ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Investments for Social Sustainability in India

An Assessment

The Sustainable Development Goals make it imperative to link economic growth with social and environmental priorities. The current status of social development perspective and the role of government, corporate and social enterprises in delivering social sustainability in India are examined. Constraints such as fiscal procyclicality and vulnerability, lack of access to finance for social enterprises, and biases in corporate social responsibility activities lead to dismal performances in social development. There is a need to engage in non-concessional finances with public and private funds for financing social sustainability. Impact investment is an emerging asset class, which lies at the intersection of private finance and purpose-driven finance.


The authors would like to thank the anonymous referee for their valuable insight and comments on an earlier version of the article.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) transcended the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on several accounts. One of the transformative changes has been in making the SDGs more inclusive by accommodating issues of human rights, inequality, gender empowerment and non-concessional finances1 for inclusive development. The objective of such an outreach activity is to accommodate the natural resource endowments, protect and promote indigenous cultures and people, and strongly entwine the dimensions of the triple bottom line.2 The vulnerability to social risks like civil conflicts or governance failures, and environmental risks like natural disasters or water scarcity, can lead to multidimensional and long-term damages. Out of 169 targets and 230 indicators of the SDGs, there is a strong commitment to deliver environmental and social sustainability along with economic growth. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) states that “social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people.” Social sustainability entails stakeholder engagement, company–community cooperation, a people-centred approach to business impacts and inclusive social development.

India’s social sector expenditure is around 2.6%, which is the lowest among the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) nations (OECD 2016). The overall public expenditure on social infrastructure, which includes priority areas like health and sanitation, skill development and education, remained around 6% in the past six years (Department of Economic Affairs 2018). There have been conspicuous improvements in quantitative indicators such as physical infrastructure and completion rates, but lack in terms of social impact and qualitative indicators. For example, according to the National Health Profile 2018, there are some noteworthy improvements in health indicators such as infant and maternal mortality rate. However, the doctor–population ratio has remained 10 times less than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, and there is also a lack of medical qualifications and quality surveillance (Sharma 2017).

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Updated On : 21st Feb, 2020
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