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Working together for the planet: audit & assurance of sustainability information

Date

30 Apr 2021

Sections

Sustainable Dev.

EU and global experts discussed the opportunities and challenges of audit and assurance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) information, at a joint ACCA, ECIIA, Deloitte and Accountancy Europe eventattended by over 780 participants.

A substantial transformation of the sustainability reporting landscape is underway, but for ESG information to meet users needs, allow for informed decision-making and ensure proper functioning of capital markets, its users need to be able to trust it. The entire EU Sustainable Finance policy is very data intensive, and the information to be reported needs some level of assurance to give trust for investors.

Ahead of COP 26, as the European Commission recently issued its eagerly awaited new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which, for the first time, introduces an EU-wide requirement for assurance of sustainability information, and the IAASB its EER assurance Guidance, ACCA, ECIIA, Deloitte and Accountancy Europe organised a thought-provoking discussion on Audit & Assurance of Sustainability Information, to explore the opportunities and address the practical challenges profiling, as the journey is just starting. The event also launched a new Guide on Natural Capital Management developed by  ACCA, ECIIA and Deloitte that includes the key principles that should govern the natural capital internal audit assignments and external assurance engagements.

Sharon Machado, head of Business Reporting at ACCA and lead author of the new Guide on Natural Capital Management, opened the debate saying: ‘Internal and external auditors are well placed to play a crucial role in sustainability audit and assurance because of their public interest remit. The core purpose of the audit profession is to support the creation, protection and communication of sustainable value through their assignments. Our Guide outlines a four-step approach to assignments, an approach developed using the insight from standard setters, and from internal and external audit experts - who understand the need for integrated thinking across sustainability, financial and non-financial issues. Auditors must maintain their expertise by remaining committed to continual learning that extends beyond qualification to continual professional development and importantly via collaboration. It is with this base, together with the features of their role that they can influence ethical decision-making.’

The discussions revealed three main challenges. The first is time – climate change and the urgency of achieving the SDGs does not allow for taking 5 or 10 years for discussions, investors are waiting for relevant data now. The second is the question of skills: sustainability reporting and assurance require many different competences, and experienced sustainability professionals are clearly lacking. It is also about training CFOs, governance bodies; internal and statutory auditors also need to ensure they have adequate knowledge to be able to extend their scope of responsibility to sustainability. The third challenge is while there is a need for good long-term investments for the future, in the short-term, significant investments will also be needed to design standards, to implement reporting processes and tools, and to develop audit capabilities.

Massimiliano Turconi, Head of Group Internal Audit at Ferrero International, and ECIIA board member, said: ‘Internal Audit (IA), if mature, is well positioned to provide independent assurance on a wide variety of risks. We must adapt our mindset and skills to meet the broad and exciting challenges of sustainability assignments. We are ready for this call and we must better use the resources of IA by cooperating with the different players, based on the three lines of defence model and including the external assurance providers’.

This is the beginning of the journey, and there are many questions that need to be answered such as the subject matter – what information is needed to assure within the sustainability reporting statements? What is the scope of assurance - do we want to assure the report as a whole or only some KPIs? And what about the forward-looking information, scenario analysis, transition pathways, which will inherently be having a different level of assurance? Other questions are linked to the work effort - what is the appropriate quantity of assurance to provide? How can we guarantee consistency of assurance standards and practices amongst practitioners within Europe, and globally?

Julien Rivals, Vice-Chair of Accountancy Europe’s Sustainability Working Group and Deloitte France Sustainability Practice Co-Lead concluded: ‘There are 50 shades of assurance at the moment - we have now to clarify the one we need for sustainability information in Europe. The statutory auditor has a key role to play, and it would be a mistake to consider this just as a new field of services for the profession. This is a deep move towards an integrated approach of audit. The profession is preparing for it and will take its part of the challenges because it is its purpose to do so. We have a special societal role to play between companies and stakeholders to create trust and to support a more sustainable economy. We are “CSRD ready”. But there is some work to be done together to design collectively the assurance we need for sustainability reporting’.

Ends

Notes to editors

About ACCA

For media enquiries, contact: Cecile Bonino, ACCA Head of EU Affairs  

Email : cecile.bonino-liti@accaglobal.com  

Mob: +32 (0) 493 29 17 66 

www.accaglobal.com

@ACCAViews

ACCA is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. We’re a thriving global community of 227,000 members and 544,000 future members based in 176 countries and regions that upholds the highest professional and ethical values. 

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society that supports both public and private sectors. That’s why we’re committed to the development of a strong global accountancy profession and the many benefits that this brings to society and individuals. 

Since 1904 being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. And because we’re a not-for-profit organisation, we build a sustainable global profession by re-investing our surplus to deliver member value and develop the profession for the next generation. 

Through our world leading ACCA Qualification, we offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. And using our respected research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing us for tomorrow. 

Find out more about us at accaglobal.com

About Accountancy Europe

Accountancy Europe unites 50 professional organisations from 35 countries that represent close to 1 million professional accountants, auditors and advisors. They make numbers work for people. Accountancy Europe translates their daily experience to inform the public policy debate in Europe and beyond.

Accountancy Europe is in the EU Transparency Register (No 4713568401-18).

Find out more at: accountancyeurope.eu

About ECIAA

The European Confederation of Institutes of Internal Auditing (ECIIA) is the professional representative body of 34 national institutes of internal audit in the wider geographic area of Europe and the Mediterranean basin and  represents 47.000 internal auditors

The mission of ECIIA is to be the consolidated voice for the profession of internal auditing in Europe by dealing with the European Union, its Parliament and Commission and any other appropriate institutions of influence.

The primary objective is to further the development of corporate governance and internal audit through knowledge sharing, key relationships and regulatory environment oversight.

Find out more about us at eciia.eu

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), its global network of member firms, and their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”). DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) and each of its member firms and related entities are legally separate and independent entities, which cannot obligate or bind each other in respect of third parties. DTTL and each DTTL member firm and related entity is liable only for its own acts and omissions, and not those of each other. DTTL does not provide services to clients. Please see www.deloitte.com/ about to learn more.

Deloitte is a leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services. Our global network of member firms and related entities in more than 150 countries and territories (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”) serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies. Learn how Deloitte’s approximately 330,000 people make an impact that matters at www.deloitte.com . 

This communication contains general information only, and none of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, its member firms or their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte network”) is, by means of this communication, rendering professional advice or services. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your finances or your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser. No entity in the Deloitte network shall be responsible for any loss whatsoever sustained by any person who relies on this communication.​

 

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