From the Desk of Guest Editor

Anup Tiwari has worked with the UN, non-profit and for-profit sector for around three decades. He serves on the boards of organisations across Asia and speaks internationally on non-profit fundraising and CSR.

Are Indian Companies ready for SEBI Mandated Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting?

In 2004, on invitation of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 23 financial institutions from 9 countries came together under an initiative that was aptly named ‘Who Cares Wins’. After a series of deliberations, the group was convinced that companies who performed better in managing environmental, social and corporate governance issues were more likely to increase value for their shareholders, as well as contribute to sustainable development of societies in which they operated.
The report from the ‘Who Cares Wins’ initiative gave birth to the now globally recognised ESG (Environmental Social Governance) framework. Almost two decades later, this concept of considering environmental, social and governance opportunities and risks in an integrated fashion is now out of its teens and has grown beautifully to a wide variety of organisations, much beyond the financial industry where it was conceived.

In India too, starting financial year 2022-23, the capital markets regulator, SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has mandated the top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalisation to make filings as per the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR). The intent of this reporting is to integrate and align the various regulatory frameworks and compliance requirements in terms of environmental, social and governance parameters. Now this could be a move that revolutionises the ESG landscape in India. The case in point, till financial year 2021-22, only about 175 companies reported on the BRSR framework and that too on a voluntary basis. Over a period of time, it could mean that a vast number of Indian companies develop better environmental and socially responsible products & solutions that create long term value for not only shareholders but also society as a whole.

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But how ready are the companies in India to take this leap of mandate? As per Deloitte India’s ESG Preparedness Survey Report, May 2023, while 88% organisations believed sustainability regulations will directly impact their businesses, yet only 27% of the businesses are well prepared to meet ESG requirements. This clearly shows that a lot of catching-up needs to be done.

What does this rapid growth of ESG mean for the non-profit sector? The non-profit sector has been a pioneer in measuring SROI- social return of investment instead of plain ROI. So the present ESG movement would only harmonise objectives between the non-profit and for-profit sector. Since human societies and climate ecosystems are deeply linked, growing focus on ESG also presents an opportunity for the non-profit sector to mainstream aspects like climate action across its programming.

You would have noticed that the current edition focuses on ESG. Do go through the enriching thought pieces on the topic from an exciting bunch of business and non-profit experts.

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Green goals: Indian Inc. becomes a force to reckon with
Major endeavours in sustainable energy, community empowerment, water conservation, and biodiversity preservation showcase the intent and impact of environment-friendly CSR initiatives in India, says Karan Bhardwaj, Senior Editorial Associate, The Bridge India E- Magazine

In the pursuit of a sustainable future, Indian corporates are stepping up as environmental stewards, setting new standards for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Blue-chip companies such as Dalmia Bharat, Carrier, and Dabur India, have emerged as trailblazers, demonstrating a profound commitment to socio-environmental causes.

Sustainable energy and climate resilience

Dalmia Bharat, a leading cement manufacturer, is at the forefront of sustainable energy solutions. The giant corporate has set ambitious goals include achieving 100 per cent renewable power by 2030, transitioning to electric vehicles, doubling energy productivity, and becoming carbon negative by 2040. Through low-carbon technologies and sustainable cement production, Dalmia aims to inspire the industry’s shift towards a circular economy and a greener future.

Its commitment to carbon negativity is seen as a beacon of hope in the heavy industry sector. Collaborating with international technology partners, the company has been developing sustainable calcination/clinkerisation mechanisms and investing in low-carbon technologies that enhance resource and energy efficiency within the manufacturing process. This dedication to sustainable cement production has led Dalmia to be a founding member of the First Movers Coalition and the UN’s platform LEADIT for zero-carbon roadmaps in heavy industries.

On the other hand, Carrier, a global provider of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), is committed to combating climate change through its significant investment in The Nature Conservancy’s Build Healthy Cities initiative. The company aims to create resilient and healthy cities by promoting smart urban planning and science-based solutions. By engaging employees in hands-on projects driving climate resiliency in communities, it seeks to leave a positive impact on the environment and society.

Additionally, Carrier has set an ambitious “Gigaton Goal”, pledging to reduce its customers’ carbon footprint by over 1 gigaton by 2030. With an investment of over $2 billion in developing healthy, safe, sustainable, and intelligent building and cold chain technologies, the reputed brand is working to incorporate sustainable design principles and reduce lifecycle impacts. By delivering innovative products that minimise energy use and emissions, facilitating the transition to renewable energy, and using lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, it aims to achieve substantial emissions reductions.

Illuminating lives and cultivating sustainability

Thanks to intervention-based approach, giant corporates are able to make local impact. For instance, as part of their sustainable community development agenda, Dabur has been working towards promoting renewable energy as the technology of choice to drive away darkness from scores of villages. Their “Promotion of Social Energy” project aims to bring light to the lives of rural communities through the installation of solar street lights and distribution of solar household lamps. These sustainable energy solutions not only illuminate villages but also play a crucial role in reducing crime rates and promoting community safety. Moreover, spreading awareness about solar technology has engaged the next generation in actively contributing to a greener future.

Interestingly, Carrier has collaborated with Indian Green Building Council to inspire students to develop unique ideas to transform campuses and premises into sustainable spaces. They are working together for the last 15 years to encourage students to reduce schools’ carbon footprint. In the area of Gurugram (Delhi NCR), Carrier has another remarkable initiative, United for Air. It is an attempt to make the communities aware to work for cleaner outdoor air. It educates people about the effects of high PM levels on health.

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“The FPO has an agricultural input sales unit, cattle feed manufacturing unit, and micro-irrigation dealership. In addition, women FPO members regularly provide advisory support to fellow farmers to adopt improved agricultural practices, year-round green fodder production, and effective water management practices. Interventions promoted by the FPO have significantly supported farmers in increasing their incomes and optimizing economic growth opportunities,” says Shweta Munjal, Head, Corporate Communications, Lupin.
Biodiversity preservation

Indian companies are showing a deep commitment to water conservation and biodiversity preservation, safeguarding precious resources and ecosystems. Their water conservation efforts focus on eco-friendly technologies like water harvesting, conservation, and recharging of tube wells. Such initiatives improve sustainable livelihoods and ensure year-round access to water for personal consumption and irrigation needs of marginalised communities. “We are cognisant of the fact that we operate within a broader social context and have a responsibility to give back. We actively support neighbouring local communities to undertake steps to make their livelihood and existence climate resilient and sustainable. We enable the communities to undertake water conservation through integrated watershed management projects, water harvesting structures and optimal water utilisation.”, says Dr Arvind Bodhankar, Executive Director-ESG & Chief Risk Officer, Dalmia Bharat, adding, “there’s an attempt to reduce carbon footprint by shifting to solar lights for household lighting, street lights and irrigation and using cleaner fuels like biogas plants, fuel efficient cook stoves and LPG connections. We create awareness on importance of water conservation, use of eco-friendly products, reduce plastic pollution among many other environment conservation topics with all stakeholders.”

Similarly, Dabur has been running a water conservation programme in Rajasthan, covering Alwar and Tonk districts. They have also extended community-focussed water conservation and management programme to Baddi in Himachal Pradesh with the renovation of a 15 lakh litre village pond. Over 1,200 families directly benefited from these projects while there was a 10 feet rise in water table in Newai area of Tonk district.

Also, Dabur is pushing a lot of biodiversity initiatives. They engage farmers and forest-based communities in preserving ecosystems and promoting sustainable cultivation of medicinal herbs. By creating economic opportunities while conserving natural resources, these efforts create a balance between environmental stewardship and socio-economic uplift.
Through their visionary CSR initiatives, Indian companies exemplify the potential for corporate leadership in creating a greener and more sustainable India. They inspire others to adopt environmentally responsible practices, creating a positive impact on communities and ecosystems.

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Social Sector Movement

NGOs’ resilient pursuit of environmental excellence
With their transforming ideas aiming to empower communities and preserve biodiversity, Indian NGOs are sowing seeds of a sustainable future, writes Karan Bhardwaj

In a world grappling with pressing environmental challenges, the burgeoning efforts of various NGOs have emerged as a beacon of hope, uniting to protect the planet, conserve biodiversity, and combat climate change. NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Climate Thinker, and Environics Trust (ET), stand tall in their unwavering dedication to a sustainable future. Through innovative projects and inclusive initiatives, they illuminate the path towards a greener, more resilient world.

Fostering participatory change

At the heart of their endeavours lies a shared commitment to empower communities and drive participatory change. Environics Trust’s ‘Participative Research’ approach engages local stakeholders in research and policy formulation, producing transformative results. Their “State of Environment Report” for Uttarakhand and “Urban Environmental Workbooks” for cities like Shimla, Dehradun and Indore facilitate informed decision-making, steering communities towards sustainable practices.

Similarly, The Climate Thinker’s focus on rural microbiology offers a pathway to empowerment. Their low-cost, low-tech methods can enable farmers to produce biofertilisers and biopesticides, enhancing soil health and productivity while creating economic opportunities for marginalised communities.

The Nature Conservancy’s initiative, HARIT (Harnessing the power of Agricultural Residues through Innovative Technologies), aims to eliminate crop residue burning in Haryana and Punjab by 2024. By encouraging ‘Happy Seeder’ adoption and supporting farmers, HARIT seeks to decrease burning and leverage government subsidies to promote environmental-friendly agricultural practices. The project includes extensive awareness and capacity building programmes to enhance knowledge and address gaps in the correct use of Happy Seeders. Mobile advisory units ensure constant dialogue between farmers and experts, providing timely solutions to their problems. The NGO primarily works with villages that commit to zero burning and the use of Happy Seeders as exemplars to replicate such models in other villages. Seminars and workshops are enabling farmers to have hands-on experience of the equipment. Farmers are sharing their personal experiences, and the many benefits they are reaping, with their peers and the larger farming community.

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Balancing innovation and conservation

Both TNC and ET share a common determination to conserve biodiversity and inspire innovation in environmental protection. ET’s support for Biodiversity Conservation India Limited (BCIL) and sustainable enterprises exemplifies their commitment to ecological balance. They have been able to support and service several environmentally sound enterprises. The BCIL which pioneered the green housing in Bangalore and has won several international accolades for its Zed Homes is among the most well-known. Environics also enables farmer producer companies in Chhattisgarh. Currently, they have established a 5-mt solar cold storage, a cold-press which works on solar power and a bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticide unit directly addressing their needs through green technologies.

The Climate Thinker’s emphasis on climate-resilient livelihoods and the protection of indigenous crops and local biodiversity showcases their dedication to preserving the Earth’s natural heritage.

TNC’s initiative to restore Chennai’s Lake Sembakkam demonstrates science-based lake restoration efforts. Working with partners like Care Earth Trust and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, the NGO addresses degradation causes such as silt accumulation and invasive alien species of weeds. Restoration efforts benefit local communities by improving water security and enhancing the health of interconnected lakes and the Pallikaranai Marshland.

TNC’s river restoration initiative is a scientific analysis of the entire Narmada River basin (92,672 km2), identifying locations for maximum conservation benefits. Pilot projects in Hoshangabad district restore riparian areas along the river, involving tree planting, removal of invasive plants, and fostering sustainable grazing practices. The initiative fosters collaboration with government departments and civil society organisations to prioritise restoration efforts. The goal is to build the capacity of restoration champions from the communities to keep up community-based restoration.

Creating awareness

In their pursuit of sustainable change, the NGOs recognise the power of awareness and education. The Climate Thinker’s captivating street performances, in collaboration with renowned artist Samir Rana, serve as powerful media to highlight the urgency of climate change. These exhibitions stir emotions, spark meaningful discussions, and ignite a collective call for action.

Their climate laboratories in schools empower the youth with knowledge and practical skills for monitoring air, water, and soil quality. The present project intends to crowdsource environmental data through schools students in one of the climate-vulnerable regions in Eastern India. The project has established an IoT-enabled environmental science laboratory in a high school in Sundarbans (Kanaknagar SD Institution) and created a local map of the environmental change through crowdsourcing of the data from the local students.

The NGO also began Sobuj Prithibi, the first-ever communication platform in Bengali on Climate Change in 2019. It started translating and transcribing climate change-related reports, scientific articles, prepared comics etc. They also organise climate-resilient livelihood sessions with specialists and create a nexus between farmers and scientists.

Environics Trust’s training and communication initiatives enable communities to assert their rights during public hearings, driving environmental protection efforts. The prime example is of the Niyamgiri Hills where the NGO intervened and provided support to the communities. Most recently, the United Nations Development Programme sought ET to create awareness on environmental and mining laws related to iron-ore mining.

On the other hand, TNC’s pilot initiative to restore 20 hectares of riparian area along river Narmada engages local community members, NGOs, and academic institutions. The efforts improve natural habitat for biodiversity and generate nutritional benefits and jobs for local communities. By engaging with government departments and civil society organisations, TNC’s pilot programme paves the way for larger-scale restoration of riparian areas along the river.

Environmental Stewards

In the face of mounting environmental crises, the significance of NGO initiatives cannot be overstated. They offer a compelling testament to the power of collective action and grassroots engagement. Their projects, rooted in community empowerment, conservation, and education, provide a blueprint for positive change.

As citizens, we all bear a responsibility to protect and preserve our natural heritage. Whether through supporting these dedicated NGOs or participating in local environmental initiatives, each individual can play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable future.

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Development Happenings

World Environment Day Celebrations

The Bridge Trust Celebrated World Environment Day on June 5 with the objective to create awareness about Environment Protection, SDG 15 through various activities in the Gautampuri Area among youths & to make them ambassadors of Environment. The purpose was to draw attention to environmental issues and serve as a reminder that nature must not be taken for granted.

The program started with an awareness session on importance on environment and systematic garbage disposal: biodegradable and non-biodegradable by Shri Maddali Srinivas an environment advocate and a motivational speaker.Post the awareness session a quiz focussed on Environment was organised both for Junior and Senior groups. There was painting competition on the theme of environment for both categories and was judged by Ms Sangeeta Kumar Murthy an accomplished artist who’s immense contribution to art has been widely recognised in both the national and international spheres.

The program ended with prizes to all the winners of the quiz and painting competition and a pledge by all the youth to be ambassador of environment in their community and schools.

Newgen CSR Week 2023 focussed on STEM tinkering through robotics training

Newgen during its CSR week celebrations conducted “STEM tinkering through robotics training” using Lego Mindstorm CSR week in partnership with India Stem Foundation The weeklong session trained 120+ girl students. The curriculum included building a lego robot, moving it with brick buttons, understanding various sensors and making their own projects. The girls learned about coding, robotics, design thinking, and real-world application skills.

The final showcase day was exciting as the students presented the models that they have prepared using their STEM skills and learnings over the week. There were robots in the form of humanoids, neck massagers, motor cars, coffee makers, food blender, obstacle-avoiding robots, and more. The outcome of the event was impressive.

It was thought provoking to know the views of one of the beneficiaries Anshika of Class IX “What if we have robots for border surveillance instead of soldiers? Don’t you think it will save a lot of lives? The training on robotics has helped me to think through and come with such an idea.”

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Sachhi Saheli Period Fest instilling a sense of environmental consciousness

Sachhi Saheli organised period Fest with more than 1400 spirited school students marching through the streets, holding high banners and placards advocating period positivity, the atmosphere was electrifying. Among the joyous cries of “Hum bolenge muh kholenge, tbhi zamana badlega” (We will speak up and break barriers, only then will society change), glass ceilings seemed to shatter one by one.

Sachhi Saheli, at the forefront of promoting eco-friendly practices, took every opportunity to encourage schools and students to embrace a green mindset. Water flasks thoughtfully placed at the entrance of Chaudhary Charan Singh University’s auditorium, in lieu of single-use plastic bottles, symbolized the commitment to a greener event.

Inside the auditorium, the students’ boundless energy continued to reverberate. While they listened to enlightening sessions on menstrual hygiene and sustainable practices, the importance of safeguarding the environment was emphasized at every step.

The stalls in the lobby showcased a wide array of environment-friendly period products, including Period panties, cloth pads, and menstrual cups. These displays aimed to educate and inspire the young minds about adopting sustainable alternatives and embracing their responsibility in keeping the environment safe.

One of the significant environmental concerns related to menstrual products is the accumulation of disposable pads and tampons in landfills, as they take hundreds of years to decompose. Through interactive demonstrations, students learned about the environmental consequences of disposable products and the potential benefits of using reusable alternatives. Armed with this awareness, they were more likely to make eco-conscious choices, helping to minimize the generation of waste.

By instilling a sense of environmental consciousness through the display of sustainable period products and eco-friendly practices, the students were empowered to take charge of their health and the planet’s well-being.

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