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Leaders in the financial sector are embracing the tremendous responsibility they shoulder in creating awareness around issues of sustainability through research and development and by adopting practices that follow this approach. Businesses are no longer operating in isolation, but are weaving themselves into the fabric of social and environmental responsibility. Such a transition from conventional and antiquated mechanisms has given a push to sustainable finance

Sustainable finance is the practice of making investment decisions that take into consideration the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors of any economic activity or business project. Also known as green finance, it aims to generate long-term, sustainable outcomes, as compared to immediate goals that may compromise ESG factors. Sustainable finance encompasses products and services such as investment funds, loans, green bonds, insurance, and other financial instruments that are designed to support sustainable economic, social, and environmental development. As per a PwC report,  ESG-focused institutional investment is expected to soar to USD 33.9 trillion by 2026 from USD 18.4 trillion in 2021.  

Environmental factors that sustainable finance is directed towards include mitigation of the climate crisis and sustainable use of natural resources. Social factors include the protection of animal rights, consumer protection, and diverse hiring practices within organizations. Governance factors may include employee-management relations and equitable compensation practices. Adopting processes that consider these factors makes way for a financial sector founded on a macro view of society and economy, not just the generation of revenue and favorable financial outcomes. 

India’s journey with sustainable finance

As the world’s most populous country with almost 1.4 billion inhabitants, India’s carbon footprint has a tangible effect on global emissions and, by extension, the ongoing issue of climate change. Back in 2008, the Government of India initiated its National Action Plan on Climate Change, which included eight national missions. These missions were designed to tackle various aspects, including lowering the emission intensity of the economy, enhancing energy efficiency, expanding forest coverage, and fostering the creation of sustainable habitats. It’s worth noting that these climate-focused policies are integrated with broader objectives, such as ensuring access to energy and securing water resources.

India took a giant leap into sustainable finance on February 1st, 2022, as Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, announced the Government of India’s plan to issue sovereign green bonds to mobilize resources for green infrastructure. The proceeds will be deployed in public sector projects that contribute towards reducing the carbon intensity of the economy. On January 25, 2023, India issued the first tranche of its first sovereign green bond worth INR 80 billion (equivalent to $980 million). On February 9, 2023, the Government of India announced the issuance of another INR 80 billion ($968 million) in sovereign green bonds.

The regulatory landscape of ESG in India

The Securities and Exchange Board of India has played a crucial role in promoting ESG investments by creating a mechanism that requires the top 1000 listed companies in India to disclose their ESG activities. The framework promotes transparency, while encouraging businesses to improve and expand their ESG initiatives. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has undertaken various measures to foster sustainable finance across the nation. In 2015, the RBI issued directives mandating banks to disclose their sustainability initiatives. In a subsequent stride in 2018, it unveiled a blueprint for green bonds, a financial instrument aimed at mobilizing resources for ecological and climate-focused ventures. This framework delineates the criteria for issuing green bonds while motivating banks to extend financial support to endeavors that prioritize sustainability. In 2023, the RBI will have already successfully conducted auctions for green bonds, raising a sum of INR 8,000 crore. These funds are earmarked for driving green and sustainable initiatives, encompassing domains like solar energy, hydropower, and more—all endeavors that play a pivotal role in curbing carbon emissions and promoting environmental protection. 

The annual  budget for 2023 identified green growth as a priority, with spending outlined for making agriculture more sustainable and harnessing energy renewal practices. The consistent introduction of guidelines by regulatory bodies pertaining to green finance, along with the commitment to establish robust monitoring mechanisms, is truly a groundbreaking phenomenon for the Indian economy. 

On March 8, 2023, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announced that the central bank is poised to release comprehensive directives in the near future. These guidelines are aimed at encouraging regulated entities to encourage green lending, facilitate green deposits, and effectively manage risks associated with climate change. Although green loans can indeed be tied to ESG criteria, their primary purpose remains to fund initiatives that foster environmental sustainability. These directives signify the RBI’s initial stride in incorporating ESG standards and will significantly contribute to India’s ambitious goal of curbing carbon emissions.

Impact of sustainable finance on businesses

Capital access

Adopting sustainable practices opens avenues for businesses to secure augmented capital access. A notable shift is occurring among investors and financial institutions, which are incorporating ESG factors into their investment strategies and decisions. Enterprises showcasing robust ESG performance and alignment with sustainable financial principles are poised to attract investors and lenders, expanding their access to a broader capital reservoir. This encompasses instruments like green bonds, sustainability-linked loans, and impact investment funds.

Risk governance

Sustainable finance also underscores the significance of businesses identifying, evaluating, and managing risks associated with environmental, social, and governance dimensions. Climate change, for instance, presents multifaceted risks, encompassing physical impacts, regulatory alterations, reputational vulnerabilities, and market perturbations. Entities proactively addressing these risks and implementing sustainable practices, encompassing emission reduction, heightened resource efficiency, and robust governance, establish stronger foundations for long-term resilience.

Innovation and market dynamics

Sustainable finance can serve as a catalyst for innovation, unearthing fresh market prospects for businesses. In the global transition towards a sustainable, low-carbon economy, the demand for inventive products and services that tackle sustainability challenges is burgeoning. Enterprises developing and offering sustainable solutions—spanning renewable energy technologies, eco-friendly agricultural practices, and circular economy models—are poised to tap into burgeoning markets, while simultaneously gaining a competitive edge.

Stakeholder expectations

The domain of sustainable finance encapsulates the evolving anticipations of stakeholders, encompassing consumers, employees, regulators, and communities. Consumer consciousness regarding the environmental and social repercussions of products and services is on the rise, leading to amplified support for businesses exhibiting responsible practices. Employees are increasingly drawn towards companies that harbor a robust sense of purpose and an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Regulators are actively enforcing policies and frameworks to bolster sustainability and mitigate risks stemming from ESG factors. Enterprises that proactively address stakeholder anticipations and align with sustainable financial principles can augment their reputation, foster trust, and cultivate enduring relationships with stakeholders.

ESG in Indian banks and financial institutions- A network of growing importance

As financial custodians of global economies, banks are constantly under the radar and expected to play their part. Regulatory authorities are in the process of creating rules and standards that require banks and financial institutions to incorporate ESG factors into their risk management practices. This shift is transforming sustainability from being solely an ethical obligation to also being a driver for business growth and investment.

Other aspects of the finance services industry that could potentially be impacted include:

  1. Risk assessment: Financial institutions will need to incorporate sustainability risks into their risk assessment models. Climate change, for example, poses risks to industries like insurance and agriculture, and understanding and managing these risks will become crucial.
  2. Lending and credit: Banks and lenders may offer preferential terms to businesses that have strong sustainability practices, as they are seen as lower-risk borrowers. Conversely, companies with poor environmental records may face higher borrowing costs.
  3. Debt collections: In addition to digitizing lending, financial institutions are rapidly adopting technology to streamline debt collections mechanisms as well. The ESG initiatives will tie into this phenomenon as lending institutions transition to data-driven debt collections platforms, doing away with manual processes. Traditional approaches undoubtedly impact ESG considerations. Paper-based documentation increases carbon footprint, simultaneously impacting the compliance and governance parameters of financial institutions. The growing incorporation of ESG initiatives is certain to aid the digitization of debt collections practices, something that lenders in India are rapidly transitioning to.
  4. Asset valuations: Sustainable finance may lead to a reassessment of how assets are valued. Companies with strong ESG performance may have higher valuations, while those with poor sustainability records may see their valuations decrease.

Making an impact towards sustainability

ESG and sustainable finance are not merely buzzwords of our time; they represent a profound shift in the way we approach finance and business. This transformative journey takes the financial industry beyond profit margins and balance sheets, urging leaders to consider the wider impact of their decisions on the planet and society.

As we navigate an increasingly interconnected world facing climate change, social inequalities, and environmental degradation, ESG principles are a compass, guiding the global economy towards a more equitable future. They empower investors, businesses, and institutions to be agents of positive change, fostering innovation, responsible governance, and environmental stewardship. The path ahead may be challenging on several grounds, but it is also filled with boundless opportunities. Embracing ESG and sustainable finance is not just a moral imperative; it is a strategic decision that can lead to financial growth, resilience, and a world where prosperity is shared by all.  

If you are looking to transform your debt collections strategy with the power of digital and data-powered insights, reach out to us to request an exploratory session at or visit us at

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