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Indian project to tackle SME pollution

Prasanta Dey

26 March 2015

A major international project will tackle one of the main sources of pollution in India – Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) who are struggling to meet environmental regulations.

Aston University’s Professor Prasanta Dey will collaborate with Professor Sadhan Ghosh and other experts from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, to help SMEs in West Bengal become eco-friendly while boosting their productivity.

SMEs in India, often based on small industrial sites used for retail, manufacturing or industrial purposes, are among the worst polluters in the country. A recent study highlighted it was common practice for SMEs to cut corners and eschew environmental regulations in order to remain profitable. They consume massive amounts of natural resources and energy, resulting in significant generation of carbon emissions and waste by-products. The report estimated SMEs responsible for 30% of the country’s total pollution. 

As part of the initiative, Professor Dey and colleagues will work with 12 SMEs over an 18 month period to ensure they sustain and improve their business without polluting the environment. The companies will be introduced to environmentally friendly practices such as waste water treatment, recycling solid wastes and curbing toxic wastes like carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and sulphide.

By making minor changes such as reducing consumption of raw materials, companies will be told they can not only lessen input costs but also help to lower energy consumption and carbon emissions

Professor Dey, a leading supply chain expert at Aston Business School, said: “Our project strongly stresses the value of sustainability and the reduction of emissions. Smaller businesses in India frequently end up polluting to stay afloat, flouting pollution norms. We will teach SMEs involved in the programme ‘lean and green’ manufacturing techniques that will help them raise profitability and reduce their impact on the environment.”

The 12 selected SMEs will be assessed by a ‘balanced score card-based sustainability performance model’, judging the businesses on operational, economic and environmental criteria. Companies found wanting will be pushed to adopt stricter measures.

Follow up workshops will be held in which the businesses involved in the programme will help and instruct more than 100 other SMEs from West Bengal. It is hoped the knowledge transfer of good practice and ‘green and lean’ manufacturing techniques from business to business could provide a long-term sustainable solution to the problem of small enterprise pollution in the region, which is currently home to nearly a million SMEs.

The project follows a two-year study on SMEs in India and the UK funded by the British Council under the UK India Educational Research Initiative. The study, led in the UK by Professor Dey, revealed that 81% of smaller businesses in Bengal believe they were environmentally sustainable – despite the ground reality frequently failing to match their claims.

Small and independent enterprises play a vital role in the booming Indian economy, contributing 45% of all industrial output and creating one million new jobs each year. India’s GDP is forecast to grow 7.4% this fiscal year – greater even than the Chinese economy.

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For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or j.garbett@aston.ac.uk