A Case Study In Sustainability

An Overview of the Problems faced by Indian MSMEs in the Sustainability Sector and solutions suggested by Management Interaction Cell of Jesus and Mary College, India

About ecoHQ

ecoHQ is a sustainable venture aimed at helping Indians make educated choices about sustainable practices through awareness, advocacy, and accountability. It has undertaken numerous initiatives to spread awareness about sustainable development, advocate conscious growth and help brands in being accountable for responsible solutions. 

The team at ecoHQ started as eco-enthusiasts. Any products labeled green, natural, eco-friendly, environment-conscious, organic and the like caught their attention. Most of the brands behind these products didn’t have extensive marketing and selling strategies to back them. Understanding this gap, ecoHQ transformed from a blog website to a one-stop web directory making sustainable brands more accessible to Indians. 

After setting up the platform, they spoke with a few hundred brands and found that marketing mainly revolved around SEO, hard-selling, and guilt-tripping consumers into buying sustainable products. While these strategies may be necessary when competing with big brands, it’s important to sensitise customers, too. Consumers are stakeholders in a business and adopting sustainable practices will not just benefit them, but also the planet. Thus, with a renewed focus, ecoHQ revolutionised its model through in-depth research about the Indian sustainability industry. From a web directory, ecoHQ transformed into an advocacy-first, promotional platform for all sustainable initiatives in India.

Vision and Mission

  • To ingrain conscious consumerism in India through ethical information dispersal and alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
  • To work with experts and key stakeholders to provide credible and extensive information about sustainability. Through their content publishing, distribution, and development efforts, this information will help consumers make better choices.
  • To collaborate with communities of all types: Educational, Professional, Corporate, Business Networks, as well as eco-enthusiasts and hobby clubs, encouraging age-agnostic sustainability discussions and organising awareness campaigns.
  • To sensitise society about sustainable development and conscious consumerism through meaningful partnerships with brands and institutions in the sector.

Founder

ecoHQ is run by Deepa Sai, a multi-talented sustainability enthusiast, hailing from a background in Psychology, Social Work, Human Resources, and Communications. She has worked to make a difference in various sectors including disability, child rights, children with special needs, mental health, oncology, neurology, substance dependence, community development, solid waste management, disaster response, and many more. After being active in the Social and Environmental Advocacy sector till 2013, she moved on to Human Resources and Content Marketing. But even during her other stints, she spearheaded environment-based CSR activities at various organisations. In 2021, ecoHQ was born as a collection of her experiences and research in sustainability, to aid eco-businesses and eco-enthusiasts in conscious production and consumption.

Problems Faced by Sustainability Ventures such as ecoHQ

With the high-powered growth of small and medium enterprises lately, there have been innovative constructs around the concepts of ‘zero-waste living’ and ‘green branding’. An increase in the number of small sustainable ventures highlights the massive potential for the sector’s growth for entrepreneurial creation. 

However, the industry may face multiple challenges. The following are the primary challenges, as identified by us, that small sustainable ventures are posed with:

Awareness and Concern

Lack of awareness amongst people, especially the nescient and underprivileged sections, about sustainability is one of the major problems faced by such bodies. The people not living in the metro cities are the ones who suffer the most, and as we go down the line of cities the negligence tends to increase. 

Sustainability is often neglected by people due to the presumption that it is expensive. Neglect from a major section of our society keeps such businesses on the back seat and limits their growth potential. In such cases, awareness is not the only problem. Making them acknowledge the worldwide issue and motivating them to take a step towards it is a greater challenge. 

The products should be priced in such a way that everyone can afford it and not just the affluent ones. It can help to promote sustainability even at the grass root levels. 

Financial Constraints

Inconsistent cash flow can be an issue if vendors carry off the money faster than the customers bring it in. Having a budget is crucial. If the expenses are higher than the income on paper, then a company will never survive in reality. The budget is the plan. 

Unexpected expenses is another big financial challenge faced by entrepreneurs. 

Marketing and Branding 

Small-scale sustainable businesses, in their nascent stages, are faced with the issues of deficient marketing linkages, inadequate access to marketing platforms, and difficulty in building a loyal consumer base. Businesses ought to acknowledge that paid advertising can only fetch customers fit to reach ‘targets’, but it might not ensure customer loyalty in the long run. To serve the latter purpose, they have to utilise various formal and informal channels of marketing. 

However, owing to the resultant unavailing marketing, these businesses can’t leverage expansion and collaboration opportunities such as co-branding. Stiff competition from other established brands coupled with the dynamism of markets also restricts the business’ growth by making the marketing inefficacious. 

The Technology Divide

Due to a lack of monetary support, small-scale sustainable businesses don’t have access to good quality technology, which stops them from excelling. They can’t provide good quality technical products and services because these are usually expensive, leading to a technological divide between them and big corporate giants. Due to this technological divide, a large proportion of small businesses are just restricted to Instagram, Facebook or Instamojo which hinders their growth opportunity. Additionally, they do not have access to branding and marketing tools, further barring their future.

The Regulation Web

Cumbersome regulatory procedures pose a major obstacle to sustainable businesses. Such practices, which include construction permits, collateral guarantees, and taxation, affect the growth of these ventures. The government mostly funds start-ups backed by quality technology and students. Sustainable businesses, often small ones, struggle to get incubation and funding from government and private entities alike. The other contributing factors are inadequate provisions for start-ups and the absence of a common regulatory body.

All of the obstacles can be tackled with effective support from the stakeholders and the government. Addressing the issue of the technological divide is the most important thing and must be considered on priority. 

As far as the restrictions are concerned, governments can plan them in such a way that it does not hamper economic activities while controlling the extent of the overall movement of the population. Businesses should also adapt to effective mechanisms wherein they can shift their strategies and tools as the business climate demands.

Deliverables and Strategies Proposed by Management Interaction Cell, Jesus and Mary College

Product Distribution

Delivery Partners

The following delivery partners can be considered while shipping a product from one place to another.

  • Shiprocket (Application): Minimum recharge of Rs. 200. Delivery charges vary from Rs. 40-60 depending upon the location. Ships all across India.
  • Delhivery: The price range depends upon the location and product weight. For instance, Standard Delivery (Patna to Delhi): Rs. 225 for a small parcel (500 grams to 2 kg); Express Delivery: Rs. 350 for the same. (Slightly on the expensive side)
  • Shyplite (Application & Website): They use carriers such as Delhivery, Blue Dart Express, etc. to deliver the goods. The price range varies from Rs. 40 to Rs. 50. It is cheaper than the carriers it features. Different amounts are charged for different zones and delivery partners. 
  • Nimbus Post: Nimbus Post has various plans and offers to suit the unique needs of every business 
  • Starter – Starts at Rs. 27/500 gm
  • Standard – Starts at Rs. 25/500 gm
  • Enterprise – Starts at Rs. 24/500 gm
  • Enterprise Pro- Customised Shipping Price
Direct Selling through Instagram Stores

For a sustainable venture, Instagram comes across as an ideal platform for growth and development, especially during nascent stages. The brands can use the Instagram Story feature and put their products up there as well as create highlights to specify the sold/available products. This will result in saving of funds as compared to the brand’s starting with a website. 

A website can be launched to expand the business once it’s gaining traction. The business/brand can also utilise Instagram posts and stories to create a live store for users. They can post pictures of the products and tag the prices and materials used in the same.

E-Commerce Shipping Aggregators

An e-commerce aggregator (also known as shipping or logistics or courier aggregator) is a company with pre-existing ties to multiple logistics companies. An aggregator allows selection from an existing list of logistics partners and quick tie-ups with multiple partners at seemingly low prices. Most of the delivery partners come to collect the package/material at the doorstep and deliver it to the customer or receiver.

Suitability: When the business has reached a large volume of sales. 

A few of the aggregators are as follows.

  • ECourierz
    It operates both domestically and internationally. However, they are most appreciated for their international shipping services.

Pin Code Serviceability: 21000+

Number of Courier Partners: 20

Founded In: 2015

Number of Employees: ~30

  • iThink Logistics

They have no minimum volume requirements and provide NDR management services to deal with escalations and delivery exceptions. 

Pin Code Serviceability: 26000+

Number of Courier Partners: ~10

Founded In: 2016

Number of Employees: ~26

  • Pickrr

It provides monthly rates by the number of shipments made per month. They provide access to most of the remote areas in the country.

Pin Code Serviceability: 27000+

Number of Courier Partners: 10

Founded In: 2015

Number of Employees: ~50

  • Rocketbox

It offers a limited selection of courier partners but a greater range of serviceability and a rate calculator to determine the best rate for each shipment.

Pin Code Serviceability: 28000+

Number of Courier Partners: 7

Founded In: 2015

Number of Employees: 40

  • ShipDroid

It is also tied with fewer courier companies and only services across 20,000+ pin codes. However, their account management system remains extremely popular.

Pin Code Serviceability: 20000+

Number of Courier Partners: ~3

Founded In: 2016

Number of Employees: 10-50

  • ShipKaro

It offers low standard rates for individual and bulk shipments in the form of 3 available monthly plans, depending upon the number of orders fulfilled every month.

Pin Code Serviceability: 20000+

Number of Courier Partners: 13

Founded In: 2017

Number of Employees: ~100

  • Ship Rocket

As one of the most popular aggregators currently in the market, Ship Rockets offers a large number of courier partners and greater pin code serviceability

Pin Code Serviceability: 27000+

Number of Courier Partners: 17

Founded In: 2012

Number of Employees: ~240

  • ShipYaari

It offers low monthly rates and a Money-Back-Guarantee (MBG) for certain types of failed orders. They also have a no-initial-cost monthly plan for businesses. 

Pin Code Serviceability: 25000+

Number of Courier Partners: ~7

Founded In: 2013

Number of Employees: ~50

  • Shyplite

It charges based on the dimensions and parameters of each shipment. They also offer COD services, a tech-enabled recommendation engine, and a customised tracking page for order updates.

Pin Code Serviceability: 26000+

Number of Courier Partners: 16+

Founded In: 2016

Number of Employees: ~100

  • Silver Arrow

One of the earliest aggregators founded, Silver Arrow makes use of radio frequencies and associated technology to provide near real-time updates, along with providing risk assessments for shipments.

Pin Code Serviceability: 27000+

Number of Courier Partners: ~10

Founded In: 2012

Number of Employees: ~50

  • Vamaship 

It is possibly most liked for offering QC (quality check) services to shipments demarcated as customer-initiated returns. This almost makes up for their typically slow remittance cycle.

Pin Code Serviceability: 27000+

Number of Courier Partners: ~10

Founded In: 2015

Number of Employees: ~35

  • Swiggy Genie

Swiggy Genie delivers items from any location in a city. The only disadvantage is that it is on the costlier side, and the prices are determined by the distance travelled by the goods.

According to the company as well as the business of the client, the best e-commerce shipping aggregator can be chosen. 

Business Development 

Green Packaging

The creation and usage of green packaging, also known as sustainable packaging, results in enhanced sustainability. This entails greater use of life cycle inventory and life cycle assessment to assist in the selection of packaging that has a lower environmental effect and footprint. While certain materials, such as cardboard boxes, have a low environmental effect, others, such as plastic and Styrofoam packing, will not biodegrade and are not recyclable. Furthermore, consumer packaging, such as the rings that surround soda cans and bottles, adds to the waste stream. 

For both producers and consumers, green packaging materials are healthier. Eco-packaging materials, unlike synthetic, chemical-laden ones, are often free of hazardous byproducts that may create physical health issues. It establishes a company’s environmental and social consciousness. It can be beneficial as innovative green packaging attracts the attention of consumers. Sustainability-conscious customers would like if a sustainable business is environmentally friendly in all aspects.

For instance, cardboard packing can be used for heavy products. Instead of using plastic tapes for packaging, one can use paper tape or jute threads. Seed papers, which are supplied at a lower cost, might be utilised for appealing packaging from the manufacturer’s end. 

Collaboration with ventures having a similar vision as the client

A business can tie up or collaborate with brands on Instagram that share a similar objective and operate on a smaller scale. For instance, two ventures can collaborate on a project such as the creation of a hamper. One can send its finished products, through the aggregators (mentioned earlier), to the other (the second business being closer to the location of the final customer), and the latter can take charge of packing and delivering the final product to the consumer. As a result, it will be a B2B model at first followed by a B2C model. This leads to efficiency, speedy delivery, and cost-cutting for both businesses.

Such collaboration can also be executed by white labelling where one product manufacturer agrees to remove their brand and logo from their product and instead place the  logo of a bigger brand. The final product is marketed under the collaborator’s name instead of the manufacturer’s. This offers benefits to the customers as well because now they can trust the brand name and will not have to study smaller companies.

Collaborating with sustainable Hotels/Restaurants/Resorts

India (and the globe) is home to several sustainable hotels, restaurants, and resorts that embrace a sustainable approach and share a passion for environmental protection. Undoubtedly, these establishments must be utilising sustainable products and sourcing them from some sustainable ventures. Such establishments could connect depending upon the niche of their client and the need requirements to deliver eco-friendly products and services.

Co-Branding

The following sustainable products are complementary to one another and can be utilised in brand collaboration. Two or more businesses must form collaborations to enable the creation of innovative hampers or combos (both for occasions and general demand) consisting of both the parties’ products. These hampers or combos can be packed and delivered using collaboration and aggregators, detailed in the product distribution and business development sections of the document, respectively.

  • Wooden Toothbrush + Copper Tongue Cleaner
  • Cotton Shopping Bags + Jute Bags
  • Coconut Shell Glasses/Cups + Coconut Fibre Dish Scrub
  • Copper Bottle + Wooden Cutlery
  • Coconut Fibre Scrub + Bamboo Soap Tray
  • Bamboo Earbuds + Wooden Comb
  • Wooden Cutlery + Metal Canisters
  • Biodegradable Glass + Paper/Bamboo Straws
  • Coconut Shell Planter 
  • Holi Hamper – Essence Incense Stick + Herbal Holi Colours + Sweets
  • Diwali Hamper – Compostable Murti + Diya + Sweets
  • Stationery Kit – Folder + Notebooks + Plantable Seed Pencils + Plantable Colouring Pens + Paper Pencil (Everything Eco-Friendly)
  • Toilet Tissue Roll Made From Bamboo
  • Reusable Bread Bag + Vegetable/Shopping Bag
  • Reusable Coffee Cups + Reusable Coffee Cup Lids
  • Reusable Lunch Wraps + Recycled And Recyclable Cutlery
  • Compostable Plates + Compostable Bowls
  • Recycled Plastic Toothbrush
  • Recycled Floor Mats
  • Wooden Laptop Table + Wooden Pencil Holder

Collaborating with College Consulting Clubs 

A new sustainable small business that is having trouble marketing its products in a local region or across several states could turn to student organisations and clubs for help. By providing consulting services, the college society may be able to assist the firm. 

In weeks rather than months, college consulting societies can help identify significant challenges and opportunities, prioritise critical activities, and measure progress against sustainability and business goals. Students in the clubs can assist with innovative ideas and online marketing strategies. Young minds have new ideas to analyse, which they combine with their existing knowledge pool, alleviating the difficulties of business development and extending reach for small firms.

Collaborating with sustainable stores 

A sustainable physical store can devise a solution to assist other small brands that are struggling to sell their products to the customer. The cafes or stores such as Goli Soda Store (where great upcycled products are sold) can collaborate with multiple small businesses and receive a commission on sales made by a physical store or an online store such as Brownliving, The Better Home, REFASH, Qtrove, EcoTrendy, Bare Necessities, Ullisu, EcoSattva, Upciclo, Infinitex, House of Crafts, and so on, relieving small businesses of the pains of business development and expanding reach. The business concept proposed here is similar to Etsy, Flipkart and Amazon, where sellers register to sell consumer goods across India or perhaps globally. 

The new small sustainable business would have to invest in collaboration with the physical stores. Customers would be more inclined to buy their products if they could see that they are making a genuine effort to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. Other important elements, such as green packaging, may be taken into account by the companies.

Business Growth Opportunities for Aggregators & Directories in this Space

The issue of distributing products in a local area or across different states, calls for a situation-specific suggestion as detailed under:

Looking at the same problem from a consumer perspective, while shopping for sustainable products, one would have to go through 10 different pages on Instagram or various websites to compare the prices and products, and still, might fail to vet the green-businesses properly. On the other hand, the businesses in the field of promoting green and ethical businesses (like ecoHQ) are already looking forward to vetting the brands through ESG metrics. They also have a vast network of eco-friendly businesses. These efforts and contacts could be leveraged to turn their respective websites into a one-stop destination shop for sustainable products. 

According to this proposition, different businesses could register themselves as sellers on the website. Therefore the products would be provided by the business but the website could help in co-branding, packaging, and distribution. This would also help in generating a revenue stream as the business could collaborate with multiple small vendors, get the commission on sales made through the website, and would save the small vendors from the pains of business development and expanding reach to the target audience nationwide. 

Although, for this proposition to succeed, the quintessential costs of Search Engine Optimisation and modification of the current website into an e-commerce one will have to be incurred.

The business model proposed is similar to Etsy and Amazon, where retailers register themselves to sell consumer products pan-India and all across the globe. Creating a similar channel through the business would help sustainable businesses sell their products and reach the target audience irrespective of the geographic location or their reach over social media.

Additionally, corporate or event gifting markets established for supporting social causes have a good reach and growth potential. Products can also be sold at college stalls or social events organised for bringing in changes for the good.

The Hamper Collaboration Idea

As a part of this, brands or businesses featured on the website can collaborate on special hampers and product combos to be sold around festive seasons. They can come together for such co-branding opportunities in general as well. This idea ensures that several products sold by different ventures, which complement each other, can be sold together to add greater value. It will provide more options to the users to create or customise their hampers, too. 

Website Content

It could be mentioned clearly on the landing page how all the featured brands are 100% sustainable as they utilise green packaging and consider other relevant aspects as demanded by the sustainable domain. It would further encourage customers to buy environment-friendly products by realising that the companies are making a genuine effort towards being green. 

Some ventures, with healthy support from their co-founders and ample funding, have even established standards to appraise and rate brands through their website.

Website Proposal for Small Businesses

Tabs
  1. About Us: This tab will have the description of the company, its operations, and vision. The Founder’s column (with pictures) can be included as a sub-tab or separately accompanied with newsletters. This tab will give a detailed insight into what the business is about and help the visitor in understanding the venture thoroughly to be able to relate to it. The following can be included under the About Us tab:
  • Mission Statement – What and Why (describing what exactly the company provides as its services)
  • Inspiration & motivation behind the venture
  • How the venture syncs with UN sustainable development goals/6Rs and propagates to achieve them.
  • Join us – Career opportunities or Internships. Internships attract students from schools and college societies with similar aims. 
  • Newsletters can be posted periodically covering the recent progress of the company and the latest news relevant to the vision of the venture (E.g. of News – Sustainable Weddings Startups and House of Hope).
  1. Our Clients: Including clients’ names & testimonials. Testimonials will have customer experience in the form of a comparative analysis of how the business helped them in efficient sustainable management along with relevant details and photographs. The ‘Testimonials’ tab bestows the website with a sense of authority and authenticity to build trust amongst those who visit the website for the first time.
  1. Services: This tab will have sub-categories of services. Each sub-category will contain detailed information about what service/product is being offered by the venture and the criteria for prospective consultations/partnerships. The tab is required to give a clear and detailed description of what the company can provide to its clients. The client will use this information to analyse whether the deliverables stated on the website align with its motives and objectives.
  1. Contact Us: The following can be included under this tab:
  • Hyperlinks to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Quora and Twitter. Contact number and hyperlink to the company’s official Email ID.
  • An enquiry box or a chatbot can be incorporated with some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and keyword-based answers on the website. The box can ask website visitors for their full name, contact information, consumer requirements, and anything else they want to ask the organisation including suggestions.
  • Recommendation Box – A recommendation/feedback form must be positioned at the bottom of the website so that viewers/clients may leave their organisational experiences and suggestions elucidating how the services can be improved. They can also express their dissatisfaction with services and suggest ways to improve them in the future.

A website is required to have a Contact Us page so that people can connect with the business in case of any queries.

Appearance of the Website

  • The use of the same color scheme should be consistent throughout the website e.g.colour themes based on browns and greens. 
  • Additionally, the company’s logo must be positioned on the left side of the page rather than in the center since this helps the website appear more organised. 
  • Pictures and graphics should be used to make the website more engaging.
Main Tabs arrangement
  • Tabs should be positioned at the top middle or top right, and their position should be fixed even if visitors scroll down. The top tab of the website should be re-structured with the name, logo, and menu functions (search icons, etc.).
  • Font should be viewable – Terms of service and privacy policies should be clearly stated under a sub-tab that could be found at the bottom. The shade of the template and the font must be distinguishable.

Some Suggestions for the Blog

Blogs on the following suggested topics can be posted as well as promoted on Quora, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

  1. Experience with sustainable living
  2. Lifestyle changes to be made for sustainable living, e.g., switching over to wooden toothbrushes, reusable sanitary pads, avoiding plastic cups; plastic bags, and straws
  3. More usage of eco-friendly products
  4. Sharing the latest news about development in the sustainability world
  5. Publishing pictures and blog posts detailing how to recycle garbage and produce biodegradable compost step by step

General Suggestions

  1. Optimise website to be compatible to use with both a mobile device and computer in terms of the format.
  2. Incorporate analytics on the website.
  3. Calculate impact. The website could comprise a section called the impact calculator including a  carbon footprint calculator. To have a more positive outlook, a positive impact calculator can also be incorporated.

Social Media Strategies

Social media is vast and has several variable factors to consider for reaching a wider audience. The aim is to stay on top of the minds of people whenever their need arises. 

Here are a few must-haves to engage with your target audience.

  1. Innovative hashtags: Hashtags help in reaching out to the target audience. Using a consistent list of easy, trendy, and unique hashtags in all posts expands the reach of the account.
  1. Instagram Story Features: Features such as Q&A stickers, GIFs, location stickers and countdown stickers help increase engagement and understand what your followers and visitors like and dislike. For example, a poll on Instagram stories related to the posts or announcements which are about to go up can help create buzz and engage the audience. 
  1. Bio: The bio should precisely and clearly state the basic objectives of the business. It should have the name of the founder so that people can recall it. State how you add value in other people’s lives/careers/businesses.
  1. Story Highlights: This is the most interesting part and should be used very carefully. Some things that must have a place on story highlights are
  • About us (vision/mission/what we do)
  • About the founder (or the team, may apply in future)
  • Know more about us (Contact no., Email ID and Twitter, Quora and LinkedIn account hyperlinks)  
  • Selected partnerships of the past that added value to the business.
  • Feedback/Customer review FAQs 
  1. Location: Adding location can help increase reach (by adding locations that people often visit).
  1. Captions: Captions should be able to engage the audience. They must not be too lengthy, or too formal. They must be eye-catching. Adding lines that encourage the audience to interact such as ‘share your views in the comment section’, ‘mention your friends’, etc. will increase the comments as well as the reach.
  1. Story Engagement: Once the social media page is in full swing with all the relevant posts (must-haves and revamping of the feed), we can start with engaging stories to be consistent and to interact with the viewers. 
  1. Record/Capture DIYs: If you’re doing anything creative or taking any step, you can attempt to film each step and upload it to IGTV or a story to promote environment-friendly products. These may include the products of the ventures you collaborate with. It could also help create a strong network and be regular with content without a lot of effort. Moreover, this will provide visitors with a quick overview as well as a lot of information. 
  1. Marketing Campaigns: Holding different campaigns relevant to blog posts keeping in mind the current trends can help to increase the reach. The following campaigns can be conducted:
  • Busting Myths about Sustainability
  • 100 Days of Sustainable Living
  • Quotes on Sustainability
  • Sharing Experiences of People/Brands who Try to Achieve Sustainability. 
  1. Basic Social Media Growth Strategies:
  • Engaging with similar accounts and ventures – Provides us with the benefit of expanded reach with the same kind of audience we want to target. We can also give shoutouts and create a separate highlight for the same. 
  • Posting countdown stories or teasers before posting – Boosts engagement and creates intrigue of what’s coming next.
  • Engaging with our audience 15 mins before posting by liking or replying to their comments – Engaging with the audience sends notifications on their mobiles and gets them active on the time we are about to post to boost the engagement.
  • Analysing the content that is getting us the maximum traction and taking action based on that – By figuring out what works for us we can double down the content so that we have the maximum benefit.
  • Researching content of competitors to see what we can do better and optimising our strategies accordingly – Gives us an idea of what goes around the industry and how we offer a unique solution to it.
  • Being consistent in posting on our feed to keep the audience hooked – Consistency is the key. The more consistently you post, the more are the chances of your content reaching people beyond your followers.

Accounting

IT Returns and Slab Rates 

If the business is registered as a sole proprietorship, the business and the person are considered as a sole entity. Therefore, while calculating the income, the taxable income would include the sum of the income from the businesses and personal income. Personal income comprises wages and salaries received, any transfer receipts (government payments made to the individuals), social security & other government benefits, and Investment income (Dividends, Interest, and Rent). 

There are two tax regimes through which one can calculate Income Tax:

Old Tax Regime

IncomeTax Rate
Upto Rs. 2,50,000#NIL
Rs. 2,50,001 – Rs. 5,00,000*5%
Rs. 5,00,001 – Rs. 10,00,00012,500 + 20% of Amount more than 5,00,000
Above Rs. 10,00,000 12,500 + 1,00,000 + 30% of Amount more than 10,00,000

Note # – If the business has been registered as Sole Proprietorship and the income is below 2.5 lacs, there is no need to file an IT Return.

Note * – If the taxable income does not exceed Rs. 5 lakhs, the person can claim a rebate under section 87A from Income-tax. The amount of rebate is income-tax on total income or Rs. 12,500, whichever is less.

Alternative Tax Regime (115 BAC)

Total IncomeTax Rate
Upto Rs. 2,50,000NIL
Rs. 2,50,001 – Rs. 5,00,000*5%
Rs. 5,00,001 – Rs. 7,50,00010%
Rs. 7,50,001 – Rs. 10,00,00015%
Rs. 10,00,001 – Rs. 12,50,00020%
Rs. 12,50,001 – Rs. 15,00,00025%
Above Rs. 15,00,00030%

Note * – If the taxable income does not exceed Rs. 5 lakhs, the person can claim a rebate under section 87A from Income-tax. The amount of rebate is income-tax on total income or Rs. 12,500, whichever is less.

GST

If the service provided is within India and the gross receipts are below Rs. 20 lacs, then there is no need to register for GST.

Expected Impact of the Deliverables and Strategies

Every organisation faces operational issues, but those are not permanent and can be overcome with the right solutions. We have presented a few solutions and their expected impact on a small-scale sustainable business operating primarily in India. All of the obstacles can be tackled with effective support from the stakeholders and the government. 

As far as the restrictions are concerned, governments can plan them so that they don’t hamper economic activities while controlling the extent of the overall movement of the population. The businesses should also adapt to effective mechanisms wherein they can shift their strategies and tools as the business climate demands.

Credits

Authors

Ms. Paridhi Bisht, Ms. Kanishka Bajoria, Ms. Mansi Goyal, Ms. Mansi Mishra (Team Management Interaction Cell, JMC) 

Editors

Ms. Gaurika Gera and Ms. Simran Paul (Team Management Interaction Cell, JMC) 

De-nailing the Pallet Innovation

Imagine cutting a tree every time you transport cargo!

Every year millions of trees are cut to make billions of wooden pallets. What’s worrying is that for sea and air cargo, these pallets can be used only once. 

Makes us wonder, why are we using an option that contributes to environmental damage every single year? Do we not have better alternatives for transporting our goods, especially with technological and infrastructural advancements happening globally? 

To answer these questions, we first need to look at the Pallet Industry’s progress over the years.  

How Pallets came to be

The history of pallets dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt, where there were indications of wooden skid-like structures used to store the construction material. 

In 1920, Clark Equipment Company, in the US, patented the first forklift. It was followed by Howard T. Hallowell who submitted the first patent for pallets under the name of Lift Truck Platform. But it was only in the 1960s, in Europe, that a uniform quality and size standard was established, which remains in use today. 

Currently, APAC countries source Pinewood, one of the most common materials used for pallets, from  countries in North and South America because of its scarcity. These imported wood-based pallets transport goods across the world. Amidst all this, the quantum of damage that’s done to the environment is just astonishing.

This brings us back to our original question – 

What are the alternatives?

Patents for plastic pallets were filed in as early as the 1960s. But it was only in the latter half of the 20th century that plastic pallets picked up momentum owing to their superior benefits over wooden pallets. 

Plastic pallets can carry much more weight depending on the quality of plastic granules used as raw material. They also last for more than 3 years, which takes away the headache of re-purchasing pallets, especially for warehousing.

But every benefit comes with a price and the same is with plastic pallets, too. They are typically 3 to 5 times costlier than their wooden counterparts. The pricing is not the biggest problem here though. APAC countries need to solve the establishment of a Reverse Supply Chain Model which ensures that these pallets do not end up in dump yards, further adding to the problem of plastic waste.

Wooden and plastic pallets, along with lesser known options like metal and corrugated paper pallets, are not in line with the UN’s climate change goals because of material sourcing and non-recyclability constraints. 

But there’s hope. Early 2010 saw research done to replicate the process of ‘Particle Board’ manufacturing for pallets as a single mould using waste wood.  

Newsflash! The technology is market ready and already being tested by few players worldwide. The pallet manufactured using this method is called Compressed Wood Pallet, with features that cannot be missed:  

  • Greater load carrying capacity than the conventional wooden pallet  
  • No damage to packaging due to rough edges  
  • Saves more than 50% stacking height compared to both wooden and plastic Pallets  
  • Recyclability of pallets as a raw material  
  • No trade-off in features vs cost  
  • No need for Chemical treatment as per ISPM-15 regulation under IPCC 
Image Source: Pixabay

Stacking Comparison of Conventional Wooden (left) and Compressed Wooden Pallet (right)

While all these features look fantastic, there’s more! 

Based on my extensive research, apart from using waste wood as a raw material, other elements with similar technical properties can be used to make Compressed Pallets, too. Imagine using waste material for manufacturing pallets which, after their use, can be recycled to make more pallets. How exciting and impressive is this technology!

The Logistics industry has seen several advancements with Information Technology, aimed at process improvements in document sharing and storage, shipment/freight tracking and queue management, inspection and quality checks, traceability and visibility. But it’s high time that innovations are made on the hardware front as well, to check our impact on the environment.

I am driven to introduce the Industry to the alternative they never had!  

Credits

Author

Abhijeet Parmar, Founder of Senergy Pallet Pvt. Ltd, is working to introduce Eco-friendly Logistics Pallets in Asia-Pacific Region. He aims to bring the focus on outstanding clean-tech startups of India. ‘It’s not just that we have a huge talent pool in our country but it is also the need of the hour’, says Abhijeet.

Edited by Ayesha Tari 

What are you getting wrong about sustainability?

For many, ‘sustainability’ is often used in conjunction with environment-friendly initiatives. True, businesses and individuals must make optimal use of resources to be sustainable. But the environment is not all the term envelopes.

The Brundtland Commission, sponsored by the UN, introduced the term ‘sustainable development’. It surmised that sustainable development is meeting present generations‘ needs without adversely affecting the future generations’ capabilities and needs.

Amidst all the hype surrounding global initiatives thereafter, the general population is swayed by their environmental impact rather than seeing the whole picture. In reality, there’s a lot you’re getting wrong about the concept. 

Sustainability is not this

If you’re creating eco-friendly clothes using lowly paid workers or, even worse, children, you’re not sustainable. Likewise, if you’re producing electric cars but mining for lithium above specified limits, you’re not sustainable. Plus, if you don’t possess the capability to recycle all or most car parts, you’re not sustainable. Similarly, if you’re manufacturing green products consistently at a loss, you’re not sustainable.

You may be doing the current generation a favour, but the future won’t look so bright. 

Here’s what Sustainability really is

Traditional sustainability models will show you three pillars. However, when researching, we found that one of the pillars – people – can be broken down into employees and society, which deserve individual spotlights. 

Pillars of Sustainable Development

Employees = Ownership & Engagement

Sustainable development in an organisation is not the upper management or CSR department’s responsibility alone. To succeed at it, employees at different levels of hierarchy need different persuasion methods.

Organising awareness programs gives employees a holistic perspective about sustainability (an appeal to the heart). Companies can then equip them with skills to monitor, streamline and improve processes. On the other hand, C-suite employees and line managers need convincing via profitable ROI projections through sustainable strategies (an appeal to the head).

Society = Social Equity & Responsibility

Social sustainability focuses on creating a community that supports social equity to empower whole communities. Social equity shouldn’t be confused with equality, though. Equality provides the same resources to each group. But equity understands different backgrounds and, therefore, allocates resources accordingly to reach an equal outcome.

Sustainable supply chains are also a part of this pillar. For example, building a close-ended system for waste recycling, rewarding labourers for undertaking eco-friendly work, passing on all-encompassing knowledge of sustainable practices to vendors, and more – constitute a socially responsible supply chain network.  

Profit = Long-term Success

According to Jeffrey Hollender, professor of corporate sustainability at NYU Stern, being sustainable isn’t a drag on profits. On the contrary, it improves profitability.

Using resources responsibly and finding alternative solutions ensure that your business is more than ready for a better future. Practices that work include – 

  • Rewarding investors for long-term investments in sustainable options
  • Not blindly focusing on output as an economic growth indicator
  • Taking note of your ecological footprint to set new standards

Planet = Environmental Progress

Much has been spoken about environmental sustainability. So much that we don’t need to write any further about it, but for the sake of clarity, let’s get the concept right.

What does this pillar include? Nature.

This involves restoring all the damages we have done to the natural habitats. Then, comes bio-conservation where we will have to use natural resources fairly and prevent any more damage to these ecosystems. 

To preserve the existing habitats, we will have to constantly monitor the soil, air and water quality. Not just that, but we will have to analyse our carbon footprint as well and do everything in our power to reduce it or offset it. This will obviously lead us to one inevitable concept: waste management. 

We can go a step further and promote biodiversity by protecting endangered species and helping them thrive in their local habitats, engaging in afforestation activities,  giving a better quality of life to indigenous tribes and marginalised communities and so forth. 

Follow all of the above, and you’re good for the environment. Just don’t fall for greenwashing.

The Sins of Greenwashing may blind you

Some brands put across sustainable claims but don’t have research or certifications to back them. This practice of propagating false or misleading green marketing claims is ‘Greenwashing’.

Owing to greenwashing, your efforts to support the environment may be having the opposite effect. So how can you check yourself? Terrachoice in 2007 suggested avoiding the below six sins of greenwashing that erode your faith in genuinely sustainable practices. 

  1. Sin of Hidden Trade-off

When a brand markets a product as ‘green’ based on a single sustainable attribute or a small group of features, it’s committing the sin of a hidden trade-off. The brand ignores other important (and in some cases, significant) attributes harmful to the user and planet.

For example, selling eco-friendly clothes that are made using child labour. Or promoting paper as biodegradable, knowing that not all forms of paper are as such.

  1. Sin of No Proof

Often, companies market claims of a product or service being eco-friendly. However, such claims aren’t supported by valid and objective third-party certifications or easily accessible information about their manufacturing process.

Instances of this sin are commonly found. Personal care products claim not to have been tested on animals, but no research backs this. Or articles made from hemp and bamboo don’t provide valid certifications for chemical-free processes.   

  1. Sin of Vagueness

Brands commit this sin when their claim is so terribly defined that the real meaning is confusing for the end consumer.

Consider beeswax packaging papers that are labelled green but don’t specify how the product is made. Or 100% natural soaps or bathroom cleaners that don’t list all their ingredients. 

  1. Sin of Lesser Two Evils

If you had to choose between using paper and going paperless, which option would you consider? Did you say option B? Then you may have just fallen for the sin of lesser two evils. 

Sometimes, businesses choose to spotlight specific green claims that may distract consumers from the more significant negative impact of the product. In the above example, e-products are backed by servers, electricity grids, and the internet, all of which consume energy (oil, gas, and coal). Plus, all our gadgets are difficult to dismantle — especially the circuit boards that have a combination of metals fused with each other — are near-impossible to recycle, surviving in landfills for decades.

  1. Sin of Irrelevance

Brands may have truthful claims to make, but what if they’re unimportant and irrelevant to the issue at hand? They end up deflecting consumer attention from real problems. 

Take the example of sanitary pads. Traditional sanitary pads are labelled as polluters and drain-cloggers. However, based on reports, menstrual waste comprises only 3% of the annual waste India generates. On the other hand, 66% comes from plastic bags and food packaging. Promoting eco-friendly pads undermines the fundamental issue of plastic waste from other significant sources.

  1. Sin of Fibbing

Sometimes, brands make outrightly false claims. 

For instance, promoting farmers’ welfare is a promotional tactic some brands use. They claim they’re providing farmers with livelihood-sustaining jobs. But the same brands import materials and products from abroad, selling them in India labelled as ‘Made in India.’

All of these sins play a role in inhibiting sustainable development. But wait, there’s more.

Why are we not sustainable yet?

Economic failures stemming from environment-harming activities aren’t punishable offences. For example, FMCG manufacturers use legal loopholes to find their way out of paying fees for unsustainable processes. Similarly, subsidising unsound practices in agriculture, energy, transport, and water harms the environment.

Political failures are a result of inaction. Governments don’t want to implement sustainable policies because they interfere with dominant industries in the economy. Then there’s harmful action wherein they clear forests to build commercial infrastructure. As a result, sectors like construction, mining, oil and gas go unregulated to serve political interests.

Communication failures happen when substantial efforts aren’t made to educate the general population. Even sustainable companies hard sell their products and promote more consumerism but forget the essence: the ‘conscious’ bit of ‘conscious consumerism’. They are not transparent about how these products are made and how much ecological footprint the products hold. However, the most important problem is that even such ‘ethical’ companies don’t share enough information on how to discard or recycle their products responsibly or help with reverse logistics to ensure that the customers are able to give back the products once used. Poor community involvement, mistrust, and misleading information – all contribute.

However, there’s room to improve and be better, green citizens of this planet. Wondering how? Well, when in doubt…

…follow these Global Yardsticks

In 2015, the world came together to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These yardsticks help develop the right and complete sustainable approach.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals as set forth by the United Nations are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Notice that most of the goals focus on uplifting human quality of life. However, in mainstream media, only a few of these goals ever get noticed – the environment-related ones. Each SDG deserves equal, if not more attention than the other, for our planet to be fully sustainable.

To sum it up

Sustainable development doesn’t just involve the environment, flora, and fauna alone. It includes us, humans, too!

Often, sustainable enthusiasts or businesses take humans out of the equation and point fingers at them for having destroyed habitats, not realising that humans a part of that too. When habitats are torn down, we humans, especially the disadvantaged ones, end up dealing with the consequences of our actions.

Individuals, businesses and governments need to take up sustainable responsibilities actively. It won’t happen in a day or year. Sustainability is complex but achievable. Each little step you take towards incorporating sustainable practices in everyday life saves the world from years of regression.

On your part, educate yourself about what’s sustainable and what’s not. Plus, vet the brands you purchase. There are several criteria to make a note of, which we’ll be covering in one of our upcoming articles. In addition to that, we’ll show you some good sustainable brands that are talking the talk and walking the walk.

Stay tuned for more from ecoHQ!

Authors

Deepa Sai is the founder of ecoHQ and Quill Ink.

Ayesha Tari is a content writer and editor with a keen, developing interest in sustainability. In a marketing career spanning five years, she has helped build brands across industries.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash