Earth Day 2023: Mahendra Rustagi

April 21, 2023

Sector: ESG

As we approach Earth Day 2023, it’s essential to recognise the significance of sustainability in the business world. With the growing environmental challenges we face, it’s crucial for businesses to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. In this article, Mahendra Rustagi, CEO of Kreston SNR, shares his insights on how businesses can incorporate sustainability into their financial reporting and tax compliance, the benefits of investing in sustainable initiatives, available tax incentives, and how tax and accounting professionals can help businesses quantify the benefits of sustainable practices.

Mahendra pointed out that Indians have a deep respect and commitment towards the Earth, evident in their tradition of worshipping it as Mother and seeking forgiveness before any construction work. This respect for the environment is something that businesses can learn from and apply to their operations.

  • The business world is among the most significant emitters of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. How can businesses incorporate sustainability into their financial reporting and tax compliance? 

The business/industry is responsible to the extent of about 30% of Total Green House Gases (GHG). So they have a huge responsibility to care for their environment and society in a governed manner.

The efforts of businesses in this direction of sustainability should be incorporated by way of a report which we should form as an integral part of reporting. Like in India, the top 1000 listed companies have been mandated to disclose their data related to sustainability efforts through a report called BRSR (Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report) which is attached to and forms part of financial reporting. This can help to build trust with stakeholders and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

  • Earth Day 2023 theme is ‘Invest in our planet.’ Businesses can profit significantly from a sustainable transition if they invest early on. How do you think businesses will profit – or benefit? 

Early investment in sustainability would mean improved energy efficiency, lesser water consumption and less waste reduction resulting in efficient operations and reduced operating costs. All this means higher profitability.  Also, improved reputation and brand image and higher valuations, motivated team of employees, loyal customers etc, so one can say the business will benefit hugely in long run.

Businesses which are better on the ESG front can stay ahead of potential future regulations, avoid the financial and reputational risks associated with non-compliance and bring long-term economic benefits. Overall, investing in sustainability early not only benefits the environment but can also bring long-term economic benefits to businesses.

  • What are some tax incentives available for companies that implement sustainable initiatives, and how can businesses take advantage of them? 

In India, the government has not yet started any income tax incentives for sustainable initiatives, however, the government is seriously considering and granting some income tax incentives for use of renewable energy and higher directions on some social spending. The Government of India has introduced a scheme called –Production Linked Incentives (PLI ) where huge incentives are provided to a certain class of environment-friendly products manufacturing linked to production. For example, Producers of Electrolysers are being given huge incentives to manufacture Electrolysers for the production of Green Hydrogen. Also, there are incentives for Green Sustainable Buildings and Energy Efficiency through the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Globally, there are several tax incentives available for companies that implement sustainable initiatives. These include tax credits for investments in renewable energy, tax deductions for expenditures related to environmental protection, and accelerated depreciation for certain environmentally friendly assets. Some countries also offer tax incentives for green buildings or for companies that reduce their carbon emissions. To take advantage of these incentives, businesses can consult with tax experts to identify the specific incentives that apply to their sustainable initiatives and ensure that they comply with the applicable regulations. They can also ensure that their financial reporting accurately reflects the impact of their sustainable initiatives, which can further demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and potentially attract socially responsible investors.

  • How can sustainable practices positively impact a company’s bottom line, and how can tax and accounting professionals help businesses quantify these benefits in their financial statements?

Implementing sustainable practices can positively impact a company’s bottom line in several ways. For instance, it can help reduce operating costs by improving energy and resource efficiency, optimising supply chains, and reducing waste. Sustainable practices can also increase revenue by improving customer loyalty, attracting socially responsible investors, and accessing new markets. Sustainable business practices lead to an enhanced reputation,  being more attractive to staff and business partners who value environmentally sustainable practices, and attracting new customers who are seeking environmentally friendly products and services. Relationship between sustainability management practices and business financial measures as higher return on investment (ROI) and sales growth have already been proven.

Tax and accounting professionals can help businesses quantify these benefits in their financial statements by identifying the relevant tax incentives and credits available for sustainable initiatives, accurately reflecting the impact of sustainable practices on the company’s financial performance, and guiding compliance with applicable regulations.

Tax and Accounting professionals can also make the businesses understand the return on investment (ROI)on their sustainable Investments by quantifying the benefits through categorisation and a scoring model for each SDG component which would help them to make informed decisions about future investments in sustainability.

In conclusion, Mahendra’s insights inform us that businesses have a significant role to play in addressing environmental challenges, and they can do so by incorporating sustainability into their financial reporting and tax compliance. By investing in sustainable initiatives early on, businesses can not only benefit financially but also enhance their reputation and attract socially responsible investors. Tax and accounting professionals can assist businesses in identifying tax incentives, accurately reflecting the impact of sustainable practices on financial performance, and guiding compliance with regulations. As we celebrate Earth Day 2023, let us all take a moment to reflect on the impact of our actions on the planet and work towards a sustainable future.