Private equity firm WestBridge Capital and Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies have jointly committed Rs 5.5 crore to set up two new centres at the Bengaluru-based research institution, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).
The two will engage with policy leaders on issues such as climate change and look at using the research grant to offer sustainable business opportunities for local communities.
The Centre for Policy Design and Centre for Social and Environmental Innovation — to be set up at ATREE’s campus — will focus on research and formulation of sustainable and scalable policies to address socio-environmental problems. They are expected to tackle critical problems such as invasive species, climate management, and food systems.
“We need to do more research and also create an environment where the research leads to better policy making,” Rohini Nilekani, who is also a board member of ATREE, said. ATREE is among India’s few environmental organisations that do research over long periods to understand the impact of shifts in environment, which is valuable when faced with climate change, she said. Sandeep Singhal, MD of WestBridge Capital, said the growing conversation about climate change triggered the grant to promote environment related issues.
“The situation is like everyone’s house is on fire,” Singhal said. “(Influencing) policies take time, it requires investment”. ATREE, besides providing policy inputs to tackle environmental degradation, is also looking to provide sustainable income for local communities living near forests. It also has set up programmes to commercially exploit invading species such as Lantana in Biligiriranga hills in Karnataka.
“With biodiversity, water and climate change being our focus areas, we intend to look at issues from an interdisciplinary standpoint and to put the research to use to address real world problems. In fact, the Westbridge and Rohini’s initiative to fund the project has triggered interest among other funders too, with whom we are seeing potential participation in future,” Nitin Pandit, director of ATREE, said.
Rohini Nilekani in conversation with Vikram Singh Mehta at Times Lit Fest-Delhi 2016.
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Experts see mixed blessings from new company law; some say the move will result in rise in CSR consulting. The CSR provisions could have a “cascading impact” on philanthropy, according to Rohini Nilekani, chairperson and founder of non-profit Arghyam and wife of Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of software service firm Infosys Ltd and chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India that aims to provide a unique identity number to all residents of India.
he Companies Bill will soon become a law. My particular knowledge and concern is clearly about only one part of it, which requires that companies of a certain size and profitability contribute 2% of profits to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Many of us, including myself, have opposed this idea vociferously for multiple reasons, and this deliberation is on record for those who wish to know more.
A debate was going on about a government proposal to make it compulsory for companies to spend 2% of their net prots on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Rohini Nilekani, philanthropist and chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation she set up with a private endowment to work on water and sanitation issues in India, says she has been “against the 2% rule from the beginning” because “I don’t think government should outsource its governance. And, secondly, making it mandatory is going to straightjacket [CSR] in a way that may not necessarily yield the best results. But now that it’s been done, we just have to make the best of it.”
Solutions remain elusive as industry and civil society leaders grapple with issues.
Rohini Nilekani is essentially a philanthropist at heart and passionate about development issues. The fact that she has featured in the Forbes’ list of Asia Pacific’s 48 ‘Heroes Of Philanthropy’ for the second consecutive year proves this.
She speaks to Shruti Khairnar on middle class values and corporate social responsibilities.
The demand for limited fresh water has brought the issue to the centre of the debate on development.
At summertime, thoughts turn naturally to water. For millions of citizens, especially women, it is a time of extreme shortage, and for ever more creative coping mechanisms. Many states have improved access to lifeline water, but there is still a long way to go.
In terms of total availability of fresh water, things are not going to improve. Even though water is a renewable resource, it is finite, and per capita availability of water in India has gone down from 6,008 cu. m. in 1947 to 1,820 cu. m. in 2001—it will dip further over the next 30 years.
There is a growing consensus that this crisis is unlike any other, that it’s a discontinuity with potential for great change.
The airy cafe at London’s British Museum, just across a hallway exhibiting newly discovered mummies of sacred animals from ancient Egypt, was the perfect place to chat with John Elkington about the Phoenix Economy.
John, who coined the phrase “triple bottom line”, to include not just profits, but people and the planet, now believes that a new business ethos will rise from the ashes of the current crisis.