Jamil Khatri, Co-founder, and CEO at Uniqus Consultech, an ESG consulting firm that launched operations in December by raising $12.5 million in Series A funding, has come down hard at greenwashing, saying he would not encourage such practice among his clients.
Greenwashing is the practice of misleading consumers to believe that a company’s products or practices are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. Greenwashing is on the rise and it puts the investments of the public at risk.
“This is a very critical matter. We believe that as a responsible consulting company, it is our obligation to ensure that we provide the most honest advice to our clients. We will not support practices that represent greenwashing,” Khatri told ETCFO in an exclusive interview.
Uniqus CEO said companies are realising that regulators will come down heavily on such practices, pointing out that in recent times, inadvertent incorrect ESG (environmental, social, governance) disclosures have resulted in penal consequences for companies.
“We are also making companies aware of the regulatory move towards more objective disclosure frameworks,” he said.
Earlier in January, top Brazilian meat processing company JBS faced accusations of greenwashing in the US with plentiful questions raised on the company’s more than $2 billion sustainability-linked bonds. Also, popular brands like Ikea, HSBC, H&M, etc have been accused of greenwashing in the last couple of years.
Khatri stressed that ESG regulations and ESG ratings are a reality and that companies need to ensure that their plans enable them to meet the expectations of the regulators, investors, and other stakeholders who are increasingly tracking ESG plans, disclosures, and ratings.
Regarding expectations from the regulators, he said that just like the economies have seen a convergence in global financial reporting standards over time, the same trend should extend to ESG disclosures. “We are already seeing regulators consider and cross-leverage existing frameworks,” he said.
Uniqus CEO is highly bullish about the next 12 months and said the company will have “sizeable revenues” in CY 23, the first year of operations.
We see significant emerging interest in the US on the sustainability agenda. Asset managers such as BlackRock continue to push their portfolio companies towards better reporting, including use of global frameworks such as Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.Jamil Khatri, Co-founder CEO, Uniqus Consultech
Also, the US regulators continue to evaluate better disclosures, for example, in March 2022, the US Securities & Exchange Commission proposed a rule that would require detailed climate-related disclosures by US-listed companies, including plans for assurance around these disclosures, he pointed out.“Finally, the global nature of operations for many US companies and supply chain considerations, means that demand for ESG consulting in the US is driven not just by US developments but global regulations, which continue to evolve rapidly – the Business Responsibility Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) requirements in India are a good example of where regulations are headed,” Khatri further said.
BRSR requirements, or simply enhanced ESG disclosures, were introduced by India’s market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India for companies beyond a certain threshold from the financial year 2022-23.
Uniqus CEO expects 80% of its revenues to come from global markets such as the US, the middle east, etc over the course of the next 4-5 years. He said Uniqus is well positioned to be more than 250 consultants globally within the next 12 months, also adding the firm is aggressively hiring.
“On accounting advisory, we see large pools of talent, including auditors who want to transition to consulting. We are also recruiting fresh CAs, CPAs and ACCAs. On ESG, we are seeing significant interest from consulting talent that sees Uniqus as a focussed and differentiated ESG company,” Khatri shared. Uniqus will shortly announce the recruitment of a very strong CTO, he said.
Uniqus was co-founded by Khatri last year, who previously was heading the audit business at KPMG. He had quit in June after working more than two decades with the accounting major. In October, Uniqus roped in EY’s financial accounting advisory services leader Sandip Khetan as co-founder. Later in December, concurrently with the Series A fund-raising, Uniqus acquired Sustain Plus, a firm led by ESG specialist Anu Chaudhary.
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