WBCSD urges better assurance of sustainability reports

19th February 2016

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  • Business & Industry ,
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  • Auditing


Leanne Laughton

Businesses are not benefitting as much as they could from external validation of corporate sustainability reports, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Third-party checks of corporate sustainability reports are increasingly important in providing external validation of the financial, social and environmental disclosures made, WBCSD said. Independent assurance statements also help companies enhance their credibility and reassure readers of reports that their disclosures are reliable, it added.

WBCSD has found that the use of assurance has increased year-on-year among its members, with around 91% of the 169 reports it reviewed last year being subject to an assurance process, up from 81% the previous year.

Of this sample, 78% of obtained external assurance, with 13% only used internal audits. These figures compared with 73% and 8% in 2014 respectively.

WBCSD has launched guidance to help businesses get the most from external assurance. It outlines advice from assurance providers and standards bodies, including the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

Rodney Irwin, WBCSD managing director, said that many companies were improving the quality of their sustainability information, but that many challenges remained.

‘We wanted to get some clarity on the state of the art practices and expectations from our members, reporters and also assurance providers and standard setters. The WBCSD assurance maturity model aims to help those who seek assurance services understand where they are, where they want to go, and how they can generate value through continuous improvement,’ he said.

Despite recent initiatives from various bodies and the existence of a number of assurance standards that are used globally, there is still no consensus on an overarching assurance standard for sustainability, the WBCSD said.

However, recent developments among assurance standards setters are promising and appear to be moving practice in this general direction, it noted.


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