Tuesday, 16 June 2020

14:00 to 15:30 Central European Time (CET)

Member States of the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 with 169 targets. UNCTAD and UN Environment are co-custodians of indicator 12.6.1, which encourages reporting entities to publish sustainability reports. The Metadata Guidance that UNCTAD and UN Environment developed for 12.6.1 recognizes the usefulness of assurance on SDGs reporting.

Over the years, the demand on enterprises for disclosures on their performance with respect to the environmental, social and governance aspects of their operations has been rising. As a result, the of number of enterprises publishing sustainability reports has grown over the last two decades.

Some recent research reports indicate an upward trend in the number of sustainability reports on which assurance has been provided by a third party. However, this development poses a number of challenges.

Unlike financial reporting and related assurance engagements, sustainability reports cover a wider range of issues and indicators of performance. A significant part of sustainability information is presented in qualitative rather than quantitative form. As a result, establishing materiality levels for assurance purposes becomes very challenging. Furthermore, enterprises apply a variety of reporting frameworks and standards for preparing sustainability reports. The broad range of issues covered under sustainability reporting has implications for competency requirements on assurance providers. In addition to accountancy firms, other players have entered this area of work. While some assurance providers, such as professional accountants are bound by ethical and other professional membership requirements of their legally recognized professional bodies, other assurance providers might not be obliged to abide by such requirements.

The impact of Covid 19 on the preparation and assurance on corporate reports, including sustainability reports is becoming evident. The task of obtaining data and evidence needed to document and support conclusions on assurance engagements has been constrained by various restrictions adopted to contain the spread of the virus. In this context, some practical solutions applied to overcome such challenges would be useful to discuss and share.

The main objective of the webinar is to share views and practices in the area of assurance of sustainability reporting; identify key challenges, including possible implications of COVID 19, and elaborate on the way forward. In particular, the webinar will address the following issues:

  • review recent developments in assurance of sustainability reports;
  • discuss efforts undertaken in recent years to promote quality and consistency of assurance practices; and
  • identify challenges that need further consideration and collaboration to further improve assurance of sustainability and SDG reporting by companies.

Participants to this webinar will include senior policymakers, regulators, professional accountants and firms, academia, investors, among others.

Tentative Programme

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Time Topics and Speakers
14:00-14:10 Opening remarks
James Zhan, Director, Division on Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD

Introduction to the discussions
Mario Abela, Director, Redefining Value, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

14:10-15:00 The panel session will address the following issues on assurance of sustainability reports:

  • What are the main factors driving demand in this area? Are there new factors resulting from the COVID 19 impacts?
  • Is there regulatory/statutory backing? Is it needed?
  • What are some of the key challenges arising and key lessons learned from current practices in this area?
  • What are key issues that need further consideration and discussion at the international level?
Moderator TBD
Jeff Hales, Chair, Standards Board, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board
Marek Grabowski, Director of Audit Policy, Financial Reporting Council, United Kingdom
Eric Dugelay, Partner, Deloitte and Member of Sustainable Finance Group, Accountancy Europe
Hilary Eastman, Director of Global Investor Engagement, PwC
Felipe Janica, Partner, EY, Colombia
Vladimir Skobarev, Partner, Head of Corporate Governance and Sustainability, FBK Grant Thornton, Russian Federation
15:00-15:25 Interactive discussion
15:25-15:30 Concluding remarks and the way forward

Mario Abela, Director, Redefining Value, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Tatiana Krylova, Head, Enterprise Branch, DIAE, UNCTAD