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Moving up the green ladder

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20160615ep02As the Modi Government launches its second anniversary celebration on May 26, the BJP will be organising 200 odd events over a fortnight, accompanied by a social media blitz. It will naturally be all about its achievements, making it clear that it has upcoming state polls and the 2019 elections in mind. But let us hope that party leaders also introspect, at least in private, on which initiatives have remained mere slogans, and how many have been converted into action. Success in even a few of the key initiatives can win them a second term, without all this fanfare, provided the results are clear to the voting population.

A natural corollary of Prime Minister Modi’s flagship scheme Make in India, is ‘zero defect, zero effect’ (on the environment), dubbed ZED. Against the backdrop of the drought in various parts of India, his weekend ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio broadcast of May 22 too called for protection of the environment, highlighting that conservation of water and forests was people’s responsibility.

Both his Independence Day speeches too mentioned environmental pollution. Recognising that manufacturers in the MSME segment would be the category which needed awareness and handholding the most, the government decided to use the time tested carrot and stick approach. It has created a process to incentivise companies to move towards greener processes, using a rating system.

Going ahead, ZED accreditation, created and executed by the Quality Council of India (QCI) will help MSMEs pitch the rating to global clients who  now require their vendors to follow the same sustainability practices. FDI investors too would find this a handy indicator. ZED ratings are also likely to be a benchmark for suppliers to PSU and defence establishments.

The ZED Pilot Report was released at the mega Make In India Week in February and 11 companies have already signed up to create ZED cells. The ZED rating, starting from Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond and finally Platinum, across 50 parameters, each with five levels, is valid for four years and can be displayed on e-commerce sites. This will be a huge benefit for export-oriented companies as well.

The initiative is being driven by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and with the likes of Tata Chemicals already signing up, it is only a matter of time that pharma companies too join the group.

The focus states that will drive ZED initially are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka, which have been shortlisted to be the first four states to drive the process. These four states reportedly have 57 per cent of total MSME employment with 59 per cent of the sector’s exports. A change in mindset in just a few companies in these states could influence peers in the same state to follow suit. Officials are no doubt betting that some of these 11 early birds will see the benefits and savings of going green and then spread the word.

Most subsidiaries of global pharma companies would already have sustainability measures in place but there is growing awareness among the MSME sector as well. The cover story in this year’s World Environment Day issue covers both perspectives (See story: Going Green, pages 24-28). Representatives from both ends of the spectrum call for greater support from the government in terms of putting up common effluent treatment plants in SEZs as well as encouraging investments in alternative cleaner energy sources, like wind and solar energy. We hope to see many MSME players use the ZED initiative to move up the green ladder. This would prove whether they are truly living the ‘keen to be green’ slogan or merely keen to be seen to be green.

In last year’s June 1-15 issue, I had made a wish list for PM Modi’s second year in office. (http://www.expressbpd.com/article/pharma/editors-note/wish-list-for-pm-modis-second-year/76681/) The Cabinet approved the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy on May 13, with a new slogan: Creative India; Innovative India. This is one major item off the list, though IP experts like Prof Shamnad Basheer have found little to praise in the policy. (http://spicyip.com/2016/05/the-new-ipr-policy-a-pitiful-paradox.html)

The Opposition has vowed to block another major item on the wish list, the GST Bill, stalling it in the Rajya Sabha though it was passed by the Lok Sabha. But the BJP’s recent victory in Assam  seems to have re-energised the party, with the government reportedly aiming to introduce it on the first day of the monsoon session and hoping to pass it this year itself.

Specific to the pharma sector, the API and bulk drug segments were promised policy initiatives, but now there is a consensus that promoting APIs, as per the China model, will be counterproductive. While policymakers will encourage API manufacturing, they are firm that it will not be at the cost of the environment. They would rather incentivise companies to move up the ladder, to value added formulation research and pure R&D. Let’s hope that we have learnt from China’s experience.

Viveka Roychowdhury
Editor

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