Good Data is a Big Problem in India

Accurate reporting of ESG in India is difficult because data is not automated adequately. ESG committees often ask – what data are we tracking? Yet, ESG is catching up in India and will take a few years to get to the EU standards.

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BCT Digital, a market leader in Governance, Risk and Compliance management space, has got into ESG monitoring space recently with a strong 60-member team. An alumnus of Cornell University, Jaya has worked at senior positions at HCL, Accenture and Standard Chartered Bank. She spoke to SustainabilityNext on key trends and challenges facing the ESG sector. Edited Excerpts: 

How big is the problem of authenticity of data in India?

It is a big problem. I’ll just talk about the simple problem. Data is not completely automated here. For example, plants are not completely automated, so how are you capturing the actual carbon data? A lot of that is not automated enough to curb capture of the carbon credits.

Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO of BCT Digital

You may ask things like chat GPT, or your large language models. They can simulate and say in this environment based on this data set, this is going to be X number of industries. This is how it could be. So, it kind of creates data where data doesn’t exist, based on the patterns of where you kind of get that you can do a matching across your domains. 

This type of plant with this type of towers can you create the data and feedback and assume that as a data set the answer is yes? Will it be as accurate as having a device wide match? The answer is no, but it gives you some proxy of where we start with. From An operational risk perspective, how do you look at it from a fundamental risk point of view? 

After the new reporting standards came out everybody set up an ESG committee. They said let’s form an ESG committee at the board level. But the ESG committee is asking, what am I tracking, where is your data?
Almost always the answer is – we’re still getting ready. And we don’t know what data we are reporting.

What are the key trends in ESG in India?

There’s a lot of ESG focus funds, so you will continue to see momentum on that. Companies that adopt ESG and sustainability practices are becoming a key part. So I would call the rise of ESG investing as a key trend.

I would talk about improved regulatory angle, bringing that as a compliance mandate as another key trend, because I’m talking about the ones that have a significant impact on overall reporting space.  

The third trend I would probably talk about is increased technology adoption across the board for promoting green initiatives, ESG data monitoring, reporting as something that’s key additional trends are adding in no particular order.

How short is the sustainability talent pool in India? 

We don’t have enough people, but does that mean we will not have enough people two years from now? A lot of 12 standard grads are saying they want to do environmental engineering today. A lot of them are saying I’m interested in green energy only.

And therefore I think that that dearth of talent is real, but that is going to remain real for a short period of time. In the meantime, we’re going to have a lot of imports coming from other countries into India at a high price and they in turn will create this pool of talent and there will also be a lot of lateral moves. People currently who are working in waste management will move. To summarize the shortage is real, not just in India worldwide, more so in India.

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