How can businesses report how sustainable they are?
With sustainability disclosures increasing and transforming rapidly over the last decade, SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) created a new format of a sustainability report in 2021. It is called the BRSR (Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting)
and aims to link a company’s financial performance with its ESG performance.
However, this is not the first iteration of such a reporting standard. Prior to 2021, companies used the BRR (Business Responsibility Report), introduced in 2012. While some aspects of both remain similar, the BRSR was designed to be more comprehensive, allowing companies to place importance on both quantitative and qualitative disclosures. The BRSR approaches company disclosures specifically from an ESG angle, which allows for meaningful growth beyond simple regulatory compliance.
This reporting format is optional in FY22 and mandatory from FY23 for the top 1000 listed companies (by market capitalisation) in India.
What are the BRSR guidelines?
The BRSR guidelines are in the form of a questionnaire, divided into three sections. They are:
Section A: General disclosures
General disclosures include the details of a company’s registration, its products, employee details (with specific emphasis on the participation of women), turnover rate, and grievance redressal mechanism for stakeholders, among other factors.
Section B: Management and process disclosures
This section deals with how the management of the company deals with the NGRBC (National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct) principles, on which the BRSR reporting is based on. It includes identifying policies based on each of the principles, inculcating them into the process of the business and measuring them against standards. Note that companies don’t have to create new policies – they can use existing ones.
Section C: Principle-wise performance disclosures
This section focuses on disclosures against the nine principles outlined in the NGRBCs
(National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct). Each of these principles is related to one of the 17 SDG goals. They are:
Conduct and govern themselves with integrity, and in a manner that is ethical, transparent and accountable. (as in SDGs 16,17)
Provide goods and services in a manner that is sustainable and safe. (as in SDGs 2,6,7,8,9,10,12,13,14,15)
Respect and promote the well-being of all employees, including those on their value chains. (as in SDGs 1,3,4,5,8,11,16)
Respect the interests of and be responsive to all its stakeholders. (as in SDGs 1,5,11,16)
Respect and promote human rights. (as in SDGs 5,8,16)
Respect and make efforts to protect and restore the environment. (as in SDGs 2,3,6,7,9,10,12,13,14,15)
Endeavour to be responsible and transparent when engaging in public and regulatory policy. (as in SDGs 2,7,9,10,11,13,14,15,17)
Promote inclusive growth and equitable development. (as in SDGs 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,11,13,14,15,16,17)
Engage with and provide value to their consumers in a responsible manner. (as in SDGs 2,4,12,14,15)
On paper, companies are required to report on KPIs under each of these principles, which are categorised into two sections: essential and leadership indicators. While the essential indicators are mandatory for all businesses using this report, the leadership indicators are optional and can be reported on by companies to show better accountability.
While these are not mandatory reporting principles for companies that are not in the top 1000, they can also follow them. The growing popularity of non-financial disclosures shows that businesses are serious about following the ESG criteria
. A detailed sustainability report can also help banks, shareholders, and other financial institutions assess the credibility of a business when it comes to sustainability.
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