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.

Role of Technology in CSR Enablement

CSR impact measurement gets a technology boost!

CSR has gone beyond philanthropy and has become an important pillar of sustainability, a way for enterprises to get their employees engaged with their communities around critical issues like education and healthcare, besides being a mandate in India. Through the efforts of UNGC and the commitment of most countries globally we are also seeing SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) getting aligned with sustainability and CSR strategies of companies. As mentioned by UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon “Now is the time to mobilize the global business community as never before. The case is clear. Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets.” Trillions of dollars in public and private funds are to be redirected towards the SDGs, creating huge opportunities for responsible companies to deliver solutions. Companies in India are looking beyond the 2% CSR contribution to add value to the larger SDG goals through their sustainability and CSR initiatives.

Technology will be a key enabler in CSR, rich data and communication technology enables companies to solve social and environmental problems at scale. Technology enablement in CSR achieves:

CSR impact measurement

Help in gathering project details, tasks, budgets, disbursements, manage stakeholder interactions, define and track output/outcome/impacts, reports and disclosures.

CSR connecting platforms

These platforms primarily help connect organisations with project partners. These are almost akin to match making solutions eg: BSE Samman

CSR enablers for projects

This is a vast area where the projects themselves are enabled via technology eg: digital education, assistive technology for disabled etc.

At the 3rd Treeni S4B (Sustainability for breakfast) event in Bangalore on the May 24th we would like to engage with CSR executives to discuss CSR impact measurement. One of the biggest challenges for enterprises in implementing CSR programmes is their inability to measure the direct impact on communities and society at large, and the intangible but very important impact on the brand and reputation. CSR impact monitoring tools to measure social impact is dynamic and evolving rapidly. An innovative technological intervention can help solve this challenge of measurement, monitoring and therefore, acting as an enabler for companies to participate in creating social value. Using technology to solve CSR challenges can provide the much-needed impetus for more organizations to engage deeply in, not just spending 2% of profits, but investing back into society for a measurable, monitored and sustained impact, and thereby aligning to the larger SDGs and value creation.