No trash talk: Mumbai is turning garbage into business

The garbage industry in India is hotter than the local curry. Nordea’s Sasja Beslik has travelled to Dharavi, one of the largest slum districts in the world, to see how recycling is organised industrially.

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With its more than 1.1 billion people, India is the world’s third largest economy. At the same time, the country faces a range of huge social and environmental challenges. We went to India to experience both the opportunities and the challenges and to promote the long-term value of sound ESG performances.

One of the things that surprised us was the organisation and success of small companies in the India’s slum districts. The micro businesses have an annual turnover of more than 650 million dollars, and recycling is responsible for a fair share of this money.

The recycling industry creates revenue while at the same time doing a great job for the environment

India is a country where very little gets wasted. But the sheer size of the population means even that little waste adds up to huge numbers. There is no garbage collection, as we know it. Instead the garbage is collected and recycled in other ways. This includes small traders who collect and sell the garbage and make a living this way.

The recycling industry creates revenue while at the same time doing a great job for the environment. The challenges that India is facing are enormous, but this is clearly a step in the right direction. What we want to do is to encourage improved working conditions and safety measures.

As investors we have the possibility to influence and accelerate the positive developments in India. We can make a difference. By investing in businesses that provide decent working conditions and have clear environmental and social policies. This way we can balance good financial returns with a good conscience. Because from a business point of view we can see that responsible investments are better investments in the long run.

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