The year 2018 was a mixed bag on the policy front of responsible business, especially for human rights issues and businesses. The Human Rights Council resolution established a strong connection between 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and international human rights obligations of States. At the same time, in India prominent human rights’ activists were incarcerated for highlighting unethical business practices.
As we move in 2019 with the hope of more policies catalyzing sustainable practices, we list out major policies on anvil this year:
What To Expect In 2019?
1. The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) will take place in Bangkok from March 27 onwards, where stakeholders from the region will discuss the progress on Sustainable Development Goals and develop a roadmap for 2019. The Asia-Pacific SDG roadmap will inform the discussions at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2019, which will take stock of the six focus goals under consideration from a global perspective. SDGs- 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnership for the goals) will be on focus this year.
2. The UN SDG Summit will take place under aegis of the General Assembly. As this will be the fourth year of SDGs, this year’s review will also look at the past four years’ of SDG follow-up and review, including the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) which will review the work of the UN, as well as the mechanisms for implementing and achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
3. The NITI Aayog (GoI) released its SDG national indicator framework in December last year. In 2019, these indicators will be monitored for national-level SDG reporting. The Aayog also released an SDG index.
4. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been working on a framework, since 2017, for standardising green bond issuances and financing issues, to align India with other nations that already have such rules. It is expected to be finalized this year. The green bond is a huge step towards enhancing an issuer’s reputation as it helps in showcasing their commitment towards sustainable development by promoting ‘green projects’.
5. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced the Basel III norms in India in 2003. It aims to get all commercial banks BASEL III-compliant by 2019. Following the norm, banks will be asked to maintain a certain minimum level of capital and not lend all the money they receive from deposits. This acts as a buffer during hard times. The Basel III norms also consider liquidity risks.
6. A revised National Guidelines for Social, Environment and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) is to be launched this year. Its draft was opened for public comments in 2018. India’s National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environment and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) has been in effect since 2011, and is by far the most comprehensive policy framework on business responsibility in India.
7. Following the footsteps of other Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia, Indian government last year announced at the Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva that Indian will also develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP). A zero draft of India’s NAP will be made public this year.
8. After a long battle by the tea plantation workers for minimum wages and decent work, the Indian government is expected to amend the Plantation Labour Act (PLA), 1951 this year. The amendment will come as a major relief for labours and aims at excluding ‘in-kind’ components being regarded as wages.
9. The Indian government is also expected to expedite long pending tweaks in its populist policies in the election year ahead. Labour Ministry has sent a revised The Code on Wages Bill for the Cabinet’s assent on introducing a mandatory minimum wage — which, they said, could perhaps be Rs 9,900 per month — for informal sector workers such as maids, drivers, sweepers, guards, etc.
10. The Union cabinet had in December 2018 approved the Agriculture Export Policy. It will be put in effect from February 1, 2019. The policy aims to double agricultural exports to USD 60 billion by 2022. It also aims to diversify the export basket, destinations, and increase high value and value-added agricultural exports, with focus on perishables.
Overall it’s expected to an eventful year in terms of major policy changes!