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What You Need to Know from Indian History and Culture to Understand How Indians See Sustainability

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In 1972, The Indian Prime Minister of the day, Indira Gandhi, emphasised that removing poverty should be an integral part of the goal of the world's environmental strategy. In a statement full of foresight to challenges that remain today, she went on to explain that ‘the concepts of interrelatedness, of a shared planet, of global citizenship, and of “spaceship earth” cannot be restricted to environmental issues alone. They apply equally to the shared and inter-linked responsibilities of environmental protection and human development.’

Such holistic thinking is based in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the anti-violence leader of Indian nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s, and India's adored Bapu, the father of the nation. Gandhi's ethics included the pursuit of love, compassion, self-knowledge, duty and self-control, and he strongly promoted that all individuals should strive for sarvodaya, ‘welfare for all’. As the economy grows and companies receive permission to oversee large-scale industrial growth, a conflict between Gandhi's philosophy and modern ambitions for national growth is often seen. Indian intellectual Rajni Bakshi explains that: ‘In a place like India, people affected by large-scale industrial projects like mining are told that they must pay the price for the nation to progress … Gandhi fundamentally rejected this as immoral.’ Another Gandhian philosophy was that technology was good to support people's toil, but not if it put people out of work, again a conflict with modern manufacturing industry. Gandhi also challenged the caste system and religious conflict (something very high in Independent India's memory following Hindu-Muslim violence during the Partition between Pakistan and India in 1947), and promoted the concept of trusteeship.
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Keywords: Business and the environment: ‘green’ approaches to business; Business strategy; international business

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2013

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