Ethical Performance
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Tata heads new Indian sustainability index

December 2008

Indian companies are said in a report from BT, the international communications provider, to be taking positive steps towards sustainable development, though the corporate sector’s overall performance is considered disappointing.  

Researchers found that 46 per cent of the opinion leaders in India who were surveyed identified a lack of awareness of sustainable development issues as the main cause of inertia. About 40 per cent also cited a lack of political will as a big obstacle to significant progress.

Thanks to this lack of action, says the report, India lags behind China, Japan and the European Union on the important issues, such as tackling climate change, corporate governance practices and water management. Interestingly, India’s largest cities are seen as making the most effort to improve sustainable development practices.

BT released the report in Delhi when it made public its Sustainable Development Index – an Assessment of Business Performance in India, which it has developed in partnership with GlobeScan, an independent public opinion and stakeholder research company. The index is compiled, through surveys of senior opinion leaders, as a means of measuring the performance of Indian businesses in their progress towards sustainable development.

Despite the negative views, 57 per cent of the opinion leaders felt companies in India are now more active in sustainable development than a year ago. They thought the corporate sector had made significantly stronger progress than government or the general public.

The most frequently mentioned corporate leaders in sustainable development in India are the multi-sector Tata Group, which is named by 31 per cent of respondents, Reliance (13 per cent) and Infosys (10 per cent).

Allen Ma, president of BT Asia Pacific, said: ‘We absolutely view sustainability as an international issue, and businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail.

‘India is rapidly becoming a global centre for information and communications technology development, and boasts a high economic growth rate. It is vital that this commercial success is matched by a commitment to, and leadership in, corporate responsibility. We are constantly looking at the impact of our core business activities across the spectrum of social, environmental and economic issues.

‘Through the launch of the BT Sustainable Development Index we hope that other organizations in India will do the same.’

Nitin Desai, former United Nations under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and an adviser to the index, said: ‘There are significant social, environmental and economic challenges facing the world’s second most populous country, and India’s transition to sustainable development is in the world’s interest.  

‘Given the importance of the issues at stake, there is a clear need for initiatives such as BT’s to help channel corporate sustainability efforts to where they can have the most beneficial impact. We need to be able to carefully monitor where corporate successes are occurring and to learn from them. We also need to reliably know which aspects of sustainable development most urgently require corporate action.’

Tata | Asia | Indices

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