Are corporate houses sensitive to vulnerable groups, local communities, sexual minorities and other stakeholders while going about their business? A collaboration of civil society organisations—Praxis, Oxfam India, Corporate Responsibility Watch, Change Alliance, and Partners in Change — will release the India Responsible Business Index (IRBI) on February 27, 2018. Titled “Making Growth Inclusive-2018” the IRBI assesses policies and disclosures of the top 100* BSE-listed companies for responsible business practices and ranks them on five parameters: non-discrimination in the workplace, employee dignity and human rights, community development, inclusiveness in supply chain and community as business stakeholders.
Here are the findings and trends of how this fares on specific variables related to women, sexual minorities and other disadvantaged communities.
NON DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE
The companies were assessed for diversity at workplace. For instance, who are the people that companies consider vulnerable? Women, people with disabilities, people from SC/ST and religious minorities were identified as vulnerable groups by about half of the companies. Sexual minorities were included by 32 companies, and 18 companies explicitly mentioned Scheduled Tribes. About a quarter of companies did not put out a policy on non-discrimination as part of their recruitment processes in the public domain. Most companies performed moderately on the first element on the index with 49 companies scoring an above average score and 40 getting a score below average.
The best performing company was Bharat Electronics Limited (Score 0.82). The top five companies were incidentally all PSUs. In contrast, the private sector companies made up the bottom five of the index on this element. Four companies did not publicly disclose information on their anti-sexual harassment policy. While all companies did put out the number of sexual harassment complaints they received, none of them consulted stakeholders for formulation of a policy on sexual harassment.
RESPECTING EMPLOYEE DIGNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Companies were evaluated on policies related to fair living wages, harassment-free and healthy workplaces, prohibition of child labour among others. As a group, companies performed below average. PSUs fared marginally better.
More than half the companies do not have policies and/or mechanisms to ensure zero tolerance towards all forms of violence at work. Further, within this high powered BSE group, 34 companies did not have publicly available policies on prohibition of child labour.
As many as 59 companies disclosed having occupational health and safety trainings for permanent female employees, while less than half (40) extended them to employees with disability. The top scorers in this section are a mix of PSUs and private companies with Bosch Ltd and Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd scoring the highest.
Do companies consult stakeholders and particular vulnerable groups—community, women, elderly, people with disabilities, SC/ST while formulating their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy? While 86 companies identify some vulnerable groups as their target stakeholders, 69 companies count women in this vulnerable group; none of the companies specify if they consult these people while formulating policies (barring ITC Limited) and/or assessing impact of the projects.
Amidst the five parameters in the index, “Community development” is where the cohort scores the highest. Mandatory CSR requirements maybe a reason for the same. Oil India Limited, a PSU scores the highest followed by ITC Ltd.
INCLUSIVENESS IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
The fourth element of the IRBI measures whether business’ policies on safety and well-being of workers, inclusion and capacity building extend to their supply chains. The companies perform much below average on this element, 35 are relative non-starters. Seven companies scored a zero. Both PSUs and private sector companies do equally poorly with both scoring on the lower end of the spectrum.
The Index team found that there were only 22 companies where policies on minimum wage, working hours, social benefits, safe working environment etc extend to their supply chain. Given that workers are often more vulnerable towards the lower end of supply chains, it is worrying that 77 companies in this group don’t have policies disclosed on basic employee rights.
COMMUNITY AS BUSINESS STAKEHOLDERS
Businesses can end up having social and ecological costs. In the fifth and final parameter, the index checked, among other things, if companies consult the project affected community, including women and marginalised groups, when it comes to formulating a policy on resettlement and rehabilitation . None of the companies in the 99 ticked a Yes on that.
Of all the five elements, this is the one where companies fare the poorest. In fact, 98 out of 99 are non starters and only one-NHPC Ltd, scored a 0.40. This was a continuation of an unfortunate trend companies have exhibited over the last three years.
Reacting to the findings, particularly those related to women, sexual minorities and people with disabilities, Nisha Agrawal, the CEO of Oxfam India says, “We have seen a consistent improvement on company disclosures with respect to non-discrimination in the workplace with more than half of the top 100 companies identifying women (61) and Persons with Disabilities (56) as vulnerable to discrimination. However, Indian companies fall considerably short to show a similar commitment towards the marginalised groups in supply chains and in engaging them as business stakeholders. Over 90% of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector and a lack of transparency in companies’ supply chain poses a high risk of discrimination against marginalised groups.”
As the authors of the report note, “the overall data, especially when seen alongside the profits of corporate India, continue to reflect a distance between the interests of business and shareholders and those of communities and of workers. There is a need …to bring due focus to the conditions and processes of production, rather than simply treating communities as recipients of business profits.”
Note: Two companies, Cairn and Vedanta merged so the final count for the companies is 99.
#GenderAnd is dedicated to the coverage of Gender across intersections. You can read our entire reportage here. In part two of the series we explore the parameter of Non-Discrimination in the workplace in greater depth-the policies that BSE 100 have when it comes to employees in vulnerable groups.