We at ABFRL present stories excerpted from our internal newsletter ‘In Touch’, where we celebrate our people and their contributions.
Our Sustainability journey at ABFRL has been path breaking in many ways for the Fashion and Retail Industry. As we prepare to commence Sustainability 2.0, taking the path of product-centric methodologies over a process-centric one, we know we have the right approach in place as ABFRL’s sustainability initiatives have won several accolades along the way.
ABFRL has been positioned as Asia’s ‘Most Sustainable Company’ and globally ranked 8th in the Textiles, Apparel & Luxury goods Industry for its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance in the 2020 edition of S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment. This is one of the methodologies used to select companies for the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI). DJSI evaluates the sustainability performance of thousands of companies trading publicly, and are known to be the longest-running global sustainability benchmarks worldwide. The DJSI analyses corporate economic, environmental and social performance, including practices such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices.
To demystify how this helps us achieve our sustainability goals, our Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr Naresh Tyagi sat down for a Q & A with Robert Dornau, Head of Corporate Engagement at S&P Global.
Dr Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer, ABFRL
How has the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) accompanied your business in the journey of sustainability?
Sustainability, for us at ABFRL, has evolved from achieving operational efficiency to integrating it into the value chain. Our Sustainability vision, ‘Re-Earth’ is to give back more than what we take from our ecosystem, and constantly work to ‘Regenerate, Restore and Revitalise’ ecosystems and communities that we operate in. We believe in what gets measured, gets managed and what gets managed, gets improved. Keeping this philosophy in mind, we started our sustainability journey in 2012-13 with ten missions. Our sustainability commitment towards these ten missions helped us do some exceptional work that resulted in winning national and global recognition.
However, to understand our ESG performance on a global front, we started to look for holistic feedback, peer analysis and global benchmark. We considered Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) ESG as one of the global benchmarks and participated in S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment for the first time in 2019. We scored well in the CSA and were ranked 8th globally in textiles apparels and luxury goods industry. The analysis and benchmark helped us understand the areas where we have outperformed as industry leaders and provided a great opportunity for improvement in some of the areas as well.
This approach for peer analysis and ESG performance aspects helped us align our sustainability targets in some areas, while improving performance in others. This year, we scored 1st Rank in emerging markets and became Asia’s top ESG performing company in the industry for CSA 2020 cycle.
What began as an initiative to understand our ESG performance, further fortified our sustainability strategy by better alignment and integration of multiple stakeholders in the process. We achieved this through the constructive feedback and learning from the Benchmark scorecard provided by S&P Global. This encouraged us to look into improvement areas as global benchmark and systematic process to strengthen our sustainability achievement towards ESG performance across business.
Robert Dornau, Head of Corporate Engagement, S&P Global
Can you name 3 use cases of CSA results?
Use case 1: ABFRL Sustainability Report We have been following GRI standards for our sustainability disclosure and annually publish our report on ESG disclosures to our wider stakeholder network. We have come a long way in improving transparency, detailing and coverage of disclosures. Our Sustainability Report has been rated among the best in the country, with improved score year-on-year based on WBCSD reporting matters framework by third-party rating agencies.
However, some of the aspects like external assurance of Sustainability Report, we learned through CSA analysis and score. It helped in establishing reliability and trust among stakeholders on our environmental and social data.
Use case 2: ABFRL CSR Initiatives We strongly believe that communities in our vicinity are key stakeholders of our business and we strive to drive positive change in the society by addressing their needs. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is integrated into our business strategy and a number of initiatives have been undertaken to address crucial developmental challenges. We have a well-defined CSR policy that guides us in formulating CSR programmes and setting up targets linked to the focus areas.
In addition to our commitment last year, we have conducted impact assessments and SROI studies of our CSR projects to monitor, identify gaps and implement corrective actions, if needed. This is reflected as a benchmark score in social reporting criteria and a good score in corporate citizenship and philanthropy requirements of CSA.
Use case 3: ABFRL Safety Norms We have Safety Policy and Guideline to keep our workplace and operation safe. We have stringent KPIs and Matrices to measure safety performance across operations and have now further improved our Occupational health and Safety management systems, post our understanding from the CSA team. This is done by segregating contractor LTIFR into total consideration and other related parameters in our safety matrices.
What returns on investment have you identified in sustainability reporting, assessment and benchmarking?
- Our environmental ambition for operational eco-efficiency with year-on-year targets for renewable energy, carbon emission reduction, and waste has helped us significantly reap benefits from our investments.
- 12% Reduction due to Energy Efficiency
- 25% increased use of Renewable Energy
- 82% use of Recycled water
- 42% Rain Water Harvesting
- Waste Reduction Across Operations, Zero Waste to Landfill
- 87% sustainable packaging
- At our Organization, we understand that the business relevance of ESG factors is increasing every day and with our persistent efforts we inch closer to our sustainability vision. This is reflected across several of our initiatives such as sourcing sustainable raw materials, adding sustainable product attributes, environmental aspects, packaging, social commitment through our CSR program or increased productivity through safe work culture.
- Further to that, we have plans towards sustainable product and packaging through collaboration with thinktank’s for material reuse, recycle and circularity solutions.
What would you recommend to CSA first-time participants?
We have learnt a lot in past two years of participation in CSA.
- Set up industry best practices: Firstly, its best way to get peer comparison and learn some of the best practices from industry leaders. We were confident with our commitment and wanted to benchmark with peers and global leaders and understand areas of improvement. To our surprise, our performance was on par with global peers in our maiden attempt. It was not easy to get details for such large data points but the results were encouraging.
- Identify areas of improvement: Coming to the areas of improvement, we must thank CSA team for providing such an amazing holistic and detailed feedback. It helped us in creating action plans and embedding some of the aspects into our long-term sustainability strategy.
- Create deeper connects with cross-functional teams: It helped us in building a deeper connect with cross-functional teams in terms of their involvement and encouraged improvement in the 2020 evaluation.
- Improvise on feedback: This time, the action and feedback for improvement and effort helped us in positioning us as the top Asian company in the textile apparel and luxury goods sector with increased score as well as percentile.
- Keep on benchmarking: Overall, it’s the journey to understand ESG, compare yourself and benchmark the ESG for business sustenance and future proofing. We at ABFRL always believe – Sustainability is Work in Progress and still a lot more needs to be done for sustainable business and eco-system. We would be delighted to share our sustainable practices and journey as business case with other companies and industry.
This year we increased the transparency for corporates to question-level scoring. Do you consider this beneficial? How did you use this information?
We have been regularly reporting on sustainability disclosure since last few years and there is a year-on-year improvement in performance. This year CSA 2020 participation was important for us, as we have worked on each criterion with a defined action plan, based on CSA 2019 for areas of improvement. The results were a reflection of our efforts for improvement in most of the areas. However, scores at the level of questions really helped us:
- Discuss, deliberate and exchange thoughts with S&P global team, which was mutually beneficial for deeper understanding of the questions for us and scope of improvement in methodology used for scoring for certain areas.
- Internally, this also helped us to discuss with all our functional departments on specific points in each question, which reduced the time and effort to identify benchmark scores achieved in certain question or areas of improvement for further action plan.
Awards and Accolades
- Asia’s Most Sustainable Company and 8th globally in the Textile, Apparel and Luxury Goods Industry by S&P Global CSA 2020
- Outstanding Accomplishment Award in the Corporate Excellence category at the CII-ITC Sustainability Awards 2020
- One of India’s Most Sustainable Companies, 2020 by BW Business
- World Golden Peacock Award 2020 for Sustainability in the Textile and Apparel Sector
- ICC Social Impact Award 2021 for ‘Empowering the Rural Population’