Fall 2021: GURUJAL BLOG POST

This semester my team worked with the India-based non-profit, GuruJal. GuruJal is an Integrated Water Management Initiative, which aims to address the issues of water scarcity, ground-water depletion, flooding and stagnation in the Gurugram District of Haryana State. Their projects include the restoration of wastewater ponds, the creation of biodiversity parks and the developing of technological and communication tools. Their long-term goal is to make the district water neutral, if not water positive.

The SUMANI team collaborated with GuruJal to develop tools and resources that would aid in securing funding for their biodiversity park. This required an analysis of costs and benefits of the park itself, the creation of a pitch presentation for potential funders, and extensive research of potential financial and non-financial partners to be contacted by the GuruJal team.

At the start of the semester several proposals were made regarding the best approach for developing a plan to gain funding for this project. Our team explored several options for different assessments to be conducted and integrated into our pitch presentation. Understanding the purpose of certain assessments and their potential benefits presented its own set of challenges as the ESG landscape is made up of extensive jargon with varying frameworks, none of which are standardized. This led our team to determine that a cost-benefit analysis would be most beneficial at this stage of the project, with the current data available, and most impactful in a pitch presentation.

The pitch presentation itself required a number of decisions by the team members leading its creation. Although the purpose of the biodiversity park can be viewed as an environmental initiative, our team agreed that the story of people, those the park would impact, would be more compelling to funders. With the audience in mind, the pitch functioned to prove the capability of GuruJal to take on such a large and important project, identify the current problem in the state, and present the biodiversity park as the solution. The role of projects like this in national and global sustainability was also identified in order to compel companies further, as this information could be directly referenced by funders in company CSR reports. The challenge of greenwashing was identified by our team with the client, as funding a project such as this cannot be advertised as impacting a company’s own value chain thus not improving ESG ratings. However, this does not mean there is no benefit to a participating company. The social, environmental, and reputational benefits are expressed throughout the pitch.

Due to the amount of money GuruJal requires to complete this project, in additional to a list of potential funders (including global companies with offices in the Gurugram District, local businesses, impact investors, and NGOs) we have identified additional processes for collecting donations that we recommended to the GuruJal team to be explored.

Our SUMANI teamed worked diligently this semester to identify how best to develop and complete these resources and are grateful to have contributed to such a meaningful project with such a passionate and community-focused team.

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