Sustainability Drives Innovation for India’s Top Companies

The results of our CSR ranking study ( make interesting reading with strong evidence that the journey towards business transformation has begun for many of India’s top companies. It is no surprise to see several Tata companies, Mahindra and Maruti in the top 10 list.

While many senior managers admit that they are still struggling to make the business case for long-term investments in sustainability and CSR, there are others who have taken the lead and are setting the pace for responsible growth.

For many late starters the nudge has come from the government, for several others such as the IT industry, a key influence in their CSR journey has been overseas clients that mandate CSR and sustainability practices. The public sector too has had a strong mandate for some time now to be involved with community initiatives in and around their manufacturing facilities.

Even as the Indian law looks at a philanthropic, community centred approach, it is also true that smart strategies have been developed by industry leaders that look at CSR while creating far-reaching positive business impact. Simultaneously, many business leaders believe that without radical structural change to markets and systems/processes, business may be unable to lead the way toward the peak of a responsible, sustainable economy.

While it may be true that an external push is needed in some cases, it is also equally true that companies don’t want to look at the elephant in the room. Companies seldom talk about wasteful plastic in their packaging or about sustainable sourcing. Equally, an emphasis on renewable sources of energy, regeneration of soil and water and protection of biodiversity is non-existent.

The most positive aspect of the study has been the finding that 48% of top Indian companies are investing in transforming business models to create products and services that minimise adverse social and environmental impacts and, in many cases, have positive sustainability impacts. While Auto companies are investing in hybrid technology to reduce emissions, infrastructure companies have invested in large-scale solar power plants and water reduction technologies. Banks are supporting initiatives in the area of clean technology and energy efficiency by utilizing credit lines from various bilateral and multilateral agencies.

While much more needs to be done with regard to Governance and Disclosure of CSR and Sustainability activities, this is just the beginning of the sustainability journey.

The complete report can be downloaded from



Article coauthored with Utkarsh Majmudar and based on published report in Economic Times, Corporate Dossier Nov / Dec 2014.