As part of CauseBecause’s efforts to look at trends across companies, we decided to take a look at the sustainability reports of India’s top 5 auto companies – Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp, and Bajaj Auto – and find out the common elements. Do note that except for Tata and Mahindra, the others do not issue separate sustainability reports.

  1. Go electric: Keeping with the global trend of all things clean, electric vehicles are being touted by these companies as further proof of their commitment to sustainability. Current examples are Mahindra e-Verito, India’s first electric sedan, and Tata’s Starbus Electric series. Maruti places heavy emphasis on its alternate-fuel vehicles and has committed to launching its electric vehicle in India by 2020. Hero, on the other hand, has invested in a Bangalore-based tech start-up called Ather Energy, an e-vehicle manufacturing company.
  2. CSR: Happily enough, companies are spending the requisite amount towards their CSR work and at times, more than that. Common areas of intervention are community/rural development, education, health, road safety, environment and tree planting. Promoting road safety, of course, is the most germane cause for auto companies. Rural-development initiatives are often in the villages in and around their factories.
  3. Sustainability: Unsurprisingly, sustainability is a significant part of the reports. With global warming a reality, auto companies especially need to show that they are adapting to the new normal. Data on water conservation, waste management, raw materials, carbon-emissions reduction, direct and indirect emissions, and energy management are provided. However, the scope and breadth of it differs among these companies. Tata and Mahindra with their dedicated GRI-adhering sustainability reports are miles ahead in terms of the level of information disclosed, as opposed to, for example, Bajaj where it comes across as one of the many points to tick off in their checklists. For instance, Tata has comprehensive data on the disposal of all hazardous and non-hazardous waste, while it finds little more than a passing mention for most others.
  4. Suppliers and sourcing: Sustainable sourcing has become an integral part of companies’ environmental efforts. Training, certifications, automation, quality upgrades and local sourcing have become the norm. For example, Bajaj has stated that all key vendors are being certified for ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 management systems, while Hero has an operation excellence programme for some suppliers.
  5. Employee wellness: Some information on steps taken for a satisfactory work environment is provided. Skill and learning development opportunities are given to employees, such as the diploma engineering course offered by Maruti to its workmen on the shop floor. Due to the woefully inadequate representation of women, many have taken up specific targets and initiatives to improve this number. Tata has set a goal to increase the number of women at the shop-floor level to 20 per cent from the current 3 per cent (as of 2016–17) by the next 2 years, while Bajaj has women-only assembly lines at its Chakan and Pantnagar factories. However, going by the growing number of workers’ strikes and protests, there’s much that companies can and should do for labour.
  6. R&D: Research and development forms a significant part of the investments made to keep up with the changing industry trends of ecofriendly, workable designs as well as to signal to shareholders and stakeholders their cutting-edge tech knowhow. Mahindra has invested Rs 1,000 crore in establishing the Mahindra Research Valley and an R&D network consisting of 32 operational labs and 3,500 engineers. In 2016–17, Tata had spent Rs 21 billion in R&D and 22 patents were granted.
  7. Adherence to standard reporting structures: While Mahindra and Maruti follow the GRI’s G4 core guidelines, Tata’s GRI Standard is in accordance with the comprehensive option. Hero’s and Bajaj’s business responsibility reports are as per the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic (NVG-SEE) Responsibilities of Businesses in India issued by the ministry of corporate affairs.
  8. Employee data: Data on break-up of permanent and temporary workers, male and female, and percentage of workers who are part of a workers’ union are provided.
  9. Evaluation: While all reports are externally assured by a third party, almost all have their CSR projects evaluated by external agencies too, except for Bajaj, for which no such confirmation could be found.
  10. Safety: Data on fatalities, recordable cases, and number of injuries are disclosed in reports, as it should be for any manufacturing company.