Economic growth and productivity development are intricately linked. They are two sides of the same coin: one cannot have a faster rate of economic growth without productivity improvement. Just as economic growth needs to be sustained if a real impact is to be made, it is important to ensure sustainable development with higher productivity in all sectors of economy. For a while it is always easier to achieve short-term gains at the expense of long-term development but quick fixes do not provide a true foundation for long-term productivity development.

If sustainable development is to achieve its potential, it must be integrated with the planning and measurement systems of the enterprises. There is need for a comprehensive and holistic strategy, which involves the fullest mobilization of all our economic, social, cultural, and technological resources that save lives, increase food yields, generate renewable energy for rural areas and facilitate the adoption of clean production etc.

The most widely accepted definition of Sustainable Development is the one adopted by the International Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) Report, 1987. It defines sustainable development as development that “…meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Essentially, sustainable development is built on three pillars of productivity: economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. In order to achieve sustainable productivity development, it is necessary to address productivity issues at the three levels:

  • At the national level, to ensure that an overall environment conducive to productivity enhancement is created;
  • At the sectoral level, to devise industry-sector strategies to encourage the advancement of productivity; and
  • At the enterprise level, to provide the necessary assistance for the improvement of productivity of units.

Sustainable development provides decision makers with an additional benchmark against which the evolved strategies and performance can be assessed. Benchmarking policies that promote sustainable development provide a system to explore the commitment to principles of sustainable development. This benchmark information will be a vital starting point for companies, regulators and the public as they explore new ways of working towards a co-regulation partnership. The evaluation criteria for a productivity linked sustainable development could include:

  • Environmentally sound products, processes and services.
  • Integration of sustainable development and economic growth.
  • Extent of reduction of risks and hazards to human health and the ecosystem.
  • Community/stakeholder participation in sustainable development commitments.

Enterprises particularly SMEs often lack the knowledge and resources to make significant changes in their organizations or technologies. With incentives lacking and the financial benefits of going green remaining suspect, there is a need for more focus on ensuring that sustainable development is compatible with profitability.

The growth of innovative programs and self-regulation are important indicators of change. But the steps taken so far represent just the start of a complex and lengthy transition to more sustainable enterprises. We want a better world, a better environment, peace and prosperity. But our path is fraught with enormous challenges, environmental, social and economic. Our development efforts must be complemented by technological innovations that extend the reach of knowledge and learning to the remotest corners of the country. As majority of India's workforce is employed in the informal sector, their educational and skill levels and resultant productivity are extremely low which hinders the sustainable development of overall economy.

Therefore to keep pace with the rapid changes, higher productivity through adapting and innovating interactive process of changing is required, which would lead to sustainable social and economic progress. For achieving existing economic growth of 8%+ the corporate sector needs to look at sustainable development challenges not as a component of corporate social responsibility practices, but as a business opportunity. We will have to innovatively augment productivity both at micro as well as macro level to be competitive in the changing scenario.

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