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International Conference on Sustainability for Survival

18th March, 2021

Resource Person: Ms. Maiya Suyunchaliyeva, Brand Ambassador (One Young World) Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The inaugural address was given by Director SVIMS, Dr. BH Nanwani wherein she shared the theme of the conference and its importance in today’s times. Dr. Nanwani began her address by welcoming the attendees and then taking them into the journey of need and importance of Sustainability that, undoubtedly, touches each one of us in some way.

Sustainability double clicks on human development, environment protection, economy, human rights, inclusiveness, reverence for life et al. For us in SVIMS, our Founders Sadhu Vaswani and Rev. Dada J P Vaswani – Visionary saints of Modern India embraced and amplified Sustainability. Rev Sadhu Vaswani, Founder of several educational institutions and an educational movement called Mira Movement in Education, Founder of Brotherhood Association committed to spiritual and social upliftment of the community, philanthropist, social reformer, a compassionate saint who started several social welfare activities, a lover of nature, a firm believer and practitioner of the concept of Reverence for Life, a messiah of Love, he appealed for rights of animals and for vegetarianism – and is revered as the epitome for Sustainable and Satvik Thinking and Living.

He believed in and promoted gender equity and women empowerment. The endearing element to the thought is that Sadhu Vaswani did not much appreciate the word ‘empowerment’. He said the word smacks of power and anything that speaks of power is unequal and dilutes the essence of the cause.

He felt women must be afforded opportunities for growth and development and must rise to their potential. In an era where women upliftment and empowerment were unheard phrases and utopian; Sadhu Vaswani, anchored the idea of educating women to bridge the deep divide that existed between men and women.

Starting centers of education exclusively for women, where the North Star for such education was character building; they brought to life their eternal belief that Competence emerges from Character.

Not only did he start schools and colleges exclusively for girls, he also afforded women entrepreneurial opportunities. The stores were called Sakhi stores [ sakhi would translate as friends], conferences exclusively organized, managed, conducted by women …all this over a century ago!

Sadhu Vaswani believed in social inclusion. His stories are rich with him treating the peons on Sunday at his residence and cook some veg biryani for them, while they rested. Today this could be unthinkable for modern day principals and directors; he went and swept the house of a harijan [called and considered untouchables then] when the latter was beaten up because he dared to quench his thirst by drawing out water from a well. He wanted his devotees and followers to understand social equity. He started several social welfare activities to help provide basic necessities to the deprived. Today thousands in many parts of the world and in India are fed and provided with different necessities to tide over the rough road of life. Medical facilities are given free or on reasonable rates to help people get the best of medical care. In his honour the Saint’s bday on 25th November is celebrated as the International Meatless Day. Today we talk of the amount of CO2 emissions that can be saved by people going meatless. Such was his love for creation that he would say flowers and plants have their families. Do not pluck flowers unnecessarily. Even today it is artificial flowers that adorn his resting place which in Indian languages we refer to as Sacred Samadhi.

A great mystic, healer and messiah of humanity, Sadhu Vaswani worked to uplift souls. He urged that we should see God in man and serve humanity and thus live in a holistic way to lead a harmonious, healthy and contended life – this in fact is in alignment with Sustainable Development Goals. A saint blessed with practical wisdom he was not against economic prosperity but urged that the fruits of such activity must be shared with the downtrodden. He himself lived a simple, sustainable life. He wore simple cotton clothes, and practiced austerity in all aspects of Life.

The Director further spoke about her belief in and fondness for the word Sustainable or sustainability that emanates positivity, power and progressiveness. Translated in a simple way it would mean Live and let live. Sustainability is a matter of self-preservation and therefore assumes significance. The concept is holistic and covers:

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth

  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction

  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change

  • Cultural values, diversity and heritage

  • Mutual understanding, peace and security

The concept of sustainability operates under several pseudonyms like sustainable development, resilience, sustainable entrepreneurship, Triple Bottom Line, corporate social responsibility, etc. It is connected with a number of inter-related global issues such as poverty, inequality, hunger and environmental degradation.

We have used the term sustainability for decades now, yet however, sustainability still often feels like an amorphous topic; it’s like peace or hope. Everyone wants it, but no one really knows what it looks like or how to get there. The concept has evolved from its very basic meaning of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs to something that is bearable and capable of being continued at a certain level. Sustainability can perhaps be seen as the process(es) by which something is kept at a certain level.

In this way, the term “sustainability” has been broadly applied to characterize improvements in areas like natural resources overexploitation, manufacturing operations (its energy use and polluting subproducts), the linear consumption of products, the direction of investments, citizen lifestyle, consumer purchasing behaviours, technological developments or business and general institutional changes. As long as an action causes little, less, or no harm to the natural world – under the belief (not always ensured) ecosystems will keep on operating and generating the conditions that allow for the quality of life of today’s modern societies not to decrease – someone is often claimed to be sustainable.

Today however the world’s thinking and action is moving towards a higher goal. We are now talking of regeneration, Regenerative development, Regenerative Cultures, economies and action. We need to re design our lives, our thinking our societies with a regenerative perspective.

We need regeneration because our structures are incompatible with the way Nature creates Life; they are economy-oriented, as against being nature-oriented. But also, because humans have damaged the planet to such an extent that stopping to do harm wouldn’t be enough to recover ecosystems. We need to enhance and facilitate the conditions in which Life can flourish and ecosystems can recover and become resilient. human activities need to be harmonized with the continuing evolution of life on our planet. We humans are part of Nature and our relationships, institutions, and processes should be more like Her. Companies are embracing sustainability and accepting it as a core value. This is partly brought about by a shift in the demands and behaviours of consumers, citizens, employees, investors, partners and the government. Stakeholders have expressed unhappiness over the long term damage brought about by focus on profits, and are demanding business practices and ways that reflect integrity, wider society benefits and those that do not lead to inequality or exploitation of natural or other resources. Companies have in response mad sustainability a mainstream concept. In fact, even beyond these behavioral shifts, many companies are going beyond govt regulations and adopting sustainable practices not only because it’s best for the planet, but because it’s necessary for their bottom line. Sustainable practices bring about clear economic benefits. Companies are getting away from using non-renewables and unsustainable business practices realizing that if a resource is going to run out, it’s going to be a lot more expensive before it does. A case in point, is IKEA which was once known for nothing more than affordable and disposable furniture, is today a corporate sustainability leader.

There is a heightened level of awareness of sustainable behaviour and action and individuals and organizations are busy mapping out future scenarios for the planet. Some are working directly with businesses, governments and others to put sustainability into action today while outlining possible visions of tomorrow. Its heartening to know that at least at some level there is some course correction that is happening. Efforts have been boldened by UN Sustainable Development Goals. We also have EPI [ Environmental Performance Indicator]. The EPI offers a scorecard that highlights leaders and laggards in environmental performance and provides practical guidance for countries that aspire to move toward a sustainable future.

Dr. Nanwani brought forth the need of the hour. What we urgently need today is policy transformation complemented with social capital. We need policies for a sustainable future that is both economically vigorous and environmentally sound. And people should create a concrete sense of citizenship. Human development requires improved social interaction by empowering women, men, young people, senior citizens and even children to influence the development and future of their communities and society in general. Businesses, authorities and citizens must work towards combining socially-balanced economic growth with the promotion of social equality and environmental development, as well as the defense of human rights and enforcement of democracy and social participation. The roadmap for sustainability can be as simple as starting by doing something small, something different. We need to contribute and create a world we want and paint the future – a sustainable future we wish to have or make. Sustainability process will be a gamechanger and break new ground of human development with inclusivity and excellence. Dr. Manju Nachani is an experienced educationist and a leader with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Business Planning, Business Development, Strategic Planning, and Strategy, she is a dedicated and a strong professional with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) focused in Economics and sociology from K C College, Churchgate. Dr. Nichani, in her address shared that even as we impart education to match with the advancements in technology and globalization, we also need to ensure complete character development of an individual. Her views about what sustainability means and should mean for the generation today, what is needed to survive while being relevant, helped the attendees to introspect and rethink their learning models. She also shared examples of Sadhu Vaswani’s teaching and the practices of sustainability at her home and surroundings, which further shaped her growing years. It was these practices and learnings of her Guru that she brought into her workplaces too. Ms. Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga, the Chief Guest for the Conference, is an experienced Regional Head with a demonstrated leadership history of working in urban development, climate change and environmental sustainability. Skilled in Sustainable Development, Strategy and Operations Management, Urban Planning, Government, and Management, she is a strong administrative professional and results-oriented leader with substantive experience in the management and leadership of programs in development and humanitarian related areas.

In the last eight years, she has established the strategic presence for UNEP in South Africa and the Southern Africa region rolling out various programs including in the areas of ecosystems and biodiversity conservation, sustainable mining, combatting illegal wildlife trade, climate change, green economy and trade opportunities, resource efficiency & waste management, sustainable transport and environmental governance.

Track I: Interfaith Conversations on Sustainability

Prof Stephen, a Catholic Priest of Diocese of Tiruchirapalli discussed two dimensions of Sustainability: moral values and human interconnectedness. Sustainability is required not just for our survival but everyone’s enrichment. He highlighted how different scriptures talk about respect for nature and mentioned the contribution of various global institutions like The United Planet Faith and Science Initiative, Eco Tourism in the Holy Land et al in promoting Sustainable Living.

H G Nityanand Charan Dasji, the second panelist and a Monk, Mentor and Spirital Author associated with ISKCON, used the famous quotes of Mahatma Gandhiji and Martin Luther King Jr to express the dismal current state of affairs: “There is enough for man’s need but not for his greed” and “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men”. He expressed his grief by sharing the current apologetic situation under which he said, during lockdown a lot of people enthusiastically joined my sessions on Bhagvad Gita ka Saar. But, as life came back to normal times, majority of them forgot it all and got back to their old behaviour. According to him, all the solutions to human problems have been given in our holy scriptures like that of Bhagvad Gita.

Our 3rd panelist, Mr Will McGarvey, Executive Director at Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County had a very unique way of presenting his views on Sustainability. He shared with us the thoughts of leaders of various beliefs and faith and explained those to us – like the one by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: “The world is not a problem to be solved, it is a living being to be related to, and it is calling to us. It needs our attention, not just of our minds, but also of our hearts. It is our own awakened consciousness that can heal the Earth.” He further gave an example of Climate Refugees Ioane Teitiota and his wife who have nowhere to go. He ended it with a good news that we can do something about climate change by small changes like switching to renewable energy, changing light bulbs and a few others.

Track -II

Dr. Deborshi De, Founder and Director of Vedaantic Organic Research Foundation, Kolkata Dr. Deborshi urged that the principles of Hinduism: Dharma and Niti should be followed religiously as else the ever increasing population and depleting resources, climate changes and rising global temperatures will make this place difficult to live in. Ms. Baishakhi Sengupta, Environmental sustainability and governance strategic consultant at Avara Foods, Greater Oxford Area , UK. Ms. Sengupta highlighted adverse effects of climate change and global warming such as decline in rainfall, droughts and dangerous heat waves. We can avoid these adverse effects, through proper town planning so that these towns don’t become ‘heat islands’; boosting hydro-meteorological systems to conserve water, developing drought-tolerant crops etc. Further she urged the audience to adopt sustainability in our daily lives.

Dr. Aparna Pandey, Research and Sustainable Program Manager, RUR Green Life Pvt. Ltd. Ms. Pandey gave us a run through her journey in the field of Sustainability. While discussing the Theory of Change, she explained the importance of centralized and decentralized waste management. She suggested the adoption of some holistic sustainable waste management solutions such as:

1. Arranging Sustainability sensitization and awareness workshops

2. Segregation of waste at source

3. Setting up bio-composter

4. Hand holding & scientific training of staff

5. Setting up 7 bin approach

6. Compost utilization in terrace garden

7. Reducing trash with green alternatives.

Track III – Policy Initiatives For sustainable Growth

Mr. Curt Garrigan is Chief of the Sustainable Urban Development Section for the Environment and Development section of UN ESCAP. ESCAP covers the world’s most populous region, that is, nearly two thirds of humanity. ESCAP works to strengthen regional cooperation to promote social & economic development which engages with regional and global networks to promote implementation of global agendas on climate and sustainable development. The body also assists governments to implement policies that promote sustainable urban development and make efficient use of natural resources it also develop solutions to create safe, resilient, resource-efficient and sustainable cities and towns across the regions. Rapid urbanization and its impact: half of the region’s population is urban habitating the low- lying coastal areas. Cities generate almost 75% of region’s GHG emissions (mostly from energy supply and transportation); Transport emissions have increased manifolds since 1970. Many cities have weak urban planning and cannot meet water and sanitation needs. In many cities, the population is growing faster than the governments can build infrastructure improvements, such as roads and sewers. Unplanned urban sprawl and increase in absolute number of slum-dwellers are its disastrous consequences. Mr. Garrigan also spoke about the urban expansion in Asia specific in 2030. More urban areas are susceptible to flooding due to unplanned growth and inadequate infrastructure. Flooding exacerbated by climate change; increased severe weather events can overwhelm infrastructure which may have altered natural hydrology. He also spoke about land conversion from rural to urban, reduction of resources like agricultural land, portable water, food, fuel, electricity, greeneries and consequent challenges for these developments i.e. waste management, plastic waste, transportation and urban farming. Ms. Tania Banerjee is the manager Ernst & Young, Consulting (Climate Change). She spoke about climate change mitigation and adaptation areas such as resource efficiency, low carbon development, disaster risk reduction, climate resilient planning and cross cutting aspects of climate finance, stakeholder engagement and capacity building. She emphasized that in order to achieve sustainable development, it is critical to decouple environmental impact from economic advancement with time. Eco-Industrial Parks can be the much desired answers for industrial use at a suitable site that ensures sustainability through the integration of social, economic, and environmental quality aspects into its siting, planning, management and operations. Mr. Radhakrishnan R is the Assistant Professor at Symbiosis Law School. He spoke about government Sustainability in the field of Indian politics, governance & security. He shared his insights on the political analyst, providing inputs to Parliamentarians on issues concerning governance & foreign policy like cold war, political boundaries. He also spoke about Modi’s foreign policy that is focused on improving relations with neighbouring countries in South Asia, engaging the extended neighbourhood of Southeast Asia and the major global powers. In pursuit of this, he has made official visits to Bhutan, Nepal, and Japan, followed by visits to the United States, Myanmar, Australia, and Fiji.

Track IV: Economic Goals and Growth and their Impact on the Earth

Our keynote speaker for Track IV, Dr Rafis, Former Director, ban-ki Moon Institute for Sustainable Development, Kazakhstan in a specially recorded message for our conference stated his understanding of the word development as sustainable development is: all of us coming together and supporting the communities. It is of vital nature that economic and social development brings everyone together. This he said is important because when united, we can do a lot more. Today the question that we have in front of us is that of, “how to restart the economy after almost 12 months?” According to him, the answer to this question is: Unity. He rightly set the tempo for this track and the 2 panel members namely Ms. Michelle Gale, Director, Green Economics Institute, Greater Chicago area, USA and Mr. Siddhanta Mohanty, Founder and Director, Powerly AI, Germany took the baton further. Both of them thrusted high focus on People and Technology to initiate and continue sustainable living. Ms. Michelle pointed out the case of Racism in Georgia as being an outcome of an in sustainable living. Such issues according to her are a part of Global Economic System. While, Mr. Mohanty quoted example of one of the tasks that his organisation undertakes of mapping the competencies of human resources to identify the right fit for the jobs. This is accomplished with the help of Artificial Intelligence he said. This is how both of them shared their belief that People and Technology are rightfully the only hope of living a Sustainable life.


Mr. KunalMathur, Head, Digital Fund Raising United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Delhi, India. In his address, Mr. Kunal Mathur suggested that we start small and steadily move towards a sustainable environment, for example, usage of biodegradable sanitary napkins. While many people do not have enough resources to pay for basic needs, many of us still enjoy luxuries of life. He also shared about the noble work that UNICEF does to make this world a better place. Mr. Mathur emphasized that the key focus areas should be child development and nutrition, child protection, education, child environment, polio eradication, reproductive and child health, children and AIDS, social policy, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Ms. Maiya Suyunchaliyeva, Brand Ambassador (One Young World) Almaty, Kazakhstan.

To improve quality of education among the youth, Ms.Maiya S emphasized that fundamental knowledge in AI should be developed and increased. She said that one should learn self management and develop awareness about social environment. Each person should set personal sustainable development goals, for example maintaining good health is one’s own responsibility and hence can be one of the personal sustainable development goals. Similarly, an employer can have provision of decent work place as one of the sustainable development goals.

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