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Lack of professionals with standardised skillset in environmental, social and governance (ESG) domain is proving to be a major roadblock for India to realise its net zero emission goals by 2050, according to experts.
As per Think Change Forum, an independent think tank, the size of ESG investments in India ranges from USD 30-40 billion and is growing rapidly.
To make quick all-round progress, ESG adopters in India need the right financial resources, technical resources, and human resources in the form of ESG professionals and experts.
“While progress has been made on the first two aspects, challenges with respect to a pipeline of ESG experts and human resources need urgent attention,” Think Change Forum said in a statement.
Taking part in a roundtable organised by the think tank, Kumar Subramanian, Founding Partner and Managing Director, Sculpt Partners, a sustainability centric advisory firm, said,”Over the years, in India, we seem to have made some progress as far as sustainable financing and technology are concerned, but today, we really need to jump-start the process of creating a pool of skilled ESG professionals who can work at the cross-section of business and sustainability.” As is the case with many mission-critical enterprise agendas, progression on ESG matters requires a combination of financial capital, technology, as well as investments in human capital, he added.
Expressing similar views, Larsen & Toubro Ltd Head Corporate Sustainability Pradeep Panigarhi said as far as ESG targets are concerned, there is a need to have the “right expertise within the team”.
“You need to build real expertise; just giving training or introducing another capacity-building programme doesn’t help. You need to understand the nitty-gritty of the business. Then only things work,” Panigarhi added.
Purnamita Dasgupta, Chair Professor and Head, Environmental and Resource Economics Unit, Institute of Economic Growth, pointed out that while it may be easier for large-cap companies to progress in certain areas like ESG, it may not be possible for smaller enterprises to do so.
“The key question is, how do MSMEs cope with the situation, and how do we really bring them into the ESG fold? While there are a lot of opportunities, opportunities become important when we are able to place them in context,” Dasgupta said.
Think Change Forum said considering the urgency of the matter, it is imperative to find creative solutions that can equip existing professionals to work on the ESG agenda in the short term and and in the long term, industries and academia work in close collaboration to develop a pool of ESG talent that is industry absorbable.
“For instance, the clean energy sector alone would require more than 100 million professionals globally over the next 10-20 years. The number constitutes more than 3 per cent of the total global employable workforce that we have today. So, a mix of immediate and long-term measures is required to address the acute shortage of ESG professionals,” it said.
The availability of skilled and trained ESG professionals in India will also lead to a large number of small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which play an important role in employment generation and the overall economy, have access to the required talent, and set and achieve ESG targets, the think tank said.
“The current set of consultants in the field are untested and do not have a standardised skillset. Further, expert agencies operating in the space offer their services at very high rates, making it impossible for small business entities to afford them,” it added.