On May 20, 2021, in the middle of a devastating outbreak of Covid-19 in India, and at a time when vaccination supplies were running short across the country, a vaccine manufacturing company put out a press release. It claimed that it had ramped up its vaccine production capacity, and soon large supplies would be available. The press release and its numbers were widely reported with little skepticism, even though at the time the prevailing situation had created enough room for doubt.

Subsequent reportage did delve on shortages and vaccine policy, but mostly did not question the company’s claims. In the midst of a pandemic where vaccines hold the potential to save millions of lives, a sound immunisation policy, sufficient vaccine stocks, their storage, delivery, last mile availability are all crucial elements. At such a time, journalism’s role of constant vigilance is not simply a desirable public good, but of critical importance.

Source: giphy.com/butler

The example of the story on the vaccine manufacturer mentioned above was first pointed out by Sridhar V., a journalist who reports for the magazine, Frontline in a Twitter thread. He explains the gap:

“Legally, it is established that companies are as good as citizens. And if that is so, then companies must also be subjected to the discipline that every other citizen is required to. So in the coverage of companies, it is incumbent on the media and on media practitioners to subject them to the test if they are abiding by their duties as citizens of a country.”

“Companies exist in a socio-political, economic context”, Sridhar adds.

“For example, in the pandemic when vaccines are in short supply, the media is duty bound to ask them questions. They need to ask the producers of vaccines whether they are doing enough to meet the demand. Given that vaccines are the only significant response to the disease and the virus… that they are humanity’s only known answer to the virus, as the media we are duty bound to ask companies whether they are doing enough in public interest. That is the spirit in which I put out that Twitter thread – I have nothing personal against these companies. I just think citizens need to know why there is a shortage and why what are the problems in scaling up? We are duty bound in public interest to find out and to inform the public about why this is so.”

This kind of reportage that Sridhar highlighted, is unfortunately an exception.

Press release journalism – or reproducing large chunks of press releases by companies, and even governments – has become a common practice. There are exceptions to every rule, but reportage centred on or foregrounded around press releases and news about businesses and corporations also has another gap – a fairly stark one. It largely tends to focus on financial performance of companies and/or industrial sectors;  the bulk of the reportage, commentary and analysis focuses on developments such as growth, mergers and acquisitions, fundraising etc.

Source: giphy.com/jibrel

Of course, these are important indicators to evaluate companies – financial performance is critical for shareholders, investors, competitors, as well as  for market forecasts and economic assessments. But there is more to business than just that. Companies are not abstract entities. The profits and revenues are earned on the backs of people’s labour. In addition to their own employees, companies also impact the lives of those working in supply chains, as well as those who consume their services and products. They have an ecological footprint. Large companies have a substantial influence on policy decisions and considerations. Robust reportage on the world of work and businesses must also focus on all these significant aspects.

We are acutely aware that this gap in journalism is not necessarily because of the lack of intent of individual reporters, or even newsroom editors and publishers. Being a part of the news industry comes with several challenges and pressures, and it is often a struggle to simply stay viable. Taking on large corporations that have huge resources and exert immense influence on institutions and policies  comes with serious threats of criminal cases, intimidation and even violent attacks.

Furthermore, India is not the easiest place to be a journalist. According to the non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders,  it is, in fact, one of “the most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly”. India  currently ranks 142 (among 180) on the World Press Freedom’s Index, down from 133 in 2016. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the media to hold powerful entities to account without considerable risk. For reporters based in rural areas and smaller cities, and especially those who work in a language other than English, the risk is exacerbated because their stories sit on the margins of mainstream coverage and elite readership. They neither have the resources nor the support (including training, mentorship and platforms) available to their urban  counterparts who report for the English press. And yet, they are the ones at the frontlines investigating stories of critical importance, often at great personal and professional risk. Very often, their voices get silenced without even causing a ripple of outrage or shock outside their circles.

And yet, so many journalists and newsrooms continue to show remarkable persistence and go great lengths to uncover stories that are of vital public interest. We believe we need more of them.

And we hope to help in our own little way.

In 2021, while journalism remains an immensely challenging profession, the availability of important sources of information, many of them online, is an opportunity for effective, impactful and compelling journalism. Companies are required to put out large amounts of information to SEBI, and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. These public documents are mines of data points and stories. Many of these remain hidden in plain sight.

But navigating these websites and documents can turn out to be a confusing, and sometimes intimidating task, especially when one has no prior experience of dealing  with them. The best way to learn is by actually working with the documents, sifting through them, and spending time with them. This will help  reporters, academics, students and analysts to join the dots, find the stories and see whether what they claim is actually reflected on the ground. Or vice versa, whether ground realities paint a different picture compared to what is being submitted.

How does one get started without knowing how and where to access these resources?

This is when the  learning module comes into play.

Who is this module for?

Our aim here is to equip journalists, students, researchers and anyone interested in exploring how the world of business impacts people, communities and the natural world.

Across each of its six chapters, the module will have:

✅ Step-by-step guides on specific online resources and how to find a story.

✅ Approaching business responsibility as a journalistic concept.

✅ Methods on how to layer stories, make them intersectional and break silos between business and social sector reportage.

The module will be a handy tool and a quick reckoner for young and mid-career reporters across beats, whether they cover policy, business, human rights or specialize in data, text and/or multimedia journalism. The skills, perspectives and resources in the chapters ahead will make it easier for them to write, report, research on corporations, complete with their intersectionality.

Media colleges, as well as those training institutes that have subjects on policy, environment, and development economics, will find this module to be a valuable teaching aid. It will serve as a step-by-step guide that will bring to the classroom, skill sets, resources and tools developed, used and honed by practising journalists and researchers. As important as this is for those in the profession, college students who want to develop skills that help them better understand how environment, land rights, labour and gender  intersect with businesses, and therefore the world we live in, will find it relevant.



While this guide has been designed to facilitate more robust reportage on business responsibility, researchers, academics and policy makers working on the intersection of business and human rights might also find this as a useful resource. They will be able to put into practise  these nuts-and-bolts skills and situate small strands in a larger policy context.

How to use this module?

Each of the chapters in this series covers an important aspect of business responsibility. We have designed it in such a way that users can navigate the chapters in order of their preference, or choose to focus only on specific chapters and sections, instead of having to go through the module in a progressive manner.

🌐 The web version of the module is a text-based guide, with multimedia elements wherever needed. 

📹 For those who prefer learning by watching and listening, this module is also available as a videobook.

 📄 To facilitate ease of use in the absence of a good internet connection, the module will also be available as a downloadable PDF document, translated in multiple languages. Do watch out for that in the download section of each chapter.

Regardless of how you consume it, our hope is that you will learn by actively engaging with the curriculum. That instead of simply reading and watching, you will actively follow the step-by-step process, and try to find the information or documents, so that you can start using some of it in your work. 

We hope this module will serve as a springboard and enable you to use at least some of these skills and concepts independently in your work. We envision this curriculum as a living document, and will continue to update it based on your feedback and requirements. Please feel free to reach out to us, should you have any questions, or if you’d like us to cover more resources.

We would be absolutely delighted to learn about how some of this curriculum has helped you. If you are able to use some of your learnings in your work, please do share them with us. You can reach out via the form at the end of the chapter. We’d love to hear back from you! 

Who has developed this module?

This module has been developed by Oxfam India in partnership with Newsworthy. Oxfam India has been supported and funded by a generous grant from the European Union, as part of its project, “From Global Goals to Local Impact (GGLI)”. The project recognises UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a key vehicle to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ on human rights and promote responsible business conduct.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present an opportunity for civil society to engage with the private sector on a range of sustainable development issues from a rights-based perspective. Understanding and improving the role of the private sector in creating a sustainable and inclusive society remains the focus of this project. 


Oxfam India is a movement of people working to end discrimination and create a free and just society. As part of its responsible business work, Oxfam India has been strengthening the narrative on responsible supply chains by addressing the issues of smallholder farmers, migrant and informal workers engaged in global value chains. Oxfam India has also been engaging extensively with all relevant stakeholders (civil society, students, private sector, government bodies and media) with an objective to promote the role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs.

The Oxfam India Team

Ranjana Das

She is the Lead Specialist - Private Sector Engagement at Oxfam India. Her work is currently on Responsible Supply Chain mainly in the sectors of Assam tea and UP sugarcane. She is also developing a portfolio on informal sector work for Oxfam India. She has extensively worked on gender, livelihood and health issues over the last 17 years.

Ileena Roy

She works as a Project Officer at Oxfam India’s Private Sector Engagement unit. She is currently managing the “From Global Goals to Local Impact (GGLI)” project and Oxfam India’s sugar supply chain work. Her experience spans sustainability and human rights issues in the development sector

Tejas Patel

He is Deputy Director, Public Engagement at Oxfam India. He is a Media, Communications and Public Advocacy professional with extensive experience of over 19 years in leading media houses as well as international human rights organisation Amnesty International.

Newsworthy is a storytelling platform. We believe authentic, intersectional, diverse storytelling can be the way of a more just and inclusive world. A collective of journalists, researchers, and creators who love helping inspiring partners connect, create and measure social impact and change.

The Newsworthy Team 

Akshi Chawla

She is an independent researcher, and writer. Her work focuses on inclusion, social justice and welfare benefits, told through a gender lens.

Sana Amir

She is an independent multimedia journalist and producer. Her work focuses on telling stories in innovative and engaging ways with the help of new media formats.

Anubha Bhonsle

She is an independent journalist and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Newsworthy, a storytelling platform that empowers journalism, a spirit of inquiry, social impact and community. We do this through intersectional storytelling, agile and scalable knowledge products and measuring for impact.

For this module, titled Making Businesses Responsible, we have been privileged to bring in the expertise of journalists, domain experts, entrepreneurs and Oxfam’s own cohort of specialists. Many of our contributors and experts have been associated with previous workshops on the same subject, held in Delhi, Mumbai and Raipur where a more on-ground, in-person version of this module was taught. The lessons from there have been used to frame and hone these sections. There are others who have given their time, valuable insights and helped fill lacunae and gaps.

We are very grateful to Vivek Law, Govindraj Ethiraj, Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Bahar Dutt, Namit Agarwal, Dhrubo Jyoti and Namita Waikar who led sessions during our in-person training. Their insights have helped us enrich our understanding of the subject, and design this module better.

We are very thankful to Viraf Mehta, John Samuel Raja, Dheeraj, Harpreet Kaur, Arpitha Kodiveri, Jyotsna Siddharth for their mentorship, scholarship and guidance in helping us develop various sections of this module.

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