Business Responsibility And Sustainability Report – Evolution Of ESG Reporting In India

by | Nov 24, 2023 | ESG

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The sustainability reporting landscape rapidly evolves worldwide as sustainable development and climate change movements gain traction. Investors seek improved sustainability performance as part of their investment decisions, increasing the pressure. This movement has advanced further, and it is now obligatory for enterprises to report on their environmental performance to maintain open communication with stakeholders. The Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report frameworks have developed throughout time, as have businesses globally. These frameworks have been adopted by businesses & companies for measuring, monitoring, and reporting.

Evolution of ESG Reporting in India

As the initial step towards mainstreaming company responsibility, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) established the Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility in 2009. Since then, the reporting landscape has evolved significantly, with the emergence of Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC), and now Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) (introduced by a SEBI circular dated 10 May 2021).

Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report

  • MCA issued National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs) on business social responsibility in 2009.
  • 2012 Business Responsibility Report (BRR): SEBI mandated the top 100 listed businesses by market capitalization to disclose BRR based on NVGs in their annual reports.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in 2014: CSR is mandated, and CSR Rules are enacted.
  • 2015 Expansion to the top 500 listed companies: The requirement to file BRR has been extended to the top 500 listed firms based on market capitalization.
  • Integrated Reporting (IR) in 2017: According to a SEBI circular, the top 500 businesses mandated to produce BRR may implement Integrated Reporting (IR) voluntarily beginning in the fiscal year 2017-18.
  • 2019 National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC): The 2019 NGRBC was released in March 2019.
  • 2019 Expansion to the top 1,000 publicly traded enterprises: SEBI extended the BRR criteria to the top 1,000 listed businesses by market capitalization beginning in the fiscal year 2019-20.
  • Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) 2021: Introduction of BRSR in May 2021.

What Is the Difference Between BRR and BRSR?

Companies required to complete BRSR will likely be familiar with the former BRR program. As an introduction to ESG reporting, BRR was introduced to enterprises unfamiliar with integrating social, governance, and environmental programs into their company’s operations and reporting.

Someone who has carried out an ESG program as per one of the global guidelines realizes how time-consuming the first-year evaluation can be. Data must be compiled from many departments, offices, facilities, suppliers, customers, and vendors.

BRR was designed to simplify the transition by focusing on qualitative ESG considerations. With the advent of BRSR, reporting has become considerably more quantitative, attempting to comply with the new NGRBCs announced in 2018. BRSR also greatly emphasizes diversity and ethics, requesting information on gender ratios in the workforce and requiring employee business ethics training. With the addition of quantitative metrics and a focus on ethical practices and human rights, the BRSR program has been endorsed by international bodies such as the World Bank, and ongoing BRSR performance and a company’s ability to meet the goals outlined in annual reports will almost certainly be taken into account by credit rating agencies, banks, and other financial institutions.

Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report

Overview

The MCA established a Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting (the Committee) in November 2018 to finalize business responsibility reporting formats for listed and unlisted firms based on the NGRBC framework.

The Committee recommended in its ‘Report of the Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting‘ (the Committee Report) that BRR be renamed BRSR, where disclosures are based on ESG parameters, compelling organizations to engage with stakeholders holistically and go beyond regulatory compliances in terms of business measures and their reporting.

From FY2022-23, the top 1,000 listed businesses (by market value) must report, whereas disclosure is optional for FY2021-22. As a result, the Committee Report invites enterprises to register their performance for FY2021 -22 to be better equipped to implement this framework in the next fiscal year.

Structure

There are three sections to the reporting questionnaire:

Section A: General Disclosure

The part includes information about the listed entity, its products/services, operations, employees, holdings, subsidiaries, and associate companies (including joint ventures), CSR, transparency, disclosure compliances, etc.

Section B: Management and Process Disclosures

It includes inquiries about policy and management processes, governance, leadership, and oversight.

Section C: Principle-wise Performance Disclosures

Companies are required to report on KPIs by the NGRBC’s nine principles.

The section divides KPIs into two sub-categories for which enterprises must report:

  • Essential indicators (mandatory): KPIs include statistics on training programs completed, environmental data on energy, emissions, water, and waste, a social effect made by the organization, and so on.
  • Leadership indicators (voluntary): Companies must comply with these indicators to improve accountability and social responsibility. Among the KPIs are data on life cycle assessments (LCAs), details on conflict management policy, extra biodiversity data, breakdown of energy usage, Scope 3 emissions, and supply chain disclosures.

The Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report requires the following nine principles and disclosures:

  1. To be ethical, honest, and accountable, businesses must conduct and regulate the industry with integrity. Anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies, details of regulatory measures taken against the organization, and details of conflict-of-interest complaints are all performance indicators.
  2. Businesses should deliver goods and services sustainably and securely. Investments to improve environmental and social impacts, reclamation, reuse, recycling, disposal methods, and details of extended producer responsibility programs and life cycle evaluations are all performance indicators.
  3. Businesses should respect and support the well-being of all employees, including those who are part of their value chain. The percentage of employees covered by health and accident insurance, paternity benefits, daycare benefits, and retirement benefits; accessibility for differently-abled workers; and the number of unionized workers are all performance metrics.
  4. Businesses must respect and respond to the interests of all stakeholders. Stakeholder groups, including disadvantaged and marginalized individuals, the number of communication channels used, the frequency of participation, and the specifics of consultation processes are all performance metrics.
  5. Human rights should be respected and promoted by businesses. Performance indicators include the percentage of employees who have undergone human rights training, the rate of workers paid the minimum wage, and board and management remuneration compared to industry medians.
  6. Businesses should respect the environment and work to conserve and restore it. Year-over-year power and fuel consumption, water withdrawal by source (surface water, groundwater, and seawater), air emissions (NOx, SOx, and VOCs), and environmental impact assessments are all performance indicators.
  7. When influencing public and regulatory policy, businesses must be responsible and honest. Performance indicators include the number of trade and industry groups affiliated with the organization, details of anti-competitive behaviour issues, and details of public policy stances espoused by the organization.
  8. Businesses should encourage inclusive and equitable growth. Details of social impact assessments, information on initiatives including rehabilitation and relocation, and procurement strategies that favour marginalized or vulnerable populations are all performance indicators.
  9. Businesses must engage with and responsibly cherish their customers. Consumer complaint and feedback methods, specifics of safety-related product recalls, and cybersecurity and data privacy policy availability are all performance indicators.

Advantages of Completing Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report

While the top 1,000 corporations must file their BRSR report, this should not be considered merely a paper exercise for legal compliance. Businesses that implement serious and well-documented ESG programs, whether in India or elsewhere, reap a variety of benefits, including:

  • Increased business value: The process, service, and product reviews required to complete ESG reporting provide an opportunity to identify new business possibilities or adjust market positioning. Consumer demand for sustainable goods and services constantly increases, and companies making credible sustainability claims stand to outperform their competition.
  • Greater capital investment accessibility: Investors seek improved sustainability performance in India and worldwide as part of their investment decisions. This covers not only assessing environmental performance but also other ESG measures such as diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership transparency. Companies demonstrating effective ESG programs are more likely to get future funding.
  • Reduced risk: ESG reporting provides a chance to detect and mitigate risk before it becomes problematic. Companies with a strong ESG program are frequently referred to as “future-proof” since they have significantly reduced risk not just in their operations but also in their supply chain, across subsidiaries, and in their investment portfolio.
  • Improved corporate citizenship: Everyone feels the communal impact of business activities, and consumers increasingly demand tangible confirmation of a company’s sustainability claims. That proof is a documented ESG program that adheres to widely recognized methodologies.
  • More skill: These days, new employees, particularly specialists and subject-matter experts, want more than just a paycheck. They want to know that their efforts benefit the company, the community, and the globe. Meaningful, long-term work motivates this generation of talent, demonstrating the benefit of maintaining them in the long run.

Bottom Line

Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report is a standardized and consistent methodology developed with the changing worldwide trends in sustainability reporting in mind. The Indian reporting landscape is rapidly evolving in line with worldwide norms and regulations, with corporations required to operate their companies responsibly while maintaining transparency and accountability in reporting. Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report is expected to be utilized as a single source of information on sustainability in India. It is also a foundational document for stakeholders, particularly investors, to facilitate company comparability.

FAQs

Q1. Is BRSR required in India?

SEBI specifies that till the fiscal year 2021-2022, the top 1000 listed businesses based on market capitalization must submit a BRR in their annual report; after that, in the fiscal year 2022-2023, such listed organizations must submit a BRSR.

Q2. What is the objective of the corporate social responsibility report?

BRSR aims to establish a link between a company’s financial results and its environmental, social, and governance performance. SEBI has specified that the BRSR shall apply to the top 1,000 listed businesses for voluntary reporting in fiscal year 2015.

Q3. Who published the report on corporate responsibility and sustainability?

SEBI issued a new reporting methodology, Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR), in 2021, based on the principles outlined in the NGRBC.

Also Read: BRSR Reporting: All You Need To Know

 

Author

  • Farhan Khan

    Farhan is an accomplished Sustainability Consultant with 6-7 years of experience, He specializes in the design and execution of innovative sustainability strategies that not only mitigate environmental impact but also foster social responsibility, thereby enhancing overall business performance. With hands-on experience in ESG and BRSR reporting, as well as a wide array of assessments including gap, baseline, midline, impact, and value chain across various regions in India, Farhan brings a strategic and comprehensive approach to sustainability initiatives.

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