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Sustainability assurance under the spotlight

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 30 May 2024

ICAEW’s audit and assurance conference, taking place next month, will focus on sustainability assurance in recognition of the vital role it plays in enhancing trust in business.

Alan Vallance, ICAEW Chief Executive, has reiterated the critical role of accountants in supporting the transition to a sustainable economy. 

In a message recorded ahead of ICAEW’s Audit & Assurance Conference 2024 taking place on 10 June, Vallance says: “Obtaining assurance over a company sustainability reporting is essential to help ensure it’s of high quality, reliable and comparable. This allows investors and other users to assess a company’s preparedness for operational changes and market trends that could have a material impact.

“Sustainability is now the primary challenge facing the global economy. It runs through the heart of so much of what we do at ICAEW. Chartered accountants, with their knowledge and skills in measuring, reporting, and assuring, have a critical role to play in transitioning to a sustainable economy.”

Vallance says expectations around sustainability reporting continue to grow as stakeholders increasingly recognise the pivotal role it plays to help set strategy, promote investment and enable growth. 

The proportion of organisations seeking external assurance over their sustainability reporting is continuing to rise. A study by IFAC found that in 2022, 84% of FTSE 100 companies obtained some level of external assurance over their sustainability reporting, up from 68% in 2020. And while audit firms globally continue to provide the majority of sustainability assurance – 58% of environmental, social and governance assurance engagements in 2022 – the market share of audit firms has reduced by six percentage points from a high of 63% in 2019.

As global sustainability reporting and disclosure frameworks continue to evolve, the rising demand for external assurance of sustainability information is a good opportunity to add value and boost confidence, but can also feel like something of a minefield for preparers and assurance providers alike. 

For that reason, ICAEW’s audit and assurance faculty conference will focus in on the major challenges and opportunities of sustainability assurance. The in-person event will provide attendees with a range of perspectives on the importance of sustainability assurance alongside an overview of the evolving regulatory landscape.  

Josephine Jackson, Vice-Chair of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, will provide an update on the new International Standard on Sustainability Assurance (ISSA 5000), which is due to be issued before the end of 2024.

ISSA 5000 is expected to serve as a comprehensive, standalone standard suitable for any sustainability assurance engagement, and will apply to sustainability information reported across any sustainability topic and prepared under multiple frameworks, including the recently released IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards S1 and S2.

Meanwhile, practical sessions will guide members through the intricacies of sustainability assurance and the regulatory landscape, and offer advice on using existing skills and the resources available to ICAEW members, including ICAEW’s Sustainability Certificate. Experts will also offer guidance on managing and improving the availability and quality of sustainability-related data. 

Meanwhile, Mardi McBrien, Chief of Strategic Affairs and Capacity Building at the IFRS Foundation, and Kris Nathanail, Chief of Staff at the International Organization of Securities Commissions, will look at the direction of travel for sustainability assurance, including details of how stakeholder expectations are evolving and some of the key professional skills and ethical considerations, preparers and assurers need to be aware of.

To find out more about the in-person conference and to book your place, please visit Audit & Assurance Conference 2024.


Updated 31 May

This article has been updated to reflect that, due to parliamentary purdah, FRC CEO Richard Moriarty will no longer be appearing at the conference.

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