Moving the needle on sustainability: Meet 6 Indian women climate champions leading the way

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. And the evidence could not be more overwhelming.

September 23, 2022

The first cohort of six women entrepreneurs with representatives from UNDP India, ReNew, and FIIT.

UNDP India

According to the latest Human Development Report, the world is experiencing a confluence of crises with climate change dragging global human development down. The IPCC Report shows that nearly half of humanity lives in areas highly vulnerable to climate change.

While the overlapping crises act as threat multipliers, women are the solution multipliers.

Women and girls are powerful changemakers for climate action. A study shows that when women have equal access to productive resources, agricultural production will increase, fewer people will sleep hungry, and emissions will go down.

Despite overwhelming evidence, investments in women and women-led ventures remain low. For instance, the energy sector is overwhelmingly male-dominated. Globally, women hold just 22 percent of the jobs in the energy production and distribution sector. When we move to renewable energy companies, the share of women’s participation is around 32 percent; however, the number gets smaller when we exclude administrative positions.

The programme provides business advisory and mentoring to women climate entrepreneurs.

UNDP India

Recognizing the gaps and the potential of women to lead climate action, the United Nations Development Programme in India and ReNew Power, together with the Foundation for Innovation & Technology Transfer (FIIT), Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, established the ‘Women Climate Champions: ImpactAim SDG5 Accelerator Programme’ in 2021.

The programme provides business advisory and mentoring to women climate entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs gain valuable insights on refining their products and overall business offering.

Entrepreneurs are also trained on SDG-aligned Impact Measurement & Management (IMM) principles to help them strengthen and amplify their impact footprints.

Meet the six exceptional women entrepreneurs who are all set to strengthen the climate innovation landscape in India with support from the programme.   

  1. Monika Jha: Sustainable street lighting solutions

Twenty seven year old Monika Jha is the founder of Cydee Technologies. Launched in 2017, the company has developed a unique lighting concept that helps reduce the number of streetlights required to illuminate a stretch of road or area by 40 percent.

Monika explains, “The innovation lies in the increased dispersion angle of the light from 120 degrees in the case of conventional LED light fixtures to 160 degrees in the case of Cydee Street light fixtures. This leads to increased beams and larger coverage of light. Additionally, the lighting systems are supported by solar and hybrid powering along with IoT & automation enablement resulting in 30 percent energy savings than the conventional ones.”

The motivation behind the concept, Monika says, “Is to improve coverage of streetlights across the city to help women feel safer at night.”

What started in Bengaluru has now seen recognition across the country. Since March 2019, Cydee has installed 740 streetlights across the country. The lighting solutions have led to a reduction of around 305t Co2 emissions and INR 900,000 saved in electricity bills, given it needs fewer lights to illuminate the same patch of land as regular streetlights.

  1. Prerna Goradia: Sustainable air and water purifying solutions

Forty four-year-old materials chemistry expert Dr. Prerna Goradia had always aspired to make a difference in the climate change space. Her company Exposome has developed an advanced air filtration device, Pur-Safe. The device helps remove air pollutants like Sulfur oxide, Nitrogen oxide, Carbon Monoxide, and Hydrogen Sulphide, among others.

Similarly, the company's wastewater treatment solution PureCODe uses cutting-edge technology to help industries like paper, textiles, food processing and pharmaceutical discharge relatively cleaner water by removing or reducing polluting effluents.

The word Exposome means the 'effect of the environment of the human body.’ Through my company, I wanted to put materials chemistry to its best use and solve challenges concerning clean air, wastewater disposal, infection control, and so on,” Prerna says.

3. Kunjpreet Arora: Sustainable bricks for construction

Kunjpreet Arora, 24, a civil engineer turned entrepreneur, was concerned about the growing challenge of inadequate management of construction waste - plastic, cement, and bricks - in Udaipur, particularly their disposal around the city’s lakes. Her company Angirus Private Ltd has developed a technology to produce eco-friendly bricks called ‘WRICKS.’ 

WRICKS are made using 100%-recycled waste material like plastic and other construction and industrial waste like debris, marble, and fly ash. The technology used to make WRICKS also offers an alternative to traditional processes used in the brick kiln industry, which are highly polluting. 

WRICKS reduce the brickwork cost by up to 20 percent. It is 40 percent stronger, absorbs 80 percent less water, and weighs 30 percent lighter than conventional clay bricks. It has been tested on all the primary Indian standard test results and validated via a third-party government accredited National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL),” explains Kunjpreet.