The article discusses PwC India launching an ESG assessment framework for cities along with partners. It aims to encourage urban ESG compliance and attract investments.
Analysis for layman:
PwC is one of the big four accounting and consulting firms. It has developed an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) rating framework to assess sustainability and societal impact of Indian cities. This will grade cities on 62 indicators across environment, society and governance aspects. Areas assessed include climate risks, green spaces, air/water quality, employment, healthcare, education and municipal governance.
The framework has been launched with research partners the Centre for Water and Sanitation and CEPT University. It aligns with global development goals and national commitments of India. The objective is to help cities showcase their ESG compliance and attract domestic and foreign capital by enabling investors to identify sustainable cities for deploying funds. This applies to real estate developers, infrastructure companies and impact investors.
The announcement signals rising ESG consciousness amongst corporates and consultants in India. For the first time cities can evaluate their own sustainability using a data driven approach. With growing global scrutiny on ESG issues, this provides Indian urban centres a framework to self-monitor and continually upgrade across environmental and social parameters.
By creating an ESG rating mechanism for cities, the model caters perfectly to investors hunting for sustainable destinations to deploy funds. It offers standardized due diligence as investing in countries like India with opacity around ESG factors can be challenging. The move aligns with India’s commitments at COP-27 and net zero goals. Collaboration with academia brings model credibility.
The tool is timely with India’s Smart Cities Mission underway since 2015 which can incorporate these ESG guidelines for next phase prioritization. With urban population set to increase, cities promoting themselves as ESG compliant can attract financing to fund future growth in a responsible manner.
Impact on Retail Investors:
For stock market retail investors, although this doesn’t directly relate to any particular stocks or sectors, the news indicates the rising importance of ESG standards within the Indian regulatory and business environment. Investors can anticipate enhanced disclosures from Indian corporations on ESG metrics in line with global investor preferences.
As fiduciaries like mutual funds and insurance companies grow more sensitive towards ESG factors, the trend is irreversible. Retail investors must keep abreast of company rankings and ratings on these parameters as they could positively or adversely impact target stock valuations. High ESG scores may signal superior management quality too. Over the long run, actively factoring in E, S and G measures would serve investor portfolios well.
Impact on Industries:
Key industries that could be influenced by city-level ESG assessments include infrastructure and real estate developers bidding for smart city projects, renewable energy companies tying up for green power supply, electric vehicles manufacturers with expansion plans linked to pollution norms, waste management operators, water treatment companies and impact funds eyeing sustainable ventures in India.
As cities use these ESG rankings to upgrade themselves on environmental and social indicators, corresponding industries stand to benefit. Most directly it opens financing avenues for contractors meeting ESG compliance to avail funding from banks or investors screening for sustainability. Global asset managers can pick cities for property investments based on scores. This may spur more public-private partnership bids. Once cities assimilate rankings within policy, it incentivizes green industries.
Long Term Benefits & Negatives:
Long term the creation of an ESG scale for ranking cities can transform public policy priorities across India similar to the ease of doing business rankings. With standardized metrics to evaluate sustainability and societal impact, city administrations will be encouraged to uplift themselves. This complements national goals well by translating into localized action..
The framework provides a targeting mechanism for foreign investors to deploy capital into certified sustainable cities as opposed to riskier destinations. Availability of reliable ESG data builds confidence. Domestic retail investors also start assessing viability of cities on these aspects. Thus far ESG adoption was restricted but this mainstreams sustainability.
However, overemphasis on rankings instead of ground realities is a perennial concern with indices. Gaming metrics through creative reporting might arise if financial incentives are tied strictly to grades. Periodic audits essential to maintain integrity. The gradients between top performers and laggards should not widen.
Short Term Benefits & Negatives:
In the near term, this positions leading cities to advertise their ESG ratings to attract events, tourism and businesses. Some progressive states could proactively pursue higher rankings for their main cities understanding its appeal for investors and talent. Hospitality, aviation and real estate could benefit from any branding gains.
However initially adoption barriers remain with municipal bodies as additional compliance burden and limited awareness on integrating framework with decision making. Technical capacity constraints likely across lower tier towns unused to such grading systems. Gaming possibilities through data manipulation means rankings display earnestness more than realities initially until checks improve. Limited mandates attached for now.
Companies to Gain:
Listed companies benefiting:
- Larsen & Toubro – Major smart city contractor, can use ESG compliance as bidding edge
- Brigade Enterprises – Real estate developer focusing on sustainable buildings
- Mahindra Lifespace – Aligns with their green residential projects branding
- IRB Infra – Opportunity to showcase commitment as roads buildout expands
- Siemens India – Smart city tech supplier, ESG agenda synergistic with brand
- Voltas – Growing their environmental engineering portfolio aligns well
- IPCA Laboratories – Pharma player, but also major waste water treatment operator
These companies gain advantages responding to emerging ESG importance in urban India through their offerings. Higher scored cities see more inbound ESG funds. stocks suitably positioned.
Companies to Lose:
No major listed entities seen negatively impacted considering the voluntary nature of framework at this stage. Scope remains for all to assimilate and benefit.
City administrations and infrastructure companies serious about sustainable development should evaluate the ESG indicators now available through this assessment tool and align policies and practices accordingly to get future ready.
In summary, PwC’s standardized ESG grading mechanism for Indian cities comes at an opportune time as both public and private sector prioritize sustainability following global commitments. It provides the template for cities to upgrade through policy action and simultaneously declare their credentials to attract investments in responsible development. Thus it positively impacts downstream industries contributing towards urban transformation. Once mandates emerge linking scores to funding, it can truly reorient planning.
PTI. “PwC Launches ESG Assessment Framework.” Economic Times