Indian Firms Are Serious About Sustainability

April 21, 2016

When people think about companies that lead in sustainability, they usually think about companies based in Europe or the Americas. In Corporate Knights’ 2016 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World (Global 100) ranking, the countries with the most Global 100 firms were the following:

  1. United States: 19 firms
  2. France: 11 firms
  3. Canada: 9 firms
  4. United Kingdom: 9 firms
  5. Australia: 5 firms
  6. Finland: 5 firms
  7. Germany: 5 firms

The only countries with firms in the Global 100 that were not based in Europe or the Americas were Australia (5 firms), Japan (4 firms), Singapore (4 firms), South Korea (4 firms) and China (1 firm). With the second largest population in the world, and one of the leading global economies, it may come as a surprise that there were no Indian companies on the list. But a recent article in The Economic Times looks at three large Indian firms, and their efforts to improve sustainability performance. The article gives a good indication of the progress made by Indian firms in sustainability. Here is a summary of the sustainability efforts of the three companies covered in The Economic Times article.

Tata Group Commits to the Circular Economy

With annual revenues of over $108 billion, Tata Group is one of India’s largest conglomerates. The firm embeds a product life cycle approach to sustainability, and also commits to natural and social capital valuation. Tata Group also wants to engage its subsidiaries on incorporating principles of the circular economy. For example, Tata Motors, India’s largest automotive manufacturer, has committed to using 100% renewable energy. Also, Tata Chemicals was one of the first companies in India to address sustainability strategically through in-depth materiality studies that covered a range of elements from biodiversity conservation to supply chain engagement.

Mahindra Group is Greening its Portfolio

Mahindra Group, a $17 billion multinational conglomerate, has a presence in a number of industries, including aerospace, automotive, construction equipment, defense, energy, industrial equipment, IT, real estate and retail. Mahindra Group was one of the first major automotive manufacturers to introduce hybrid and electric vehicles in India. Other sustainability initiatives include conducting materiality studies, and a “water positive status” whereby the Group saves more water than it consumes. In addition, Mahindra Group is pushing sustainability at each individual subsidiary, not just applying it at the corporate level.

Aditya Birla Group is Improving Sustainability Reporting

Aditya Birla Group is a $41 billion multinational conglomerate operating in 40 countries. It has begun to address sustainability in a strategic and structured manner. For example, the Group relies on recycling and circular economy principles to reuse as much materials as possible, and thus be less affected by supply chain disruptions. The Group has a sustainability committee in place at the corporate level, and each subsidiary also has a sustainability committee chaired by its CEO. In addition, Aditya Birla Group has already rolled out Enablon to 200 sites, and uses the system for sustainability reporting.

Given the progress made by Indian firms regarding sustainability, don’t be surprised if future corporate sustainability rankings include Indian companies, such as the three firms mentioned in this post.