In recent years, listed organizations in India have become more aware of the need for corporate social responsibility and sustainability reporting. The SEBI has issued nine guidelines to help companies adopt sustainable business practices and report on them transparently and comprehensively. The BRSR is based on the BRR’s nine principles but clarifies and expands on who must disclose (the top 1,000 NSE-listed businesses by market capitalization) and what they must report (different types of disclosures).
Each principle-based disclosure is made up of two parts: essential indicators and leadership indicators. Essential indicators are required and include information on environmental elements such as energy, emissions, water, and trash, the social impact of the company’s activities, and details on employee training based on these principles.
According to the reporting framework, leadership indicators are voluntary and intended for organizations that “aspire to take their organization to the next level in their mission to be environmentally, socioeconomically, and ethically responsible.” These include ethics awareness programs for value chain partners, life cycle assessments for products and services, employee protections such as insurance, and transition programs. Advanced reporting on biodiversity, energy consumption, scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions, and supply chain disclosures are also included as leadership indicators.
The Nine BRSR Principles
The BRSR requires the following nine principles and disclosures:
PRINCIPLE 1: Businesses must operate and manage themselves with integrity in an ethical, transparent, and accountable manner.
This idea emphasizes the significance of ethical behaviour and openness in company operations. Companies must adopt ethical business practices and maintain high levels of integrity. They should also be accountable for their acts and be transparent regarding their conduct, business operations, and financial reporting.
PRINCIPLE 2: Businesses should deliver goods and services sustainably and safely.
This principle emphasizes the significance of environmentally friendly and safe manufacturing practices. Companies should aim to reduce their environmental effect and ensure that the goods and services they sell are safe for the public and the environment.
PRINCIPLE 3: Organisations should value and encourage the well-being of all employees, especially those in their value chains.
This idea emphasizes the significance of employee happiness. All those who work in their value chains, especially suppliers, contractors, and temporary workers, should have safe and healthy working conditions, fair salaries, and opportunities for career advancement.
PRINCIPLE 4: Businesses should respect and respond to the interests of all stakeholders.
This idea emphasizes the significance of stakeholder participation. All stakeholders, including owners, employees, clients, vendors, and the local communities in which they operate, should have their interests and viewpoints considered. They should also be sensitive to the concerns and feedback of stakeholders.
PRINCIPLE 5: Companies must appreciate and encourage human rights.
This idea emphasizes the significance of human rights. Companies must respect and support human rights, including freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy. Human rights violations should also be avoided and addressed in their day-to-day activities and value chains.
PRINCIPLE 6: Businesses should respect the environment and work to conserve and restore it.
This idea highlights the significance of environmental stewardship. Companies should reduce their environmental impact, protect natural resources, and support environmental sustainability. They should also work to reinvigorate and rehab deteriorated ecosystems.
PRINCIPLE 7: Businesses should do so responsibly and openly when influencing public and regulatory policy.
This principle emphasizes the significance of responsible advocacy. Companies should engage in responsible and open policy advocacy and avoid practices that could jeopardize the public benefit or the integrity of the democratic process.
PRINCIPLE 8: Businesses should encourage inclusive and equitable growth.
This idea highlights the significance of encouraging inclusive and equitable economic development. Companies should generate financial possibilities for all people, especially those disadvantaged or marginalized. They should also help to improve local communities and promote social and economic empowerment.
PRINCIPLE 9: Businesses must engage with and responsibly deliver value to their customers.
This idea emphasizes the significance of responsible consumer participation. Companies must deliver safe, best-in-class products and services while marketing and selling them fairly and ethically. They should also be open and honest concerning what they are selling, giving customers the knowledge they require to make informed decisions.
How do BRSR principles shape sustainable business practices in India?
BRSR Principles have various advantages. For starters, it offers a comprehensive framework that covers a wide range of sustainability themes like governance, ethics, social responsibility, the protection of the environment, and the state of the economy. This enables Indian businesses to report on sustainability comprehensively.
Second, its conformity with global standards streamlines sustainability reporting to overseas stakeholders increasingly interested in sustainability performance. Third, making sustainability reporting compulsory for the top 1,000 listed companies provides a consistent standard, ultimately increasing sustainability reporting across India.
BRSR does, however, have several flaws. Due to the numerous requirements, it can be complex and challenging to implement, making it tough for businesses to determine relevant ones. Furthermore, because the framework is new and lacks adequate implementation advice, reporting requirements may need to be clarified, resulting in variations in reporting. BRSR seeks to increase openness while also encouraging responsible and sustainable business practices. Global sustainability standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), are closely associated with BRSR.
This alignment enables Indian firms to declare their sustainability performance following international norms, making it more appealing to investors and stakeholders. For example, BRSR has the same nine principles as the GRI and has similar reporting standards. Indian enterprises adopting BRSR can also meet the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.
For Indian organizations devoted to sustainability, BRSR principles are crucial, assisting them in improving transparency, risk management, innovation, and stakeholder engagement. The framework can be enhanced to better comply with global standards, including simplification, clarity, and scope expansion.
Comparing BRSR Principles with Global ESG Reporting Standards
The BRSR framework is consistent with worldwide ESG reporting standards, such as those established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Indian enterprises can show their commitment to international sustainability best practices and attract global investors by adopting BRSR reporting.
The requirements of the Global ESG Reporting Standards like GRI and the BRSR are contrasted and provided in a tabular style. Specific BRSR/ Global ESG Reporting Standards, like GRI standards, contain needs that do not have a direct comparable requirement in the other framework that gives the same information. As a result, an attempt was made to link these needs to indications that address them indirectly. These extra linkages are supplied in the Remarks column and the Summary table of the Comprehensive tables and are marked by the phrase ‘Can be covered by.’
There are some distinctions between these two standards:
The BRSR criteria are based on the fiscal year, whereas the Global ESG Reporting Standards, like GRI Standards, are based on the reporting period. The reporting period for the GRI Standards could be the fiscal year, but it could also be something else.
Some BRSR indicators require data for both the current and preceding fiscal years. The GRI Standards primarily demand data for the current reporting period. It is, however, suggested that information be presented for the current reporting period and at least two earlier reporting periods (see the Comparability concept in GRI 1: Foundation 2021).
For BRSR indicators about disclosures that comply with the Global ESG Reporting Standards like GRI Standards, it is essential to note that organizations utilizing the GRI Standards are only required to report on material topics. In contrast, BRSR has already determined the issues on which reporting is needed. As a result, GRI reports may exclude such disclosures since they are not material topics for the reporting organization; however, BRSR is required to publish those indicators.
The Evolution of BRSR Principles Over the Years
Traditionally, Indian corporations have frequently practised social responsibility through philanthropic efforts. Modern India has also been a pioneer in recognizing the social responsibility of businesses. Recognizing the importance of companies and their impact on people’s lives. India has been a prominent proponent of fostering responsible enterprises with a social conscience. To fulfil its environmental, social, governance, and human rights responsibilities, including inclusive development. In India, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has launched several projects ensuring that firms conduct themselves responsibly.
The SEBI implemented Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR) in 2012. BRR reflected regulatory disclosure of responsible business practices to all stakeholders by a segment of listed businesses. Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) was launched in 2021 after a long journey. The transition to BRSR connects organizational transparency and disclosure processes with growing global trends in ESG reporting.
Let us examine the evolution process:
2009: MCA introduced voluntary CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) guidelines 2009.
2011: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) introduced National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs) emphasizing corporate social responsibility in 2011.
2011: UNHRC endorsed India’s adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights 2011.
2012: SEBI introduced the 2012 Business Responsibility Report (BRR) for the top 100 listed businesses by market capitalization and annual reports. It was founded on NVGs.
2014: CSR (corporate social responsibility) is mandated, and CSR Rules are enacted.
2015: The requirement to file BRR was extended in 2015 to the top 500 listed firms based on market capitalization.
2017: SEBI circular instructed the top 500 businesses required to prepare BRR to adopt the 2017 Integrated Reporting (IR) requirement voluntarily beginning FY 2017-18.
2019: India releases a new National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights in 2019.
2019: SEBI extended the BRR rule to the top 1,000 listed businesses based on market capitalization in 2019.
2021: In May 2021, the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) was introduced.
The BRSR (Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting) framework is designed to assist businesses in incorporating sustainable and responsible practices into their operations. The framework’s Principle-wise Performance Disclosure section is intended to assist entities in successfully integrating the principles and core elements into critical processes and decisions. Companies can show their willingness to engage in sustainable and responsible business practices, as well as their development and efforts to become leaders in this field, by reporting essential and leadership indicators. The Principle-wise Performance Disclosure portion of the BRSR is vital for firms to present their commitment to sustainability to stakeholders and increase openness and accountability in their day-to-day operations.
Q1. What is a Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report?
India’s regulatory ESG reporting and disclosure obligation is a Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR). It is required by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for the top 1000 listed businesses (by market capitalization). BRSR is more than just listing environmental, social, and governance statistics. In a genuine sense, it is a strategy for driving an organization’s commitment to sustainable development objectives (SDGs) and organizational resilience, creating difficulties, particularly transparent communication.
Q2. What exactly is the distinction between a BRSR and a Sustainability Report?
The Business Responsibility Report (BRR) is part of the stock exchange’s regulatory reporting procedure. In India, the SEBI established BRR in 2012. SEBI required the top 100 listed businesses by market capitalization to file BRR following NVGs alongside their annual reports. SEBI replaced BRR with the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) in May 2021. BRR or BRSR is an Environmental, Social, and Governance Report (ESG) primarily intended for the investor segment, including shareholders.
On the other hand, when we say sustainability report, we mean an overall disclosure procedure for all stakeholders and interested parties. It is usually voluntary and adheres to some national or international principles and standards. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards are among the most prominent and widely used requirements for sustainability reporting worldwide.
Q3. Why is BRSR important?
BRSR is significant because it assists businesses in identifying and mitigating potential risks, improving their reputation, and strengthening their relationships with stakeholders. BRSR also contributes to the economy’s sustainable development by encouraging businesses to adopt responsible and sustainable practices.