If information is one of the world’s most valuable commodities, Tata Communications Ltd. (Tata Communications) may be one of the most influential companies in the world. Working alongside EDC, Tata Communications is also taking remarkable steps to becoming one of the most responsible.
Registered in Mumbai, India, Tata Communications manages one of the world’s most extensive and advanced submarine cable networks, carrying about 30 percent of the world’s Internet routes, connecting businesses to 80 percent of the world’s clouds and reaching more than 190 countries and territories.
But managing such a vast network comes with increasingly complex risks to human rights, particularly concerning the privacy of personal information, its freedoms, restrictions, uses and abuses.
Recognizing these risks, Tata Communications is dedicated to protecting against them.
"We are committed to good corporate citizenship and our goal is to make a positive, tangible impact on society through our actions and through our products and services,” says Rachita Maker, Vice President and Head of Legal Operations and Compliance at Tata Communications. “We respect human rights and the dignity of all our stakeholders and that’s why we’re always striving to strengthen our environmental and social governance (ESG) practices.”
A critical conversation
It was this dedication to ESG that sparked a critical conversation between EDC and Tata Communications in 2018.
EDC’s association with the company started in 2005, with a financing arrangement that enabled significant procurement from Canadian suppliers in the Information and Communications Technology sector. In the process of renewing the arrangement in 2018, human rights risks were identified by EDC’s ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) team.
“EDC shares Tata Communications’ commitment to strong ESG and we’ve engrained it in the support we provide to companies,” says Ethan Griesbach, Senior Advisor on the ESG team. “So, when these risks came up during a renewal, our two organizations combined to create an action plan to address them.”
The crux of that plan was to conduct a human rights impact assessment of Tata Communications’ business operations, to be carried out by a globally recognized consultancy firm. The focus of this assessment was on identifying and prioritizing salient human rights issues.
Completed in 2020, the findings from the assessment listed certain recommended action items that Tata Communications is committed to implementing them in due course of time. So far, Tata Communications has demonstrated substantial progress towards fulfilling the action items and EDC will continue to work alongside them as they strengthen their practices. Addressing human rights concerns in this way is central to EDC’s continued financial relationship with Tata Communications and will be monitored for ongoing compliance.
“We’re busy with a number of ESG initiatives right now but at the same time, we know that improving ESG isn’t something that has an endpoint - it is an ongoing journey and there is still a considerable amount of work to be done,” says Ms. Maker.
“Identifying human rights risks and then putting the policies and safeguards in place to mitigate against them is an iterative process, and it takes time and resources to get it right,” says Vibhav Agarwal, EDC’s Senior Regional Manager in Asia who manages the Tata Group relationship. “Tata Communications have shown a genuine commitment to aligning with global best practices in their sector. They are bringing in all the right experts and staying engaged with EDC along the way. You can tell from their approach that they understand the inherent value of strengthening their ESG.”
Looking long-term and sustainable
By taking these steps to address human rights concerns, Tata Communications is not only mitigating against financial and reputational risks, but also opening doors to new business opportunities that can lead to long-term and sustainable success.
“Strong ESG practices are becoming a staple of the highest performing companies,” says Ethan. “Many financial institutions around the world, like EDC, are paying increasingly more attention to a company’s ESG record before financing or investing in them.
In this way ESG is becoming both a moral imperative for companies because it’s good for the world and its inhabitants, but also a financial imperative because it’s good for business.”