Andrea Krug :
When can we believe a CSR report? New report sheds light on verification process
A new report reveals previously unpublished information about a young but burgeoning multi-million pound global industry operating at the heart of corporate trust: CSR report assurance. The report also contains new statistics about the automobiles industry.
Andrea Krug :
Assure View finds that of all the automotive and parts companies who publish CSR reports, 17 per cent have their reports externally assured. For Europe, the figure is 24 per cent, while none of the reports published in North America have been independently assured.
Assure View is the first report to detail such a wealth of reporting data and statistics. The report outlines who uses assurance, who carries out assurance and what methods are used. This makes it a reference point for all stakeholders, be it reporting companies, assurance providers or consumers who wish to find out more about companies’ social and environmental impact.
Over 2,500 companies worldwide issue annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports to document their policies and performance on key issues, including their environmental and social activities. In 2008 some 3,000 companies are expected to publish a CSR report. Of these, around 750 will include an assurance statement addressing the report’s credibility and completeness.
While CSR reporting has become a basic business requirement due to competitive and regulatory reasons, the vast majority of CSR reports aren’t independently verified. This casts serious doubts on the role, meaning and reliability of such statements. Assure View comes to the following conclusions:
• While there are several established approaches to assurance, there is no generally accepted “best practice” for how companies should collect, evaluate and report non-financial performance data, and how to conduct meaningful non-financial assurance.
• More and more companies recognise the need for external assurance statements. By 2007, twenty-five percent of all CSR reports had an assurance statement.
• Europe leads on assurance, and will continue to be the largest producer of both CSR reports and assurance statements for the foreseeable future. In 2007, nearly 650 external assurance statements were produced globally, of which 64% were for reports published in Europe. North America is the second largest reporting region, but has the lowest uptake in external assurance (7.5%). The assurance rate in Asia (15%) is double that of North America.
CorporateRegister.com, the global CSR resources website, has monitored CSR reporting and assurance for the past decade. Using CorporateRegister.com’s comprehensive CSR report archive, Assure View analyses how assurance statements are used across different countries and sectors, giving an overview of nearly 5,000 assurance statements and an in-depth study of the latest assurance statements from 90 companies.
Assure View has been sponsored by four of the world’s leading assurors active in this field: SGS, KPMG, LRQA and The Re-Assurance Network. Guest commentaries are provided by AccountAbility, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB).
Paul Scott, Managing Director of CorporateRegister.com, said: “This is the first time the field of CSR report assurance has been examined in such breadth and depth. Assure View examines the concepts behind CSR assurance and identifies the key elements which constitute best practice. The statistics and market overviews aren’t obtainable anywhere else and will be of interest for anyone working in this area.”
Rachel Jackson, Head of Social and Environmental Issues at the ACCA, said: “The now widespread importance of sustainbility reporting has raised questions about the value of associated audits. ACCA believes that the credibility of published reports can be enhanced through independent assurance and that the use by assurers of authoritative international standards improves assurance quality and report users’ understanding.”