Martin Kuba, Minister of Industry and Trade, Czech Republic, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia said that Czech companies and institutions are keen to share with their Indian counterparts their know-how on handling generated waste as well as on waste prevention. Excerpts from the interview.
OneWorld South Asia: How can the industry promote sustainable development?
Martin Kuba: We should focus on non-polluting and environmentally sustainable industries with the aim to preserve the environment and natural resources for the next generations.
In the Czech Republic, we put a great emphasis on energy efficiency and resource conservation. We are also trying, in cooperation with various resorts and authorities, to promote low waste production processes and environmentally safe materials.
These new technologies are sometimes more expensive, but this should be taken as a challenge for promoting research and development. Many of our companies are offering their environmentally safe products in India.
Kuba: Renewable energy is exactly one of the examples of the cooperation we are looking forward with India.
The Czech Republic has an immense experience with the renewable energy sources, mainly in use of solar, wind, small hydro and biomass energy. The production of energy from renewable sources in the Czech Republic is annually increasing by nearly 30 per cent in last few years.
These dramatic increases are primarily the result of a boom in investment in the solar photovoltaic market, driven by favourable regulatory conditions and falling technology costs.
In India, the Czech Republic hopes to increase cooperation in the field of development and promotion of renewable energy and deployment and transfer of advanced renewable energy technologies via contact among private companies of both countries working in the field of renewable energy.
OWSA: India has abundant supply of cheap labour. How can this potential become an asset for the country?
Kuba: Not only is India a country with very cheap unskilled labour, it has a huge reserve of highly trained labour too. Cheap trained labour in India, apart from favourable prices of various materials, is definitely a strong incentive for the investment plans of Czech companies in India.
Many of our companies have already shifted or are planning to shift their production to India, such as Skoda Auto India (assembling of Skoda cars in Aurangabad and Pune), FANS (cooling towers), Bonatrans (production of railway wheels) and many are about to come.
OWSA: What is the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes in the development of a country?
Kuba: According to my point of view, CSR is not only the charity. It enables a meaningful dialogue with a wide spectrum of stakeholders and if conducted professionally, it has a huge potential to bring positive changes for the employees, community, underpriviledged group, environment etc.
CSR is currently one of the hottest topics among the Czech businessmen and I think it is it’s a good thing that this issue is on the agenda. Czech public expects our companies to consider their impact on society as much as their own business interests and people make a point of buying from companies with views similar to their own.
Therefore, majority of big Czech companies have nowadays their own CSR department and CSR is more and more becoming a part of our company culture.
The main CSR-related priorities in our country are the environment, well-being and philanthropy. However, it is imperative that companies provide sufficient information on how funds are allocated to social cause.
OWSA: Solid waste management is still a challenge in India. What kind of support can India gain from the efficient waste management system in Czech?
Kuba: Solid waste management is a relatively young yet dynamically growing sector of the national economy. Our national legislation emphasises waste prevention, defines the hierarchy of waste handling, and promotes the fundamental principles of environmental and health protection in waste handling.
Our Czech companies and institutions are keen to share with their Indian counterparts their know-how on handling generated waste as well as on waste prevention and obligatory handling of selected products etc.
Our companies are also willing to help to put together waste management plants and provide our well-tested technology.
OWSA: How important do you consider ensuring women get a fair share in the trade and industry sector?
Kuba: Women in our country are encouraged to choose their specialisation and subsequently also their job. Our Anti-Discrimination Act anchors the principle of equal treatment for men and women in law, including in employment.
Currently, female employment rate in the Czech Republic is about 57 per cent (compare to male employment of 73.7 per cent). Participation of women in trade and industry sector is definitely an asset as women provide different point of view.
Nevertheless, neither myself nor our government favours the system of reservations and quotas which should be allocated to women in either the government or private sector. I would like to add that I believe women should be provided the possibility of part-time working.