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A Better Standard of Living

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More. We always want more. Whether it is better clothes, a bigger house, faster cars or the latest gadgets -- satisfaction in these days of consumerism is difficult to find. Aspirations are running high, and there is no dearth of avenues for the increasing disposable income of the ever-burgeoning middle class. Everyone is persevering for a "better standard of living."

I think that term is used too loosely -- better than what?

"Greed is good" has been a popular adage. I don't entirely disagree; given the opportunity you should do everything in your power to make the most of it. But let's take a step back -- 1.5 billion people don't have access to regular electricity: these are the people who live in the dark. There are 884 million people without access to safe drinking water: a shocking 50 per cent of the world's hospitalizations are due to water-borne diseases. More than 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation, which is one-quarter of the world's population. These are people fighting to stay alive; their standard of living is to just exist.

I am not arguing for a utopian society; equal opportunity for all, though ideal, is unrealistic. But not everything is black or white, there is a grey area waiting to be explored -- and I think more and more businesses, organizations and individuals are realizing this after the recent, very unfortunate, economic crisis.

Profit at any cost is one extreme of the spectrum. On the other extreme is unselfish submission for the social good or, more accurately, charity. Somewhere in the middle is peaceful, and much required, coexistence. Let me explain, I am an entrepreneur and, of course, I run my business to make a profit -- but that is not the purpose of my business. The purpose is to bring affordable, sustainable and green energy solutions to the world, while making profits. And that's not it. I have been blessed with the opportunity to succeed and am now on my way to realizing my dreams. I want to share the same opportunity with as many people possible. This path is best put in Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's words "Shared values are almost as important as shareholder values".

This ideal manifests in many ways -- small and big. For example, at Suzlon when we develop wind farms in the remotest parts of any country, we train and employ the locals -- benefiting the communities around the wind farm and, in turn, providing great, very localized service for our customers. It is a win-win situation. Solutions such as these are plenty; we just need to actively seek them. It is an attitude that needs to be applied to every aspect of the business; on my part, it is a simple belief that my growth is linked to the growth of the people around me.

In no uncertain terms the economic crash has given us the chance to press the reset button. We now have the opportunity to rebuild an economy which is just and equitable; to bring the marginalized into the main stream. In addition, collectively we also have the choice to power this change on clean, green and sustainable energy.

I am glad that this week the annual World Economic Forum at Davos brings together some of the smartest minds in the world to debate and think about more solutions. It is truly commendable that the Forum brings together, every year, such a diverse group of businessmen, policy makers, media owners and social change agents, to simply try and make this world a better place to live in.

We have just embarked on a new decade; I hope we begin it on a note of introspection and rethink our priorities. To me there is nothing more important than building a greener future, for all six billion of us, and for the generations to come.

Tulsi R. Tanti is founder, chairman and managing director of Suzlon Limited. Suzlon is the majority shareholder in German-based REpower and the largest shareholder in Belgium engineering firm Hansen.

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