena and the tipping of several planetary boundaries – raising concerns about displacements and intersecting apprehensions about the impact on women, children, and livelihoods. On a more positive note, there is an increasing awareness amongst people, policymakers, and industries about issues that need to be resolved – giving rise to an increased focus on cross-sectoral collaborations and innovative funding mechanisms. As we move closer to the 2030 deadline to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the beginning of the year allows us to reflect on how these developments will shape our progress.

Transforming India by overcoming challenges

Since 2014, the Government of India has embarked on a journey of progressive transformation, striving to overcome ongoing challenges and make a significant social impact. Among the many initiatives spearheaded by the government, the One District One Product (ODOP) programme stands out as a shining example of visionary policymaking.

India is already on the journey to manage its internal and external challenges for advancing its socioeconomic development commitments, mirroring global trends.

Increasing inflationary pressures compel corporate changemakers in India and globally to assume a critical role in addressing environmental and social challenges. The need for localising and greening supply chains owing to disruptions arising from geopolitics, COVID-19, and climate change is at the forefront. With the growing relevance of ESG and the government’s focus on regenerative manufacturing in the interim budget, the movement to create circular economies can be expected to gain impetus.

Beyond wages, Indian workers advocate for better health, safety, benefits, and a larger set of worker rights. Legislative acts like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the U.S. find resonance in India, setting the stage for job creation with a focus on local economic development. As India implements these measures, the emphasis extends to creating quality jobs that foster economic mobility for workers and communities.

In addressing India-specific challenges, corporations must find the critical balance where profits must be driven with a planet and people-first approach.

Expectations From Philanthropies

India has lately witnessed a rise in place-based philanthropy, recognising the diverse needs of its communities. The approach goes beyond applying generic national solutions, instead leveraging the depth of understanding of local contexts to formulate relevant and sustainable solutions. The result is apparent in growing collaborations with local community and representatives which strengthens the grassroots. Similarly, in the post-pandemic order, the focus on health equity gains prominence. Philanthropic and corporate leaders grapple with sustaining momentum amid economic uncertainty. Estimated to reach a CAGR of USD 50 billion by 2025, the rise of healthcare tech, however, holds the potential to propel quality and affordable medical services in the country. Philanthropic capital, utilising innovative finance models can play a great role in ensuring that innovations by these new enterprises reach the most underserved regions.

India’s net-zero targets, focus on renewables, and the rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI), have broadened the horizons of skill development. No longer is this a domain limited to training the unskilled. As production of energy shifts away from fossil-fuel based options, the workforce heretofore employed in sectors such as coal must be reskilled to fit into the renewables sector. Similarly, across sectors the integration of AI, automation and advent of green jobs will require a significant part of the workforce to be upskilled and reskilled. Philanthropies focusing on skill development have their task cut out in preparing a future-ready workforce. While AI undoubtedly offers unprecedented opportunities for automation, efficiency, and innovation, it’s essential to recognize the enduring value of emotional intelligence in human interactions and decision-making processes. Emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ, enables individuals to understand and manage their emotions effectively, navigate social complexities, and build strong interpersonal connections. EQ is a critical asset for practitioners in the socio-development sector, enabling them to navigate complex challenges, build meaningful relationships, and drive transformative change that improves the lives of individuals and communities worldwide.

Gender Equality is An Imperative for Development

In India, the nexus between gender equality and climate action is vital, as women engaged in climate-sensitive work face challenges such as unequal power dynamics and limited access to resources. Resources include various assets and means, such as money for financial health, land, equipment, and labour for producing goods and services, and political elements like leadership, information, skills, and time. If women small landholders had equal access, farm yields could rise by 20-30%, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger, and reducing carbon emissions by 2.1 gigatons by 2050.

As India emphasises inclusive decision-making and leadership, empowering women in climate action becomes pivotal for resilient communities. Simultaneously, the recent surge in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussions in India, which is driven by progressive judiciary rulings, technological advancements, and global initiatives, now encompasses disability, caste, gender, and sexual orientation (covering the LGBTQIA+ led civil rights movement as well), addressing challenges like inadequate infrastructure and workforce barriers for all. Studies demonstrate that diverse and inclusive workplaces boost innovation, employee satisfaction, productivity, financial performance, and decision-making. While gender diversity and gender-equity attracts more applicants and positively impacts profitability, overcoming gendered barriers is crucial for full workforce participation.

Cultural resets, diversity promotion, and inclusive leadership are therefore essential for fostering an inclusive society.

Unlocking Innovative Solutions

In alignment with global trends, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported a robust growth in impact investing, with 72% of investors worldwide expressing their commitment to maintaining or increasing capital dedicated to this cause, even during the pandemic. This positive sentiment has permeated our own shores – the country’s market for purpose-driven finance is expected to grow by $6-8 billion by 2025. indicating a sustained commitment from impact investors to address critical social and environmental challenges through scalable investments.

The blended financing market in India has reached US$ 1.1 billion in between 2010 to 2022, a growth rate exceeding the global average. This innovative financing measure makes investing in social enterprises more attractive for commercial investors. It uses philanthropic capital to negate the risks associated with investing in solutions for social impact thus making it more convenient for profit-making enterprises to incorporate issue-based perspectives in their products and services.

Social Impact Acceleration Programme

India’s AIC RAISE BUSINESS INCUBATOR initiated under the NITI Aayog strongly exemplifies the Government’s commitment to fostering innovation. The program’s focus on Climate Action, Healthcare, Edtech, Livelihood, and Water Sanitation aligns with India’s developmental priorities. Through collaborative mentorship, the program accelerates the growth of startups, contributing to India’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

SEBI has also provided a regulatory framework for social stock exchange. By providing a marketplace for socially conscious investments, these exchanges facilitate the growth of a social economy where the impact on society and the environment is considered as important as profitability, enabling investors to make meaningful contributions to causes they care about while still seeking financial gains.

Leveraging Opportunities for Lasting Impact

As 2024 unfolds, India stands at a pivotal crossroads, facing global and local challenges with a unique opportunity to drive sustainable and inclusive growth. The collective efforts of corporations, philanthropies, government, and citizens are crucial in navigating towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Emphasizing innovative financing, gender equality, renewable energy, and inclusivity, India’s path forward demands collaboration and impactful solutions to ensure a resilient, equitable, and sustainable future for all.

Dr Veerendra Mishra is IPS officer from MP Cadre, H. Humphrey Fulbright Fellow and Kalinga Fellow and Sharmistha Ghosh, Senior Vice President – Healthcare and Social Impact, Avian WE