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Outlast: How ESG Can Benefit Your Business is a perfect guide for corporates to focus on the three major aspects of ‘sustainability’, that is, environmental, social and governance (ESG). It discusses the importance of ESG aspects for businesses and how companies can incorporate ESG principles in their business operations. This book guides companies to focus on the long-term vision of the company rather than short-term profits.
Chapter 1 delineates the significance of ESG in businesses and its positive impact on the financial performance of the companies. Firms with better sustainability performance perform better than their counterparts not only in accounting performance but also in the stock market. The favourable ESG reputation shields companies from a substantial decline in the stock market. Companies are facing pressure from various stakeholders to focus on environmental and social challenges in India and at global levels. This chapter presents the current status of ESG issues in India and the measures to improve its sustainability performance.
Chapter 2 discusses the importance of embracing ESG in the organisation. Companies that are concerned about their ESG practices believe that poor sustainability practices may lead to a bad reputation for the organisation and link the compensation of executives and employees to ESG goals. The authors presented the case of Marico Limited and how they have incorporated sustainability practices in their organisation and taken opportunities that emerged from a stronger ESG focus. Four drivers for the implementation of the ESG agenda in the organisation are mentioned, these are, the tone at the top; investment in human resources; walking the talk; established systems and processes, and continuous assessment of progress. Further, the authors listed international frameworks for sustainability reporting practices such as principles of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and International Standards Organization (ISO). Additionally, the concept of materiality has been explained, i.e., how the materiality of an ESG issue varies across industries.
Chapter 3 outlines the impact of media, the fourth estate, on the attitude of businesses towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). With the advent of the Internet, the role of media has become more crucial, now consumers are better aware of the company and its product and services and can provide feedback easily. Platforms like Change.org allows individuals to start a campaign and protest against various issues from climate change to companies’ policy. Companies can collaborate with the media for social marketing campaigns to address various societal concerns. Media has a significant influence on the investor’s sentiment, especially retail investors. Companies should accept constructive criticism from the media and work towards building a sustainable future for themselves.
Chapter 4 highlights the issues of corruption in the nation and its impact on Indian businesses. The pro-crony policies will hinder the economy’s growth and its ability to create wealth. In the recent past, the Indian government has taken the steps to alleviate corruption with the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax in 2017 and the establishment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in 2016. The abrupt and unfair policy shifts of the successive governments have changed the fortunes of many companies. The authors outlined that anti-corruption campaigns of stakeholders and how the involvement of foreign stakeholders and institutional investors can play a crucial role in eliminating corruption. External pressure from foreign stakeholders and investors compels corporates for better disclosures, higher ethical standards, compliance and a code of conduct.
Chapter 5 addresses the crucial global issue of climate change. The authors discussed the risks of global warming and climate change to the humans and ecosystem and the actions that need to be taken to reduce the threat of global warming. The goal of net-zero emission to limit the global mean temperature to 1.5?C would affect a wide range of sectors including energy, construction, agriculture, transportation and other land-use sectors. Companies globally and nationally are taking steps to reduce the emission, at the COP26 event that was held in Glasgow in November 2021, India committed to achieving its net-zero status by 2070. Companies are facing increasing pressure from institutional investors and other stakeholders to act against climate change. Retail customers are also preferring to buy sustainability marketed products. Transitioning to a more environmentally friendly future may reduce revenues in the short run, but it will pay off in the long term, ensuring the survival and sustainability of operations.
Chapter 6 deals with the social issues in the organisation and the fundamental right of the employees to have dignity and respect in the workplace. Employees’ dignity and respect at the workplace promote psychological well-being and create an environment free from discrimination, harassment, exclusion and bullying. It leads to better employee engagement that further has a significant and positive impact on productivity, employee retention, customer satisfaction and financial returns. The authors outlined the issues related to inequality in compensation that exists between the senior executive pay and median pay of employees, labour working conditions, lack of women’s participation in the workforce, women’s safety from exploitation and harassment, and discrimination towards Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Indian organisation. They highlighted the international standards, government and organisational policies to improve the labour working conditions in the organisation and promote dignity in the workplace.
Chapter 7 describes the significance of the company’s code of conduct in the long-term success of the firm. It represents the values of the organisation, rules of conduct and stakeholders’ responsibilities. Authors suggested the four key components to strongly embed the code in the organisation: (a) The tone at the top, (b) Walking the talk, (c) Organisational systems and processes and (d) Continuous communication. They discussed the role of the whistle-blower policy in the effetive implementation of code. The cases of Nike and child labour issues in its supply chain, whistle-blowing at Tata Motors Finance and Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals and failure of code at Enron are illustrated. The authors highlighted that the code should be specific and does not have multiple interpretations. Codes should be based on the values of the company rather than simply fulfilling compliance to prevent it from failure.
Chapter 8 presents the evolution of corporate governance practices in India over the years. SEBI has been continuously refining the rules and regulations governing the market and strengthening the rights of shareholders. Clause 49 was a watershed moment in the development of India’s corporate governance procedures, as it outlined the formation, composition and responsibilities of corporate boards. The authors highlighted the role of proxy advisory firms in guiding and assisting minority shareholders and portfolio investors to oppose majoritarian resolutions that are not in the best interest of the companies in the long term. Further, they underlined the role of activist funds in bringing changes required in investee companies. Independent directors also play a crucial role in ensuring that the company’s affairs are conducted as per the law, particularly in companies that are dominated by promoters. Forward-looking companies will take note of these developments and proactively manage their ESG-related concerns.
This book magnificently presented the ESG issues in Indian corporates backed by multiple case studies explaining why incorporating ESG principles into the business operations is important for the organisations. The book concludes that the companies that will adopt the ESG principle will be able to remain resilient and successful in the long term and outlast their competitors. This book will be helpful for corporates to learn the intricacies of ESG and for academicians and researchers to understand the ESG framework in the Indian business context.
Karishma Jain https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3685-4644