Best Practice in CSR Report Assurance Identified
As corporate social responsibility reporting has become more and more common in the last ten years, so have stakeholder demands for third party verification to prove the accuracy and ensure the credibility of these reports. And much in the same way that CSR reports have become more sophisticated, a consensus has emerged on what the elements of a good assurance statement are. According to CorporateRegister.com’s recent study into the matter (Assure View: The CSR Assurance Statement Report1), the elements that an assurance statement should contain to make it meaningful and that constitute best practice are: references to accepted standards; specific declarations from the assurance provider, such as a statement of independence; the methodology followed; recommendations and opinions; and a conclusion.
“In our experience, these elements make for a solid and meaningful assurance statement. It is certainly the process we follow as we provide independent verification of corporate responsibility reports for our customers. If approached in the most appropriate way for each company, it can act as a driver for continuous improvement to corporate responsibility performance, and that is exactly what we seek to do with the report assurance we provide,” commented Rebecca Bowens, Global Sustainability Report Assurance Product Manager, SGS.
The research goes on to show that Certification Bodies are leading the way when it comes to providing meaningful assurance statements that match best practice, when compared to other providers like specialist consultancies and major accounting firms. Certification Bodies are much more likely to issue a positive conclusion in their statements, or in other words, a conclusion that provides balanced feedback framed constructively rather than a negatively framed conclusion which typically follows an assurance statement limited in scope.
“The research found that 92% of certification bodies issue a positive conclusion in their assurance statements, while accountants overwhelmingly (85%) tend to issue a conclusion that is framed negatively. It was also interesting to find that 75% of certification bodies include recommendations in the assurance statement while only 31% of accountants choose to do so. These are findings that largely mirror what we see when working with customers on verifying their reports,” continued Bowens.
The report offers numerous insights into the market for report assurance including results by sector and geography. Interestingly, within eight years of Asian companies starting to issue CSR reports, the region has become the second largest global market for assurance statements with nearly 100 recorded in 2007. This enormous growth in Asia is one of many enlightening findings contained in the report.
“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,” said Paul Scott, Managing Director, CorporateRegister.com.
A Leader in the IndustrySGS has a strong track record in providing solutions in the area of sustainable development. The company offers an independent verification of social and sustainability reports against international standards, such as GRI and AA1000AS. The SGS approach is based on four modules that address the various and progressing needs of customers. These range from assuring the accuracy of the chosen scope of reporting to establishing management systems for social and environmental reporting and to managing stakeholder relationships.
SGS also provides a range of solutions to help clients to monitor the performance of their organization and supply chain against defined sustainability objectives. SGS undertakes compliance monitoring audits against a wide range of international standards, third party or internal requirements using trained local auditors. Our assessments can be integrated with other monitoring requirements relating to quality, environmental or security.
CorporateRegister.com’s Assure View: The CSR Assurance Statement Report is available online at www.corporateregister.com. Based on an in-depth analysis of 90 leading assurance statements published between May 1 2006 and May 1 2008. This study was a part of the research behind the CorporateRegister.com’s Assure View Report
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 53,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world. SGS is the Lead Sponsor for CorporateRegister.com’s Assure View: The CSR Assurance Statement Report. To learn more, visit www.sgs.com
CorporateRegister.com Ltd, authors of the Assure View: The CSR Assurance Statement Report, provides online CSR resources, and hosts the world’s most comprehensive directory of non-financial reports. Its directories are free for use by the global CSR (corporate social responsibility) community – over 22,000 users subscribe to its services. To learn more, visit www.corporateregister.com
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