Quiet flows the INDUS initiative

  • Sarah Berry | New Delhi

    June 19, 2017 | 05:41 AM
INDUS Forum

The Netherlands, together with India, are looking for ways to turn sustainability related challenges into business opportunities.

This has led to the establishment of the Indo-Dutch Sustainability (INDUS) Forum. The Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) and the Dutch Embassy have taken a leading, partnering role in this. Till date, more than 500 INDUS partners ~ from India and the Netherlands ~ have shown interest in what the forum can offer. CRB's belief in multi-stakeholder initiatives for addressing multidimensional problems of sustainability is ingrained in the INDUS-Forum.

The slogan of the INDUS Forum: "Let's make all trade and investments between India and the Netherlands Sustainable" encapsulates the very essence of the forum. By starting with innovative pilots between Indian and Dutch companies, the INDUS Forum hopes to accelerate sustainability within the core business of all involved. Working for people, planet and profit is a key element of this approach.

The point is that sustainable solutions must make business sense; otherwise it will remain on the fringe of companies' strategies.

The new strategic partnership of the INDUS Forum with Dutch organisation MVO Nederland brings in fresh ideas and new focus. MVO Nederland works worldwide with a membership base of 2,300 Dutch companies, all of whom are interested in doing sustainable business worldwide, including in India. Most of those companies have an international orientation and are facing sustainability questions throughout their value chain and trade relations.

MVO Nederland works with international programmes and serves as a hands-on expert organisation, which is also funded by the Dutch government.

An example of their sustainability approach in Costa Rica concerns 'Topless Pineapples'. Dutch supermarkets traditionally sell pineapples with their crowns.

These crowns do not have any added value as they are only cosmetic. Without a top, 10 pineapples will fit in a box instead of just seven. A pineapple without a crown saves money during shipment, money which goes back to the farmer. In that same way, each pineapple will emit less CO2 emissions.

The crown, which can provide rich nutrients and biomass, stays back in the field. Dutch companies have offered several solutions to turn the crown (biomass) into energy and into vegetarian 'leather'. Through smart connections with Dutch and Costa Rican businesses, a sustainable solution with clear business benefits has sparked more sustainable business.

The INDUS network wants to be the platform for such innovative sustainable and inclusive business models, involving companies and practitioners from India and the Netherlands. "We should stop approaching each other as buyer or supplier in the supply chain; the time has come to co-create new business models together", an Indian textile-entrepreneur quoted in one of the preparatory sessions that led up to the next INDUS Forum event scheduled for 19 June 19 in New Delhi.

Already, the INDUS Forum is fulfilling its sustainable matchmaking potential, by connecting concrete opportunities in India and the Netherlands. The challenge is now to make clear choices and to connect the right persons.

A Dutch textile consortium, for example, is searching for spinning mill managements that understand circular business models. An Indian tyre producer is interested in partnering for recycled content in tyres.

Those are clear-cut demands which can be met by the market and by individual companies. Opportunities aplenty, the focus of the INDUS Forum going forward will be apparel/textile, agriculture/agro-business and food and the IT/services sector.

The next step is to introduce a platform on which a community of Indian and Dutch companies and practitioners would meet mutual 'demand' (sustainability challenges) with 'supply' (good practices) online.