ABN Amro’s Indian unit comes out with sustainability report

ABN Amro’s Indian unit comes out with sustainability report

The Netherlands’ largest bank, ABN Amro NV’s Indian unit published a sustainability report, a voluntary non-financial disclosure, joining a small group of Indian companies that have begun doing so in recent years.

ITC Ltd, Tata Steel Ltd, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd and Tata Tea Ltd have all begun publishing sustainability reports over the past two-three three years.

These reports are in accordance with the global reporting initiative matrix, an international process whose mission is to develop and disseminate globally applicable sustainability reporting guidelines.

In its report, ABN Amro lists how it integrates tenets of poverty alleviation, financial inclusion and philanthrophy, and dicusses efforts made by the bank in microfinance, the business of lending small ticket loans to those who do not qualify under the normal system of credit disbursal.

ABN opened a green bank in Ahmedabad that uses solar power and conserves water. Employees are also required to use electric scooters when delivering banking services to customers’ offices and homes. The bank will open three more such green branches in Jalandhar, Jodhpur and Agra over the next few months.

ABN is also partnering with Suzlon Energy Ltd, which sells wind energy technology, to promote usage of clean technology. Romesh Sobti, executive vice-president and country executive in India for ABN Amro Bank, says such efforts are only the beginning. “There are still many employees who do not understand the need for conservation," he said.

The bank is making its staff environmentally aware by performing air checks on employee vehicles with the message the right tyre pressure can reduce carbon emissions as well as increase passenger safety.

The bank is encouraging its employees to embrace sustainable development in their professional practices and has put in place a system to reward early adaptors.

Most Indian companies have typically avoided making non-financial disclosures since it involves bringing to light issues of conservation of clean air and water, and toxic waste management.

But, “the future will ask of Indian corporations of how it has fared in social and environmental parameters in addition to financials," says Subir Gokarn, chief economist of rating agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Asia-Pacific operations. Crisil Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of global rating agency S&P, is also developing an index, dubbed the Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Index for Indian companies by January.

Sanjay Chowdhry, chief of corporate communications at Tata Steel, says that long before publishing the sustainability report, the company was carrying out independent social audits to gauge its impact on society and environment from as early as 1980. “The publication of the report, though a rigorous process, was only taking our own exercise further," Chowdhry said.