December 15, 2021
By: Tom Seidenstein, IAASB Chair
Momentum is gathering for increased sustainability/environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting requirements for companies. Investors, policymakers, and a broad range of stakeholders seek higher quality, increasingly standardized reporting on companies’ performance on non-financial measure. And with this, demand for assurance engagements that enhance the degree of confidence of the intended users of sustainability/ESG reporting is growing.
We at the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB), the independent audit and assurance standard setter serving more than 130 countries, expect the drive for added corporate reporting and disclosure on sustainability and climate-related information only to accelerate. We see the trend moving from voluntary reporting commitments to requirements mandated by jurisdictions throughout the world. The European Union’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive is an important example in that direction. The establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) by our counterpart organization, the IFRS Foundation, enhances the likelihood of a trusted and independent source developing globally accepted reporting standards as the basis of requirements.
As with financial reporting, the IAASB believes that market participants are best served when financial and other reported information benefits from external assurance, provided by professionals committed to the public interest and highest ethical standards. For this reason, in the past the IAASB has devoted significant energy to creating standards to govern assurance of non-financial information. We have a well-established umbrella standard, International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000 (Revised), Assurance Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information, and subject-matter specific standards such as, ISAE 3410, Assurance Engagements on Greenhouse Gas Statements. In April of this year, we published guidance aimed at helping assurance professionals apply our umbrella standard to sustainability and other non-financial (or extended external reporting) assurance engagements.
We know that our work is only the beginning, a solid foundation to build upon. This is why we committed to do more work to enhance the assurance of sustainability/ESG reporting when we approved our new 2022-2023 work plan last week.
The IAASB agreed to dedicate capacity and resources to the assurance of sustainability/ESG reporting. Information gathering and research activities, using dedicated staff resources, to determine future IAASB action will commence in January 2022. This initial work will also determine the precise scope and timing of the IAASB’s efforts. The initial work will also include a willingness to collaborate with key stakeholders throughout the world, including the standard-setting and regulatory communities.
We recognize that our initial consultations could lead to:
· Developing new subject-matter specific standard(s) that build on and supplement ISAE 3000 (Revised);
· Targeted enhancements to ISAE 3000 (Revised), as necessary; or
· Other related actions that are necessary in the public interest. For example, revising our existing guidance or developing new guidance.
Our March 2022 IAASB meeting will the first opportunity to provide feedback, share views and discuss next steps (you can listen to our discussions via YouTube).
We are conscious that demand for enhanced requirements and guidance is high; it is why we are positioning the IAASB to act in a coordinated and responsive manner.