PwC India has launched a framework for the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) assessment of cities, developed in partnership with the Centre for Water and Sanitation (CWAS), CEPT Research & Development Foundation (CRDF) at CEPT University.
The framework is aimed to encourage Indian cities to become ESG-ready and create an enabling environment for investors in the country. It includes 62 indicators covering themes on global development goals and national commitments, in addition to the municipal functions mandated to local governments, PwC India said in a release.
The ESG rating system developed for the assessment of cities starts with 'Initiators', which are cities that have indicated their intent to undertake a few actions on the E, S and G fronts. An increasing score leads to a city being ranked as an 'Aspirant', 'Performer' and subsequently an 'Achiever', it said.
Speaking on the launch of the framework, Meera Mehta, Head, CWAS-CRDF-CEPT University, said, infrastructure for development in India has been generally financed through public funds. However, there are some emerging blended finance approaches and a revival of municipal and green bonds.
"Cities are being encouraged to raise their own funds in the market. ESG, as it is important for corporate financing, is also likely to become important for cities in their efforts. The idea of ESG for cities is not just to build credentials with investors and regulators but to also create awareness on how cities themselves respond to existing government programmes for environment, social and governance issues," Mehta said.
Nidish Nair, Executive Director – Climate Resilience and Cities, PwC India, said, the CWAS and PwC team shall support cities that wish to deep-dive into the assessment, and explore improvements in aspects related to environment, social and governance with more granular, city-specific and comparative insights derived from the framework and ratings.
"Such insights could drive better allocation of technical and financial resources by cities and potential investors as well as become an integral part of the cities' investment programmes. An interactive dashboard has also been developed for cities and investors to explore their areas of focus," Nair added.
The framework has been applied initially to 20 cities, for demonstration purposes, using publicly available information. An ESG rating is derived for each city based on the score assigned to the three pillars.
The cities include Ranchi, Nagpur, Pune, Karimnagar, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nashik, and Solapur.
PwC India said the ESG assessment framework shows that the 20 pilot cities have performed well on the 'Social' pillar, which can be attributed to recent government welfare programmes.
On the other hand, their performance was mixed on the 'Governance' pillar – while urban local bodies (ULBs) of cities are demonstrating greater accountability, the fiscal health of these cities is yet to reach a satisfactory level.
Further, there is considerable scope for improvement on the 'Environmental' pillar, with low scores on indicators around water resource management, commute systems and green ecosystem, despite many cities scoring well on policy interventions focused on sustainable development, it said.