Friday, 30 October 2020

2:00 pm to 4.00 pm Central European Time (CET)

This workshop is a follow-up to a webinar that UNCTAD and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development jointly organized on 16 June 2020. Further information on this event, including presentations, can be accessed by clicking here.

The workshop will build on the discussions conducted on 16 June on this topic and will facilitate sharing of further insights from regulators, investors, as well as preparers of sustainability reports and academia. The workshop will take place in the form of a virtual meeting via the Interprefy platform and interpretation will be provided into 6 UN official languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian). Registration is required for participation (click here). Further logistical information will be provided to registered participants in due course.


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

14:00-14:20        Opening remarks

Tatiana Krylova, Head, Enterprise Branch, DIAE, UNCTAD

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

14:20 -15:20      The panel session will address the following issues on assurance of sustainability reports:

  • What are the main benefits that investors expect to derive from assurance on sustainability reports?
  • Are there prospects for harmonizing sustainability reporting frameworks in the foreseeable future?
  • How has Covid 19 impacted preparation and assurance of sustainability reports?
  • What are some of the key considerations that preparers of sustainability reports need to make in view of pursuing assurance on their reports?
  • How are educators and academic institutions facilitating education and training on assurance of sustainability reports?


Tatiana Krylova, Head, Enterprise Branch, DIAE, UNCTAD

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


Roger Simnett, member, International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board
Eric Dugelay, Partner, Deloitte and Member of Sustainable Finance Group, Accountancy Europe
Samantha Ross, Founder AssuranceMark, the Investors’ Consortium for Assurance
Nancy Kamp, Prof. dr. Non-Financial Information, Integrated Reporting and Assurance, University of Groningen; and Associate Partner, EY
Austin Kennedy, Manager, Redefining Value, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

15:20-15:45 Interactive discussion

15:45 -16:30 Concluding remarks and the way forward

Tatiana Krylova, Head, Enterprise Branch, DIAE, UNCTAD

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