Central Government’s Zero Defect Scheme on Sustainability : How Impactful Is it in Reality in 2024

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Sustainability Through Zed Certification

Sustainability has been a buzzword that one can no longer turn a blind eye to. Across all industries, people have been talking about sustainability. From people switching from fast fashion to sustainable fashion to logistics companies resorting to using eco-friendly packaging materials, manufacturing companies are realizing they too need to be sustainable to avail ZED Certification. What is sustainability? 

The term refers to using physical resources or natural resources with caution so that they will remain accessible for many years to come. The United Nations Brundtland Commission had defined Sustainability way back in 1987 along with laying out plans and principles for promoting sustainable development. The Commission had come up with a report titled Our Common Future. 

This is an urgent notice to take decisions to ensure we manage the resources and have them for the coming generations as well. Today, the Central Government has also come up with several measures to ensure the same by handholding the MSMEs through the intricacies. There are several measures, of which, ZED Certification is a primary one which we shall discuss now. But before that, let us approach the fundamental principles of sustainability.

We have to look at economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability. Economic sustainability will focus on using both renewable and exhaustible resources while ensuring a balance. India has been taking giant leaps in the manufacturing sector by contributing as much as 16-17%. It is also generating employment rigorously thereby employing as much as 35.6 million people in the financial year of 2023. 

The country is home to some of the major and upcoming manufacturing units – both of which contribute in a wholesome manner to the revenue. We have heard of Siemens’s plan to cut its carbon emissions in half and become carbon-neutral by 2030. This is not the only case. We have local Indian brands as well taking the similar route of taking the pledge to going carbon neutral. Sunil Ved, a Change-Maker in his own right, is already on a mission to make this happen. 

As a leader in bringing about changes in the industrial gas sector, he states, “At this point, every new manufacturer knows that the resources are limited and one has to drive conservation from day one. This is what has inspired the likes of us to go for a carbon-neutral setup.” In terms of production as well, these companies are doing their best to go for a cleaner production process. They know that in order to function, they will need to have a plan of going for a net zero approach. 

These days, customers are also aware and eager to participate in measures that companies take to reduce waste. This is what one earns from being environmentally aware. A significant moment in the history of Indian manufacturing occurred when on India’s 68th Independence Day, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi urged the MSMes to manufacture with ‘zero defects’ and to have ‘zero effects’ on the environment. 

He also welcomed global investors and manufacturers from everywhere in the world to invest in India. The government of India has initiated this Zero Defect Zero Effect campaign to increase the competitiveness amongst MSMEs and make them sustainable while transforming them into globally recognized brands. The MSME Sustainable Certification or ZED Certification aims to motivate and incentivize MSME companies to target ZED Certification for sustainability and encourage them to become MSME Champions in the long run. 

The ZED sustainability Certification is one of the many components under the MSME Champions Scheme of 2024. The MSME Champions scheme has been working to reduce wastage, modernize manufacturing processes, and facilitate competence that is of international level. The main aim of the government is to focus on powering sustained growth in the manufacturing sector. They focused on three components that propel this growth. 

These include the ease of doing business in India, the confidence in the quality of components and services, and of course, a well-trained workforce. It was at this time that ZED took shape for assessing and certifying the MSMEs to ensure they rise in terms of quality in delivery and be fit to face the global competition. All the MSMEs registered with the UDYAM registration portal are eligible to participate in the MSME Sustainable ZED Certification and its benefits. 

Of course, MSMEs applying for this certification can also avail subsidies and additional subsidies for women or MSMEs in the NER or Himalayan region. To start the process, MSMEs will have to take a pledge to practice Zero Defect Zero Effect in their practices. There are three levels of MSME Sustainable ZED Certification – Level Bronze, Level Silver, and Level Gold. Besides the ZED Certification, companies will also get certification as per the WASH Standard and avail of other measures including MSME KAVACH. 

To reach that level, the MSME can apply for any Certification Level and fulfill the mandatory requirements for sustainability at each level. In case MSMEs don’t follow these principles, the MSMEs will get a time frame, by which they will have to fulfill the same. The Final ZED Certificate will be as per the findings of the Accredited Assessment Agencies. The Ministry of MSME holds the right to visit any MSME after certification to inspect. 

Other than ZED Certification, MSMEs can also avail of awareness programs on sustainability, and go for handholding or consulting. The MSMEs can avail incentives of the ZED Certification directly by applying online and submitting all documents also online. The companies can directly upload their documents online along with other information and download the certificate online. In the manufacturing world, pace and volume are everything. 

But to achieve success, what are the steps the companies take for embracing sustainability is what matters the most. This is why companies have to demonstrate finesse in leadership, maintaining hygiene and safety at the workplace, along with the measurement for timely delivery along top-class quality management. Only after the assessor uses this tool and checks the companies for their readiness to get the certification for sustainability. There are 5 parameters to clear for Certification Level 1 of Bronze, 14 parameters to fulfill for Certification Level 2 of Silver, and 20 for Certification Level 3 of Gold. 

As per the data collected from the ZED website, over 2,35,734 MSMEs are registered after they pledged. Over Rs. 181.53 crores worth of financial support has been given to MSMEs to run their business in a sustainable environment. As of now, over 141661 MSMEs have received Bronze Certification, 391 have received Silver, and 415 have got Gold certification. All figures indicate the respect this is drawing and the way everyone in the manufacturing sector is driving towards the Zero Defect Zero Effect. 

Talking of benefits, we have to also give due credit to state governments who are doing their bit to make the initiative thrive. Punjab, for instance, has done its best to deliver incentives that can motivate the MSMEs with ZED Certification. We spoke to Mr Maheshkumar Mane, founder of MJ Weldwide Services to know how the ZED Certification has worked. 

He said, “We had to fulfill all of the criteria to get the Bronze level certification for sustainability. The requirements were to ensure we followed sustainable methods and even worked with complete safety measures. All of these allowed us to take our working standards a bit up and work towards following the same way of life. This is how we become sustainable in the long run too.” The company MJ Weldwide Services has taken steps to even look for getting more certifications in the process.

On being asked what impact the ZED certification has given to the brand as a whole, he affirmed that the customers were quite satisfied with the efforts the company put into ensuring Zero Defect Zero Effect. This also showed how much the company cared for society as well as ensuring better production quality with efficiency. Mr Mane states that in order to retain that status of certification or even proceed to the next level, his company has to strive towards being consistent in its safety and sustainability approaches. 

Another company, Ramelex has also taken up the initiative to go for Zero Defect Zero Effect with perseverance and has already achieved the ZED Gold certification. The company has been working under the guidance of Director Dr. Santosh Jogdand and Chairman, Mr. Ram B. Jogdand and under the leadership of Quality Manager Hrishikesh Bhise, has become the first ever company in the Power sector in India to achieve WASH certification issued by QCI. 

When we asked the Chairman, Mr Ram B Jogdand, about ZED Certification and its impact, he said, “Ramelex had passed through WASH assessment to achieve ZED- GOLD certification. He feels that more than 350 to 400 units from the Shiaven Industrial Area of Pune should also get ready for ZED Certification. It is beneficial in developing sustainability among MSMEs which in turn will help in Export Promotion as well.” 

Looking at these examples from all around us, we have to say that the ZED certification is a driver for excellence. Excellence comes when you strive to achieve quality and go beyond what meets the eye. With such a positive response coming from companies who are already in different levels of Certification, it is only a matter of time before more MSMEs also take it upon themselves to avail the same. 

Sustainability comes with safety measures, and caring for the world around us. With initiatives like ZED Certification, and MSME Champions, awareness for this has grown across the country is what we can see. Companies are willingly participating in this mission to bring in a sense of uniformity and better quality output in the long run. 

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