Understanding BRSR and SEBI’s Latest Developments
Sustainability has emerged as a critical aspect of business operations, prompting companies to consider their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) is a powerful framework that allows businesses to be more accountable and transparent to stakeholders regarding their sustainability efforts. Explore the world of BRSR with us here on the blog as we explore its definition, purpose, guidelines, and reporting tools.
Measure, report, and manage a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance using Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR). This includes informing investors, employees, customers, communities, and regulators on the company’s sustainability strategies, policies, practices, and impacts. By providing a structure for businesses to report on their impacts, BRSR encourages openness and helps push forward sustainable growth.
In recent years, there has been a rising realisation of the need to incorporate sustainability into company operations. BRSR is critical to this process because it provides a systematic framework for firms to be held accountable for their actions, fosters transparency, and promotes sustainable growth.
Early Stages of CSR: In the 1970s and 1980s, some Indian companies started recognizing the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and began undertaking initiatives to support local communities and address environmental concerns. However, these efforts were often sporadic and lacked a standardised reporting framework.
Corporate Governance and Reporting Reforms: In the late 1990s and early 2000s, India witnessed significant changes in its corporate governance practices. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) introduced mandatory corporate governance guidelines for listed companies in 2000, promoting transparency, accountability, and responsible business practices.
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Introduction: The GRI, a widely recognized international sustainability reporting framework, gained prominence during the early 2000s. Indian companies started using the GRI guidelines voluntarily to structure their sustainability reports, ensuring they cover relevant social, environmental, and economic aspects.
The National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs): In 2011, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) in India released the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental, and Economic Responsibilities of Business. These guidelines aimed to encourage businesses to embrace responsible practices and report on their sustainability efforts voluntarily. While not mandatory, they marked the formal recognition of the importance of sustainability reporting in India.
Introduction of Business Responsibility Report (BRR): In 2012, SEBI mandated the top 100 listed entities by market capitalization to file Business Responsibility Reports (BRRs) from an environmental, social and governance perspective. These BRRs enabled businesses to demonstrate the adoption of the NVG principles and engage with their stakeholders beyond regulatory financial compliance. This was extended to top 500 companies in FY 2015-16 and further extended to top 1000 companies in December 2019.
Introduction of the BRSR Framework: Building on the foundation laid by the NVGs and BRRs, and inspired by international sustainability reporting frameworks like GRI, the Indian government introduced the BRSR framework. In 2019, SEBI mandated the top 1,000 listed companies to disclose their BRSR, making it the first stock exchange in the world to adopt such a comprehensive reporting requirement.
The BRSR framework sets clear expectations for companies to disclose their sustainability strategies, policies, practices, and impacts. It encourages businesses to engage with stakeholders, address social and environmental concerns, and take steps towards a more sustainable and responsible future.
The BRSR framework is divided into three sections: General Disclosures, Management and Process Disclosures, and Principle-wise Performance Disclosures.
General Disclosures encompass basic company information such as addresses of offices and plants, details of products and services, exchanges where the company is listed, and reporting boundary. This section also requires disclosures on employee counts and representation by gender, diversity and inclusion, differently-abled status, employee turnover, and the number of complaints and grievances filed against the company².
Management and Process Disclosures: provide evidence that companies are adhering to the structures, policies, and processes specified in the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC). This section is not about adherence to specific principles outlined in the NGRBC but about higher-level policy and management processes, including statements by directors and boards regarding governance, leadership, and oversight. Companies need to show that policies not only exist but have been approved and enacted in the context of time-bound company goals².
Principle-wise Performance Disclosures are focused on more quantitative data relating to 9 basic principles of the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC). This set of disclosures within the BRSR is aimed at helping organizations demonstrate how their operations impact environmental and social metrics. Businesses need to demonstrate with clear data and examples how they are integrating fundamental principles into their key processes and measuring these decisions through KPIs.
The BRSR framework is based on 9 basic principles of the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC) which pertain to businesses being ethical, transparent, and accountable; provisioning goods and services in a sustainable manner; ensuring the well-being of employees – including those in their value chains; being protective of the environment; being mindful of sustainable production; being responsive to all stakeholders; promoting human rights; complying with the regulatory framework; promoting inclusive growth; facilitating equitable development; and consumer welfare.
In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) aspiring to embrace sustainability practices. To cater to their specific needs, a simplified version of BRSR, known as BRSR Lite, has emerged. BRSR Lite offers a more streamlined reporting process, tailored for SMEs, ensuring they can also contribute to sustainability efforts and gain a competitive edge.
The BRSR Core is a subset of the existing BRSR framework, which is a mandatory non-financial reporting requirement in India for the top 1000 listed entities by market capitalization³. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) introduced the BRSR Core as the regulatory framework for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosures by top listed companies on March 29, 2023⁵.
The BRSR Core framework aims to provide assurance and ESG disclosures for value chain. It is intended to represent a focused subset of the wider Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) framework, which SEBI had introduced almost two years ago (in May 2021) as an ESG-based voluntary disclosure regime in lieu of the erstwhile Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR) paradigm.
SEBI has also introduced assurance requirements as per the BRSR Core. The Circular requires the listed entity to ensure that there is no conflict of interest with the assurance providers appointed for assuring the BRSR Core.
Accountability and Transparency: BRSR allows businesses to take responsibility for their sustainability efforts and openly share information about their accomplishments, objectives, and obstacles with interested parties. Trust, a good name, and potential interest from customers and investors who care about social responsibility are all benefits of being open and honest.
Risk Management: BRSR assists businesses in managing risks and capitalising on opportunities related to sustainability to plan for the future. Reputational and operational risks can be reduced by addressing concerns like climate change, supply chain ethics, and labour practices.
Standards and Regulations: BRSR reporting guarantees conformity to national and international norms. Many nations now mandate that businesses report on their sustainability efforts; BRSR provides a framework.
Competitive Advantage: Businesses in today’s market can gain a competitive edge if they adopt sustainability reporting. Companies that emphasise social responsibility and long-term viability attract investors, customers, and talent.
BRSR Core: SEBI released a circular on July 12, 2023, titled “BRSR Core – Framework for assurance and ESG disclosures for value chain”.
Business responsibility and sustainability reporting: SEBI released a circular on May 10, 2021, titled “Business responsibility and sustainability reporting by listed entities”.
Top 1000 Listed Entities: According to SEBI, starting from FY 2022-23, the top 1000 listed entities based on market capitalization are required to submit a ‘Business Reporting and Sustainability Report’ (BRSR) in the format specified by the Board.
Filing of BRSR: Filing of BRSR is mandatory from the financial year 2022-2023 for the top 1000 listed companies (by market capitalization) and replacing the existing BRR. Filing of BRSR is voluntary for the financial year 2021-22.
Tools and platforms for sustainability reporting can ease the BRSR process for businesses. These programmes streamline and improve data analysis and reporting by automating the steps involved. Sustainability reporting tools let companies concentrate on making strategic decisions rather than processing data manually by providing functions including data aggregation, report generation, stakeholder involvement, and benchmarking.
Sustainability reporting tools can also provide year-over-year (YoY) comparison and improvement pathways, allowing companies to track their progress and identify areas for improvement. A progress matrix can be used to visualize the company’s performance over time and help guide strategic decision-making.
Organisations can gain valuable insights from their sustainability data by employing cutting-edge data analytics approaches. These observations can be used to track developments, evaluate progress, and establish objectives for the future. The organization’s overall sustainability strategy is improved by sustainability data analytics, which enables evidence-based decision-making.
A sustainability management platform is a one-stop shop for handling everything related to sustainability, including BRSR reporting. These systems streamline incorporating sustainability practices into business operations by facilitating data gathering, monitoring, analysis, and reporting. Companies are given the tools they need to foster a culture of continuous improvement thanks to modules that facilitate stakeholder involvement, goal planning, task management, and performance tracking.
Snowkap offers comprehensive solutions to facilitate BRSR reporting. With modules for data gathering, monitoring, analysis, and reporting, Snowkap empowers businesses to embed sustainability practices into their operations seamlessly.
The BRSR framework was developed to help businesses demonstrate their dedication to responsible and sustainable practices. Companies can improve their ability to assess, report, and manage their sustainability performance by adopting BRSR guidelines, using sustainability reporting technologies, and data analytics. In today’s environmentally and socially aware corporate world, BRSR equips companies to make positive changes, reduce risks, and gain a competitive edge. Businesses can improve their long-term prospects and help create a better world by embracing BRSR.
What is BRSR, and why is it important for businesses?
BRSR refers to the reports that companies keep track of their social and environmental impact. It’s a system for tracking a company’s performance in terms of ESG factors. Providing a framework for organisations to report on their sustainability initiatives and impacts, BRSR is crucial as it fosters accountability, transparency, and long-term growth.
What is the purpose of BRSR reporting?
There are two goals to BRSR reporting. First, it encourages organisations to own their sustainability initiatives and be transparent with stakeholders about their progress, goals, and obstacles. Second, it aids companies in tackling climate change, supply chain ethics, and labour practices, as well as managing risks and capitalising on possibilities associated with sustainability.
What are the guidelines for BRSR reporting?
Multiple rules have been established to standardise BRSR reporting and make it more accessible to various organisations. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are examples of such systems. These recommendations assist businesses in organising their sustainability reports by outlining reporting principles, metrics, and methods.
What are the benefits of using sustainability reporting tools and data analytics for BRSR?
Sustainability reporting solutions simplify the BRSR process by automating data analysis and reporting phases. They perform data aggregation, report formation, stakeholder interaction, and benchmarking functions, allowing businesses to concentrate on strategic decisions.