When the pandemic ends, the world will resume to some normalcy and we can all take a collective breath while we look back, and reflect on the horrors of the past few years. We might ask what we could have done better. We might second-guess our decisions. We might implement new processes and procedures in its aftermath, and we will certainly remember those we have lost and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Time has flown by—especially in the environment we have all been experiencing. In fact, it is hard to believe that it has now been four years since we came together in New Delhi at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to launch the Business Ethics Leadership Alliance South Asia Chapter. On that September day, we pledged to build a community of leaders committed to developing and implementing best practices in business ethics and integrity that would help drive today’s industry, and benefit future generations. Without the benefit of hindsight, at that time who could have predicted just how valuable this Chapter would become in such a short time.

Going back to our operating principles for the Chapter, one of our goals was to continuously support our peers through curating content and resources to raise the

Aarti Maharaj, Director, BELA South Asia

Aarti Maharaj, Director, BELA South Asia

bar on ethics and integrity across India—and we have stayed true to that four years later—even during a pandemic that has not spared anyone.

A true test of leadership, we witnessed businesses that lacked established playbooks to deal with something of this magnitude, yet they responded at an uncommon level, with compassion for their employees, customers and stakeholders, and with vigilance toward keeping their communities safe— and it is working.

In light of this, a recent BELA South Asia vaccination compliance survey revealed that the majority of companies are looking to bring their staff back to the office or provide a hybrid option depending on the employee’s situation. Moreover, close to 90 percent of leaders intend to drive vaccination initiatives to educate employees about the importance of taking the vaccine. Those who had no established playbook now have the ultimate plan to deal with what was once thought of as unimaginable. To support this, according to CII’s Chief Executive Officers (CEO) poll of 119 top corporates, recovery from the second wave of the pandemic in April-May will be swifter compared to the first wave in 2020. Another example, of a resilient India fending off the blow of the pandemic.

Yet, there is strength in numbers. Over the past year, we have welcomed a series of new members including Ab Inbev, Amazon, Glenmark, KKR, SNC Lavalin, and more, who will contribute to our events and support Founding Members in steering the direction of the Chapter. And as the Chapter continues to grow, so too does our ability to expand the available suite of resources, data set, events, and content, which has proven so valuable during the crisis—all driven by the data and intellect that you, our the members of the BELA South Asia community, provide.

The insights and engagement of ethics and compliance leaders and the executive leadership from member companies across India have bolstered our value as a Chapter, and has clearly contributed to companies maintaining ethical standards when all around them was chaos. Looking ahead to 2022, we intend to continue to build our chapter and capitalize on what is yet untapped talent and intellect. This year’s 2021 BELA South Asia magazine highlights how leaders in the BELA South Asia Chapter are working towards identifying, measuring, and enacting meaningful progress. In the following pages, you will see stories of integrity-in-action chronicled by members of our community such as Accenture, Dell Technologies, Dr. Reddy’s, GE, 3M, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Tata Steel, and much more.

We are pleased to share these stories with you and hope you will take the time to read them. In his 1776 book called Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote about the challenging state of the fledgling American Revolution; “These are days that try men’s souls.” Like those times, many souls have been tested in the past year in South Asia and around the globe. But because of India’s resiliency, our spirited brands working as one, strong leadership, and a connection borne from one community; one chapter, with one goal, we passed the test. That is indeed India Strong!

Written by: Aarti Maharaj, Managing Director, BELA South Asia and Asia Pacific