In 2019, the independent standards organization, Global Reporting Initiative, revealed that 93% of the world’s largest companies (by revenue) were already reporting on their ESG performance. This voluntary disclosure was in sync with what informed investors wanted - to know whether the firms they were putting their money into, had the planet’s best interests in mind. Activist investors have also pushed firms to improve their DE&I results, and overall, become more inclusive businesses that balance the needs of local communities, employees, the environment AND shareholders.
In a free-wheeling interview with Roma Balwani (CEO of the Indian Deaf Cricketers Association (IDCA) and independent member on the boards of TeamLease and many Indian blue-chip companies), she shared her insights on how CSR is evolving in the Indian corporate landscape.
Ms Balwani’s experience in corporate governance is vast, encompassing programs with companies like Mahindras, whose CSR initiatives predated the Indian Companies Act of 2010, that made CSR compulsory for companies of a certain turnover. Fresh off successfully conducting the 4th edition of IDCA’s 2023 Women’s finals in Bangalore, Ms. Balwani is very optimistic about the huge positive role the private and public sector can play in addressing various social and environmental issues.
In response to the question on how the focus has shifted to the impact of CSR, Ms Balwani responded that with investments now intrinsically linked to ESG, an organization’s financial sustainability depends on credible and authenticated measurement of the impact its ESG initiatives have had, which is where ratings like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index come into play. These globally accepted impact measurement indices track certain metrics and help attract investments as well as enable companies to improve their ESG performance on a continual basis. Learn more here.
Investors apart, customer-facing brands now need to advertise their sustainable, socially responsible, environmentally aware business practices in order to win & retain their clientele. If their initiatives are certified by respected impact assessment agencies, they can build their brand on ESG’s core values, and avoid the backlash associated with companies that’ve been accused of ‘greenwashing’; i.e; falsely claiming ESG achievements.
And in sectors like mining, companies are governed by the strict rules of the state, regarding effluent disposal, habitat damage, etc. So compliance to ESG guidelines are not a matter of choice or brand-building but mandated by law.
With respect to DE&I , Ms Balwani reiterated the importance of fostering a culture of inclusivity within firms - which resulted in employee retention, and sustainable growth for companies. Having driven CSR initiatives from within large organizations, Ms. Balwani also has another unique perspective as CEO of the Indian Deaf Cricketers’ Association, which seeks sponsorship from corporate clients. And experiencing first hand the tremendous support IDCA has got from firms like Nykaa and others, she believes that today, meeting DE&I goals is well and truly embedded in Indian corporate culture.
Watch the playlist of the interview here.