Public sector enterprises in India are being urged to embrace sustainability reporting under newly revised guidelines issued by the Indian government. The Indian Department of Public Enterprise’s (DPE) new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Guidelines have a special focus on employee rights and welfare.
The latest iteration of the Indian CSR guidelines, launched on 1 April 2013, are aimed at all Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and include a dedicated section on sustainability reporting and disclosure. The document, which saw input from various stakeholders including GRI’s Focal Point India, states that although sustainability reporting is a recent trend in India, large companies are increasingly using internationally-accepted frameworks like GRI’s to produce their non-financial reports.
In keeping with this growing trend, the Indian guidelines urge public sector companies to internalize the practice of sustainability reporting, noting that by reporting transparently, they can gain and reinforce the trust of stakeholders.
“The new guidelines on CSR and sustainability are intended to bring an attitudinal change in the mind-sets of managers and executives of public sector companies,” says Ashok Pavadia, Joint Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises, Government of India. “It is hoped that this change in mind-set will induce a positive transformation throughout all operations, activities and processes of these companies that will in turn be beneficial for business, the environment and society at large. Companies are expected to conduct business in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable manner that is transparent and ethical at all times and that is in the interest of all key stakeholders. To fortify and sustain this trend, sustainability reporting has been made mandatory for all public sector enterprises in India.”
While the earlier guidelines focused mainly on CSR activities for external stakeholders, the revised guidelines take internal stakeholders, particularly employees, into account in a much more serious way: “CPSEs shall take steps to implement their CSR agenda within the organization through the active involvement of the employees, who are important internal stakeholders,” it states in point 1.6.3 of the document. According to the new guidelines, a company is now expected to disclose even its most routine business activities and operations, and CPSEs are asked to formulate their policies with a balanced emphasis on all aspects of CSR and sustainability – both internally and externally.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that CPSEs take their CSR commitments seriously, the new guidelines set out rules and procedures for CSR and sustainability budget requirements. As with the previous guidelines, in the new version, unutilized budgets for CSR activities planned for a year can be carried forward to the next year; however, it is now mandatory for CPSEs to disclose the reasons for not fully utilizing the yearly CSR and sustainability budget.
“The new guidelines are an important contribution to GRI’s mission of mainstreaming sustainability reporting, bringing with them a systematic approach to CSR that will form a core part of business strategy and growth in India,” says Dr. Aditi Haldar, Director GRI Focal Point India.
Over the past two decades, India’s economy has undergone rapid growth and has become globally acknowledged as being one of the world’s strongest emerging markets. India’s CPSEs have played a crucial part in the development of the modern Indian economy, and if this growth is to continue and a sustainable economy is to be achieved in India, it is essential that CSR activities become an integrated part of CPSE’s business models. The new DPE guidelines will no doubt go a long way to aiding this cause.
Click here to read/download the new guidelines.