Sebi extends deadline for public comments till Oct 18 on biz responsibility reporting format

New Delhi: Markets regulator Sebi on Friday extended the deadline till October 18 to submit public comments on the proposed format for business responsibility and sustainability reporting in view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed format for business responsibility and sustainability reporting covering environmental, social and governance perspectives will be applicable to top 1,000 listed firms by market capitalisation.

The comments on the proposed format were invited till September 18.

“In view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided to extend the timelines for seeking public comments to October 18, 2020,” the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) said in a statement.

The disclosures recommended in the business responsibility and sustainability report are intended to enable companies to engage more meaningfully with their stakeholders, Sebi had said while issuing the consultation paper. The are also intended to encourage them to go beyond regulatory financial compliance and report on their social and environmental impacts, it added.

Listed entities may adopt the new format on a voluntary basis for the financial year 2020-21. For entities that choose not to adopt the new format, the existing format will apply. However, from the financial year 2021-22, the new format would be mandatory.

In November 2018, the corporate affairs ministry constituted a committee for finalising business responsibility reporting formats for listed and unlisted companies, based on the framework of the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBCs).

The National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business were released as NGRBCs in March 2019 after aligning with emerging global concerns, sustainable development goals and United Nations’ guiding principles on business and human rights.

Sebi was also part of the committee, and the report was released on August 11, 2020.

The committee recommended that the business responsibility report be called the business responsibility and sustainability report (BRSR).

The philosophy of responsible business is based on the principle of business being accountable to all its stakeholders towards global developments that are increasingly seeking firms to be responsible and sustainable towards their environment and society, according to the regulator.

In its 77-page consultation paper, Sebi provided a detailed format of the proposed BRSR. The report is divided into three sections – section A (general disclosures), section B (management and process disclosures) and section C (principle wise performance disclosure).

Regarding the principle-wise performance disclosure, Sebi had said the information sought in this section is categorised as “essential” and “leadership”.

“While the essential level is expected from every business that has adopted these guidelines, the leadership level is expected of businesses which aspire to progress to a higher level in their quest to be socially, environmentally and ethically responsible,” the consultation paper said.

A total of nine principles in this section has been listed out, including integrity, sustainability, human rights and environmental concerns.