The Latest ESG Reporting and Framework in India
Worldwide, the demand for environment, social, and governance investing or ESG investing has been rising. The demand for ESG products has increased manifold in the last five to six years. Since the pandemic, ESG issues, such as climate change and social equality have gained prominence.
Investors are looking for more sustainable avenues to park their money in. Global sustainable investments have snowballed, reaching $35 trillion in assets under management as of 2020. In India, companies and the government are issuing sustainable products. In 2015, Yes Bank was the first Indian company to launch a green bond. Keeping these trends in mind, the Securities and Exchange Board of India has tightened ESG guidelines in the country.
In May 2021, the SEBI issued the new Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (“BRSR”). This was an update to the existing Business Responsibility Report (“BRR”), which was largely a voluntary activity. BRSR now mandates that from April 1, 2022, the top 1,000 companies by market capitalisation in India have to make disclosures regarding their ESG practices.
What is the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report?
The Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report or BRSR is an ESG framework that aims to link a company’s financial results with its ESG performance. By doing so, SEBI has made it simpler for regulators, investors, and other stakeholders to get a fair picture of a company’s overall stability, sustainability, and growth.
The BRSR will serve as a comprehensive source of information on non-financial sustainability practices by a company in India. Given that India is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter globally, this is a much-needed step to improve ESG guidelines in the country. The report will also make ESG investing easier.
The BRSR requirements are framed broadly upon the nine National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC). These are as follows:
- Be ethical, transparent, and accountable in its conduct and governance
- Produce and market goods and services that are safe while contributing to sustainability
- Promote its employees’ wellbeing
- Respect its stakeholders’ interests and be responsive to them, especially the disadvantaged, vulnerable, and marginalised sections
- Respect, protect, and promote human rights
- Work towards protecting and preserving the environment
- Be responsible while engaging in influencing public and regulatory policy
- Support inclusive growth and equitable development
- Must provide value to customers responsibly
The disclosures under the BRSR are divided into essential indicators and leadership indicators. It is mandatory for the companies to report the essential indicators while reporting leadership indicators is voluntary.
Some of the essential BRSR disclosures
While the list of BRSR disclosures runs long, some of the important mandatory ESG guideline disclosures are as follows:
- The top 1,000 companies have to disclose ESG risks. Simultaneously, they must also highlight the strategies they will adopt to mitigate the risks
- The financial implications of these ESG risks and mitigation strategies have to be disclosed
- All companies must have sustainability goals, which have to be reported. The performance and movement towards these goals must also be reported
- Companies must disclose all environment-related activities, such as waste management practices, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint, etc
- Social diversity measures, such as gender diversity initiatives, safeguards for differently-abled employees, welfare benefits, board composition, etc., must be reported
- Other social impact measures, such as corporate social responsibility, rehabilitation of workers, any resettlement cases, etc., have to be disclosed
- The new BRSR also requires companies to disclose consumer-related activities, such as consumer complaints related to a product recall, product labelling, data privacy and security, etc
Mandating these disclosures has brought in some standardisation and benchmarking for ESG practices and ESG investing in India.
Given that ESG investing has taken off at a large scale worldwide and in India, SEBI’s move to standardise ESG reporting, at least for the top 1,000 companies, is a welcome move. The hope is that these rules will be extended to other companies, both listed and unlisted so that investors can have a complete view of all companies and make informed decisions while undertaking ESG investing.
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