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BRSR 101: Everything You Need to Know About India’s Business Responsibility & Sustainability Report

FigBytes

Skyline of Borivali East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, view shows many buildings, construction site, buildings in progress and major roadway.

With greater economic prosperity and industrialization, carbon emissions traditionally follow. As India’s GDP has grown, so has its impact on climate change. In 2020, India was globally the third-highest emitter of carbon dioxide by volume. 

As the world continues to determine how to slow rising temperatures, the Indian government has committed to intensive carbon reduction goals. In advance of the recent COP27 meeting, India has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product by 45% by 2030. Time is of the essence to meet this goal.

In 2020, the 1,000 largest companies in India by market capitalization had a value of 1 trillion lakhs (equivalent to more than 1 trillion USD). The energy powering these companies was more than 50% fossil fuels. 

And while the government has pledged to increase renewable energy options and expand forest cover as a carbon sink across the country, there is still a responsibility for businesses to find opportunities to increase their sustainability in the years to come. 

What Is BRSR?

The Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report is the evolution of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) reporting in India. It takes over from the existing Business Responsibility Report (BRR) that was first introduced in 2012. 

When Does BRSR Come Into Effect?

The BRSR guidelines and reporting framework are available now, and companies filing sustainability reports for the 2021-2022 fiscal year have the option to complete a BRSR-compliant report. For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, all eligible companies will have to prepare a BRSR-compliant report.

Who Has to Report?

The top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalization must file a BRSR-compliant report to the Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) of India before March 31, 2023. Other sustainability-minded companies wishing to follow the BRSR framework and guidelines may do so, but this is not required at this time, though that may change in the future.

What Needs to be Included in a BRSR Report?

SEBI has a published guidance document that details everything required to be included in your report. Broadly, these include:

  1. General Disclosures
  2. Management & Process Disclosures
  3. Principle Wise Performance Disclosure

1. General Disclosures

This is an introduction to your company and business operations, including basic contact information and business addresses, names of stock exchanges where the company is listed, and the reporting boundary, i.e., whether the report is prepared for the company alone, or whether it includes subsidiaries or portfolio companies.

General disclosures also include information about the company’s products and services, and the location of plants and offices (both in India and internationally). 

Employee details need to be provided, including counts related to diversity and inclusion, such as the number of differently abled employees and workers, representation of women in the company, and data on employee turnover. General disclosures will also include information on the number of employee complaints and grievances filed.

2. Management & Process Disclosures

This section of the report is meant to help the reporting company document their compliance with National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBCs). Companies need to show that not only do NGRBC-compliant policies exist, but that they have been approved by leadership and have been translated into procedures and measurable time-bound goals.

3. Principle Wise Performance Disclosure

These disclosures are meant to show how key principles and core elements of the standard are incorporated into business practices and decision making and make up the bulk of the report. Here is where quantitative data is compiled and reported in a standardized manner so that year-over-year progress can be documented.

There are nine NGRBC disclosures in this section and they are further divided into Essential and Leadership indicators. Essential indicators must be reported on by all companies filing a BRSR report. Leadership indicators are available to those hoping to position themselves as having a higher commitment to sustainability.

The principles in this section are:

  • Businesses should conduct and govern themselves with integrity, and in a manner that is Ethical, Transparent and Accountable.
  • Businesses should provide goods and services in a manner that is sustainable and safe.
  • Businesses should respect and promote the well-being of all employees, including those in their value chains.
  • Businesses should respect the interests of and be responsive to all its stakeholders.
  • Businesses should respect and promote human rights.
  • Businesses should respect and make efforts to protect and restore the environment.
  • Businesses, when engaging in influencing public and regulatory policy, should do so in a manner that is responsible and transparent.
  • Businesses should promote inclusive growth and equitable development.
  • Businesses should engage with and provide value to their consumers in a responsible manner.

Benefits of Completing BRSR 

While it’s mandatory for the top 1,000 companies to complete their BRSR report, this shouldn’t be viewed simply as a paper exercise for the purposes of legal compliance. Whether in India or internationally, businesses who undertake conscientious and well-documented ESG programs experience a number of benefits, including:

  • Better business value. The process, service, and product reviews involved in completing ESG reporting are an opportunity to find new business opportunities or to change market positioning. Consumer demand for sustainable goods and services is constantly growing, and those companies who can make meaningful sustainability claims have a chance to outperform their competitors.
  • Greater access to capital investment. Investors in India and abroad are demanding better sustainability performance as part of their investment decision making. This includes not only evaluating environmental performance, but also other ESG metrics like diversity and inclusion, as well as transparency in leadership. Those companies who can show strong ESG programs are more likely to receive investment in the future.
  • Reduced risk. ESG reporting is an opportunity to identify and proactively mitigate risk before it becomes an issue. Companies with a robust ESG program are often referred to as “future-proof” because they have been able to significantly reduce risk not only in their own operations but also within their supply chain, among subsidiaries, or their own investment portfolio.
  • Better corporate citizenship. The community impact of business operations is felt by everyone, and more and more, people are asking for tangible proof of a company’s claims to sustainability. A documented ESG program is that proof, following internationally-accredited methodologies.
  • More talent. These days, new employees and especially specialists and subject-matter experts are looking for more than a paycheck. They want to know their efforts aren’t only helping the company, but the community and world at large. Meaningful, sustainable work is what drives this generation of talent, and being able to show the payoff is how to keep them over the long term.

How Are BRR and BRSR Different?

Companies who will have to complete BRSR are probably already familiar with the previous BRR program. BRR was rolled out as an introduction to ESG reporting for companies who may not have been familiar with incorporating environmental, social, and governance programs into their business operations and reporting.

Anyone who has implemented an ESG program following one of the international frameworks knows that the first year of assessment can be a labor-intensive undertaking. Data needs to be compiled from multiple departments, offices and plants, as well as from suppliers and even customers and vendors. 

BRR was intended to ease the transition by focusing on qualitative considerations related to ESG. With the implementation of BRSR, the reporting is now much more quantitative and strives to align with the updated NGRBCs introduced in 2018. BRSR also has a far deeper focus on diversity and ethics, asking for details on gender ratios in the workforce, and requiring business ethics training for staff.

The addition of quantitative metrics and this focus on ethical practices and human rights means that the BRSR program has been endorsed by international bodies including the World Bank, and ongoing BRSR performance and a company’s ability to reach the goals set out in annual reports will very likely be taken into consideration by credit rating agencies, banks, and other financial institutions.

Can I Complete BRSR Reporting Using Other Frameworks?

If your organization has already implemented an ESG program with a robust quantitative element, you may already be preparing reports in compliance with international frameworks and standards, such as TCFD, GRI, or CDP. These might have been prepared voluntarily, or to comply with requirements from international investors or customers.

If you already have an ESG report that complies with an international standard you will still be required to file your report to SEBI following the BRSR format. However, the BRSR can cross reference other documents prepared that comply with other ESG standards.

How To Prepare an Accurate BRSR Report

India’s carbon reduction goals are ambitious, especially given the anticipated rate of economic growth over the next ten years. In order to meet the BRSR requirements and ensure data can be verified by stakeholders and lenders, businesses will need to complete detailed data collection and use internationally-recognized methodologies.

All of this can be time consuming and put a strain on staff who may not have previously had this sort of work in their job description. Setting up streamlined platforms that will simplify data collection is a must, and everything needs to be complete by the March 2023 deadline.

A platform like FigBytes will help ESG teams gather the information they need and present reports in a way that will be compliant with BRSR as well as international standards and frameworks. Using these tools means emissions estimates will be kept current using the latest approved methodologies and can be updated at any time with a minimum amount of effort. If your organization is looking at the work involved to meet the BRSR requirements, FigBytes can help. Schedule a meeting with one of our experts to discuss how the platform can support your ESG reporting initiatives today.

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