top of page

Key Question: Can zero as an ethos bring about a new circular model and show the way towards a more sustainable world?

Towards a Zero City - what the world can learn from Swedish 'lagom' and Indian 'sunya'


  • Owe Ronström, Professor, Uppsala Universitet

  • Dr. Swaminathan Ramanathan, Researcher, Uppsala Universitet, Director, Deloitte India

  • Dr. Gökçe Mete, Head of Secretariat , LeadIT

  • Shalin Tandon, Vice President , Reliance Industries Limited

Key Insights

The idea of 'transitioning', rather than 'transforming' or 'changing'

Professor Owe Ronström speaks about similarities between India and Sweden that could potentially contribute to future collaborations, including, ecological sensitivity: how we view our presence on the planet; the notion of reciprocity and, the emphasis on building infrastructure. 


Further, he posits that the rationality within us that makes us do something for the planet is the other side of the same coin. He engages with the concept of ‘transitioning’ which indicates we’re moving ahead with knowledge that we already harbour, rather than ‘transforming’ or ‘changing’ which are more generic. Transitioning to sustainability is a challenge that requires innovation in all areas, as well as a ‘cognitive infrastructure’ to understand it.

How can countries approach 'change' or 'transitioning'?

Dr. Swaminathan Ramanathan speaks about the two ways one can approach bringing about change. The first is from the ‘change management perspective’ where we accept not having the right knowledge to make the change, and the second being able to orchestrate the existing words, mental model and technology available to make said change in a more ecological or sustainable manner. He takes forth Professor Owe’s idea of ‘transition’ already existing through words like Lagom and the Indian concept of Shunya, and points out two realisations that we have had leading to transition in the industry and energy sector. One realisation is about our impact on the plant, and the second one is about changing ourselves, and our lifestyles. Building upon Lagom and Shunya, or circularity, he refers to them as solutions in the transition process.

The focus should not just be on industrial transition, but on global transition

Dr. Gökçe Mete, head of Secretariat , LeadIT speaks about the work done at LeadIT, an initiative between India and Sweden, and their aim to not only make major decisions pertaining to industrial transition but also setting the agenda on global transition. One of the methods of the measures to accelerate industrial transition is through road maps, to set ambitious targets and processes to reach sustainability. Citing an example from Sweden, she speaks about learning from each others successes to create roadmaps towards sustainable practices, and the need to balance these sustainability practices. Dr. Swaminathan further discusses the idea of roadmaps and talks about the importance of stakeholders at all levels being on the same journey on the roadmap, and being on the same page on the definition of  sustainability, lagom and shunya.

Technology as a tool to achieving sustainability and circularity

Shalin Tandon, Vice President of Reliance Industries Limited speaks about the integration of technology in achieving sustainability and circularity, and cites the example of the farmer community from the milk procurement perspective in India with whom he worked closely. There must be a commonality between the community and companies to save the business and ecosystem. One way to do this is through the integration of technology that is simple, easily available, enables transparency and benefits to all parties.

'Repetitive change' as the key to achieving large scale sustainable change

Professor Owe steps in and talks about differences at the various levels, and enquires about the impact of the local or community level having an impact on the other levels. Shalin responds by talking about the need for small, repetitive change that incites desire in people to reach the next level. Over time, this repetitive change and societal involvement allows them to earn a bit more leading to a better standard of life. This then incites change at other levels of the process leading to large scale sustainable practices.

bottom of page