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Noida Delhi cityscape with tower blocks, office buildings and metro station. Air pollution costs Indian businesses $95 billion a year. Credit: iStock / amlanmathur

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24 October 2022

Mobilising Indian businesses for clean air

The private sector plays a crucial role in combatting air pollution, but businesses’ engagement with the issue has been minimal. The Confederation of Indian Industry’s CEO Forum for Clean Air is a national platform that brings business leaders together to catalyse cross-sector change.

The problem:

Air pollution costs Indian businesses $95 billion or 3% of India’s GDP every year, according to our research. Yet businesses significantly contribute to air emissions. In India, it is estimated that industry accounts for 35% of PM2.5, 54% of SOx and 13% of NOx. Businesses play a key role in designing solutions for sectors, such as transportation and agriculture.

Like many social and environmental issues, clean air can only be delivered if the private sector is actively involved.

The solution:

The Confederation of Indian Industry’s CEO Forum for Clean Air brings business leaders together to engage with the issue of air pollution and lead on action for clean air. The forum helps drive cross-sector action through peer-to-peer learning and encourages business innovation to address dirty air. The forum also proactively engages with government and citizens.

The impact:

The forum has 92 members, directly engaged with over 120 businesses, and raised air pollution up the agenda of business leaders. In particular, the project has:

  1. Fostered a deeper understanding of the relationship between air pollution and the private sector

    Members now report a better understanding of air pollution, including their ability to understand their own air pollution footprints. For example, some Indian companies have joined the Global Alliance for Clean Air to measure their emissions. The forum has also released the Air Pollution and its Impact on Indian Business report, which found that air pollution costs Indian business about $95 billion (7 lakh crores) every fiscal year.
  2. Encouraged collective solutions

    Businesses in the forum are actively collaborating on clean air solutions. In 2021, members contributed 43% of the total pooled funds to support a Crop Residue Management Programme across Punjab and Haryana. Now over 80% of farmers in those areas are adopting burning-free sustainable alternatives. This work and the accompanying research has led to an actionable model that has been proposed to the Government of India to phase out crop residue burning in rural India.

    Many forum members are directly working on cleaner air solutions. TAKACHAR was awarded the first ever ‘Clean Our Air’ Earthshot Prize in 2021 for its rice straw management innovation, shining a light on clean air business solutions to a global audience.

    The forum has even had an impact on clean air policy. Members recommended ‘co-firing’ biomass in existing industrial boilers as an effective approach to reduce air pollution from open agricultural burning. This encouraged a dedicated biomass mission within the Indian government’s National Clean Air Programme and budget.

See more on economy and air pollution

How solving air pollution can boost the Indian economy and saves lives

Gurav Gupta, Partner and Asia Regional Director, and Siddhant Damani, Project Manager, at Dalberg Advisors show the economic gains of improving air quality in India.

How does air pollution affect businesses?

Air pollution is bad for business. Around 1.2 billion workdays are lost globally each year due to air pollution, which could reach 3.8 billion days by 2060.