At The Seventh Sustainability For Breakfast

The seventh edition of Sustainability for Breakfast was graciously hosted by Wipro Limited at their verdant campus in Electronics City, Bangalore on the cloudy morning of the 3rd of July 2018.

Distinguished speakers from industry and from academia came together to brainstorm on the theme of “ESG Disclosures: A Transformation from Tactical to Strategic”.

Distinguished speakers from industry and from academia came together to brainstorm on the theme of “ESG Disclosures: A Transformation from Tactical to Strategic”.

The key takeaway from all three sessions was the fact that while ESG Risks aren’t integrated into Enterprise Risk Management processes at the moment at most enterprises, it will be critical going forward given how important investors, particularly institutional investors believe ESG Risks are.

First Session

 

The drivers of change and global best practices in ESG Disclosures. What sets the leaders in this space apart?

Jatin Dalal (Chief Financial Officer of Wipro Limited) and Deepak Padaki (Executive Vice President, Strategy & M&A, and Chief Risk Officer of Infosys Technologies Limited) gave short presentations on the sustainability practices at their respective organisations, both of which are considered leaders in their approach to sustainability in India. They then participated in a panel discussion moderated by Ankush Patel (Chief Executive Officer of Treeni Sustainability Solutions).

One of the highlights of the discussion was the insight that while ESG Risks can easily translate into Financial Risks for large organisations, because ESG Risks tend to present themselves over longer time frames (and therefore have significantly lower Velocity than Financial Risks), boards tend not to prioritise them.

Deepak Padaki lamented that, while they should ESG Risks do not elicit the same kind of reaction from Boards as Data Security does, and also made the point that strategy and risk are two sides of the same coin, the importance of strategy should reflect in a focus on risks.

Jatin Dalal highlighted Culture Risk as an example of an ESG Risks that has immense financial implications for enterprises. He also highlighted the difficulty of balancing ‘easy to cut items that have long term implications, and
difficult to cut items that have short term implications.’

Second Panel Discussion

 

What changes does it require in terms of changes in attitude, mindsets, organizational culture, and values?

The second session was a panel discussion that focused on what an organisation needs in terms of attitudes, mindsets, culture and values in order to drive transformation.

 Sunita Cherian (Senior Vice President, Human Resources of Wipro Limited) sought to dispel the cynicism about leading enterprises doing ESG disclosures just to tick a box on a checklist. She brought her own experience at Wipro to bear on the discussion and highlighted how organisations learned a lot from gaps identified through its ESG disclosures. In the context of ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ it was gratifying to note Wipro’s progressive approach to addressing LGBT issues formally.

Shankar Jaganathan (Founder & Chief Executive Officer of CimplyFive) was of the opinion that it would take a few organisations to innovate, in terms of leveraging disclosures not as a hygiene factor but as a strategic tool to learn from, before the rest follow.  He also made the important distinction that increasingly ESG Disclosures need to come with a guide to interpret them.   

Padmini Srinivasan (Professor, Centre for Corporate Governance, IIM Bangalore) noted that although a lot of companies are focused on sustainability, few if any have integrated ESG Risks in Enterprise Risk Management. She observed that change would have to be driven through investors, but there was a long way to go before that happened on a large enough scale.

Speaker Presentations

 

The final session began with Pallavi Singh (Principal Consultant, Treeni Sustainability Solutions) walking the audience through the complex world of disclosures, standards, and frameworks.

She highlighted the fact that most frameworks and standards were incremental in nature, and organisations needed to move from one to another based on the maturity of their ESG processes instead of jumping to whichever one caught the Board’s fancy.

After that I got the opportunity to present a sustainability software product’s vision.


I demonstrated how ReSustain could help enterprises identify, assess, and manage their ESG Risks in a systematic manner. The product allows the Chief Sustainability Officer and the Chief Risk Officer to collaborate in order to present the leadership with an accurate view of the enterprise’s ESG Risks.