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Safety Niti 2023: Have the auto brands' improved their worker-safety policies & actions? ESG?

Have India's top 10 auto sector brands further improved their policies and actions to save thousands of workers from losing their fingers, every year, in their supply chain? Which are the best and the worst brands now in these policies? Will ESG deliver this? What does workers, IICA, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Industry (Bajaj Auto) and Business Human Rights Experts from academia and UN say omn the matter? Please do read our findings see videos below and send us your thoughts at

We released Safety Niti 2023, the 3rd annual edition of one of our two flagship reports on worker-safety, tracking the top 10 auto sector brands’ OSH policies and their implementation, e on August 11th, 2023.

The report was released by a group of injured workers, as well as Dr Garima Dadhich- Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs; Mr. Gorakh G Velapurkar -Vice President (Materials), Bajaj Auto; Prof Dev Nathan- Institute for Human Development, Delhi and the Safe in India team.

The panel discussion (see short videos below) was on: “Will ESG reporting deliver supply chain sustainability in the auto sector supply chain? Does it measure and report on the real changes on the ground that must follow an improvement in policies on paper?”

The Issue

As stated in our previous reports - CRUSHED 2019, CRUSHED 2020, Safety Niti 2021, CRUSHED 2021, Safety Niti 2022, and CRUSHED 2022, huge number of serious injuries in the auto-sector supply chain are a national and a multi-brand problem.

This is evident from 6,000+ injured workers, assisted by us in the past six years, of which 1,500+ just in the past financial year in only three districts. Of these, around 80% of the injured workers continue to be from the auto sector supply chain. We believe that there would be 10,000+such disabling injuries every year in the auto sector, annually, and involves suppliers of all top 10 brands: Ashok Leyland, Bajaj, Eicher, Hero, Honda, Hyundai, Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, Tata and TVS.

What do workers want the auto-sector brands to do? Please hear an injured worker, Ram Singh Parihar, from Pune, talk about it:

"हमारी फैक्ट्रियों में मशीनों का मेंटेनेंस ठीक समय पर नहीं होता है और नाही मेंटेनेंस कास्टॉफ हर समय पर मौजूद रहता हैं। हम जब बताते है कि मशीन खराब है, तब भी मेंटेनेंस नहीं करते हैं। हम चाहते है कि मशीनों का मेंटेनेंस अच्छी तरह से हमेशा होते रहना चाहिए।" - राम सिंह परिहार

Findings of SafetyNiti2023:

There has been a slow but steady improvement in brands’ occupational safety and health policies since Safety Niti 2021, with Bajaj and Honda having most improved on several parameters, while TVS and Ashok Leyland continue to be at the bottom.

But a lot is still needed to be improved in the policies and their implementation in the deeper supply chain.

Below is the video presentation on all report findings. For full findings, please check Chapter 6 of the report (page 51)

What does IICA, Ministry of Corporate Affairs think of auto sector brands' responsibility for this issue under Indian guidelines? Pls see video below:

“National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct demand businesses to be responsible for their value chains” – Dr Garima Dadhich, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs on the importance of taking OSH to the supply chain.

Why and what worker-safety policies for supply chain have been improved by Bajaj since SafetyNiti 2021? Please see them talking about it in the video below:

“We have laid emphasis on the process-based checklists and identified best practices with suppliers. We have revisited our Supplier Code of Conduct (SCoC) and made it binding to its suppliers, which includes components of Responsible Business. We support our suppliers.”

- Mr. Gorakh G Velapurkar, Vice President (Materials), Bajaj Auto on Bajaj’s actions in OSH.

Which auto-sector brands have improved, and which have not? Significant improvement in brands’ publicly declared occupational safety and health policies, including on attaining parity between permanent and non-permanent workers.

What does an accomplished expert in Business & Human Rights say about the responsibility of auto-sector brands? Pls see video below:

“There should be no difference in treatment of contract workers onsite or offsite. There is a need for a policy of implementation, and these contracted works should be treated as a department of the Principal Company...Voices of the workers is the most important; third party audits are not sufficient, and audits should include worker’s voice.” - Dr Dev Nathan- Professor, Institute for Human Development on what needs to be done on the human rights issue that OSH is and on what can be done.

Despite some improvement in publicly declared policies a lot needs to be done still. For example, none of the brands appears to have an SOP or a comprehensive OSH implementation plan for their deeper supply chain.

Procedures, and processes for implementing these policies – mapping the supply chain, audits, monitoring, and reporting, are missing across brands.

How does auto sector (Bajaj Auto) balance worker-safety related costs and business? Please see video below:

“We want our entire supply chain to be safe and competent – Tier 1s to Tier 4s.” - Mr. Gorakh G Velapurkar, Vice President (Materials), Bajaj Auto on working with suppliers on occupational safety and health.

What is needed to bridge the gap between policy and implementation? Pls see video below.

“Supply chains are contracted by brands like garment brands. They are not like we buy something from a shop. They (the auto sector brands) are therefore responsible (for this).”

- Dr Dev Nathan- Professor, Institute for Human Development on the responsibility of the brands for the safety and health of workers in the supply chain

“Normally nobody reports near misses. Consumption of first aid medicine and near misses has not matched in any company. This is a critical point for unsafe actions.” – Mr. Harish Thadani, DGM, Expanded Polymer Systems Pvt Ltd, who attended the event.

Impact of ESG-driven guidelines and reporting frameworks

Irrespective of geo-political considerations in the global economy today, meeting the national and international guidelines on occupational safety & health, human rights and basic humanitarian considerations are significant market barriers that influence investments and market access.

Increasing reporting requirements from Europe, Japan, and others along with increasing domestic reporting requirements (e.g., Expanded scope by SEBI of reporting by listed companies on injuries and ill-health of their non-permanent workers and workers in their supply chain) would require these top 10 OEMs and similar Indian corporates/MNCs in India to take more responsibility for human rights (including OSH) in their supply chain.

Guidelines and reporting requirements from India (SEBI), European Commission and Japan

What does IICA, MCA say about reporting requirements of non-publicly listed MNCs, which are not required to report BRSR (Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report), an unfair advantage over publicly listed businesses in India? Pls see video below.

“The growing trend towards ESG reporting globally being mandated by governments and other regulatory bodies will lead to convergence of the reporting formats and information provided.” - Dr Garima Dadhich, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs on the need for and impact of reporting formats.

Chitra Khanna, Head of Safety, Safe in India, explains in the video below, that Occupational Safety & Health is now a Fundamental Principle and Right at Work (ILO), top 1000 Indian listed companies will now report on safety in their value chain as part of the new Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting format (SEBI), and due diligence in the supply chain is a requirement as per new directives internationally, including by the European Commission and Japan.

What does UN BHR say about the issue and especially the forthcoming Human Rights Due Diligence? Please see the video below.

“Companies have started doing HRDD (Human Rights Due Diligence) as per UN’s new framework, but the question is how do you trickle down the initiatives to the value chain?...Roles of all organizations like UNDP are to make sure that we are training and building capacities of the suppliers which are MSMEs in India.” -Ms. Harpreet Kaur, Business and Human Rights Specialist, UNDP

What is the Human Rights approach to this issue? Please see the video below.

“Please refer to the unique reference in P3 of the NGRBC's to the families of (disabled/injured) workers and the human rights impact on them, which seems to be a relatively neglected aspect of current approaches and discussions.” - Viraf Mehta, Chief Executive - Partners in Change

Our recommendations and continuing action (s):

We have been making a consistentseries of recommendations for all stakeholders including OEMs, ACMA & SIAM, ILO & similar organizations, and the government at central & state & their agencies. Policy recommendatios for auto sector brands:

  1. Include all contract workers in the OSH policy statement.

  2. Create, publish, implement, and monitor a Supplier Code of Conduct (SCoC).

  3. Create, publish, and implement an SOP for the deeper supply chain.

  4. Report annually on Indicator 8.8 of SDG 8 as per GRI 403 and NSE guidelines

  5. Demand minimum compliance from the supply chains e.g., ESIC registration on the day of joining as legally required.

Operational recommendations for auto sector brands:

  1. OEM boards should take responsibility for safety in the supply chain (in accordance with UNDP and ILO)

  2. Create a joint industry-level task force with SIAM (with SII participation, if appropriate).

  3. Map the deeper supply chain.

  4. Improve transparency and accountability of accident reporting in the supply chain, weed out habitual offenders and reward the safest factories commercially.

  5. Improve/Initiate ground-level actions, e.g., honest worker safety audits and worker training in Tier 1s and 2s.

Sandeep Sachdeva, Co-Founder and CEO, explains Safe in India’s recommendations for OEMs and the government, and Safe in India’s focus for the future in the video below:

How can the auto sector accelerate actions and come together to make it happen?

“We are focusing on power presses, a big problem as Safe in India has highlighted.” - Mr. Gorakh G Velapurkar, Vice President (Materials), Bajaj Auto on working as part of the larger worker safety ecosystem.

“The lack of concern for safety - how much of this is a business decision involving profits or systemic issues and how much of this is a callous or indifferent approach of industry?” – Mr. Sachin Sachdeva, Country Director, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

“We, the Safe in India team, will continue showing a mirror to the industry and to keep engaging constructively with auto sector brands to help improve their policies and push for better implementation. For this, we thank seven of the top 10 brands, namely Bajaj, Eicher, Hero, Honda, Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki, and Tata, who are engaging with us, albeit at varying degrees. Why are Mahindra, TVS and Ashok Leyland not engaging? We hope they do now and will keep trying” -Sandeep Sachdeva, Co-Founder & CEO, Safe in India Foundation.

An introduction to Safe in India’s work is in this short video here:

A question for you, dear readers: Do you ask your auto sector brands about their actions to save thousands of productive hands? Hands that make this country. Hands that make our cars, motorcycles, scooters, trucks, buses and all other vehicles. Hands, without which Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas is just not possible.

Join hands to save hands.

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