While we were discussing the launch of the PRmoment Tracking Purpose, Tech, Digital Comms, presented by SPAG-FINN PARTNERS, the question on our minds was how can it be useful to communicators. In search of the topics that would interest corp comm professionals, a quick poll on LinkedIn had the answers:
Aman Gupta, managing partner, of SPAG FINN PARTNERS said, “In today's dynamic global landscape, businesses are expected to deliver economic value and uphold a moral compass in line with society's needs. Through purpose-driven communication, businesses can articulate their commitment to societal well-being and environmental stewardship, fostering trust, attracting stakeholders, and ultimately carving a path towards a better and more sustainable future.”
Clearly, Indian communicators' priority is to understand how to go about ESG communications in India, followed by the business impact of ESG communications. But in order to understand these two priorities it's important to have a working knowledge of ESG policies in place.
India and ESG policy
For context, global policies are in place for ESG reporting and disclosure as investors become more conscious of the impact of sustainable business practices.
Some of these standardised regulatory frameworks include the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
SEBI and ESG
India is in an almost contradictory situation where communication of ESG needs to catch up with the strong ESG policy framework set up by the Government of India
Since 2012, SEBI has been steadily encouraging ESG disclosure by Indian firms. In 2020, SEBI declared that the top 1000 listed companies have to disclose their ESG investment in their annual reports from financial years 2021-22 onwards. ESG disclosures have now been widened by SEBI to include rating agencies, mutual funds and asset management firms.
In light of this spread of ESG reporting and disclosure norms, it is natural that ESG communication will play a key role in ensuring that all stakeholders are well-informed and engaged.
3 ways communicators can expect to handle ESG comms
Communicators, especially those leading brand-side communication, will need to get involved in report writing or at the very least understand the metrics that go into it. Among the metrics that were mentioned that could be useful for communicators to learn about are the BRR ( business responsibility report that is part of the annual results report), the GRI standards for external disclosures, the ESG rating index MSCI and for a complete sector-wise look at relevant ESG matrices SASB mentioned earlier.
This report by Deloitte has useful insights on how to write disclosures in keeping with SEBI norms.
Fighting lack of awareness and capacity for ESG reporting
As SEBI and RBI widen the net of organisations that fall under mandatory ESG disclosure, the lack of a standardised framework for reporting ESG means companies are often left to pick and choose their own formats. Very often they do not have the means to automate and report the data needed. This is where communicators are needed to pull in industry-level campaigns to spread awareness and to help work towards suitable standard reporting formats.
Engage with stakeholders vs. shareholders
ESG communication is complex with the focus on stakeholders instead of shareholders. Communicators are required to take charge of the entire ESG ecosystem which will include stakeholders that will push sustainability hard. It will be up to the communicators to help create transparent communication as the push and pull between stakeholder and shareholder priority persists.