iCompli Sustainability

The final review and assessment process involves the following steps:

  • Review the initial draft of the Sustainability/Integrated Annual Report, and based on a completed Materiality Scan Report, confirm that material issues are addressed.
  • Conduct a GRI “In accordance” option assessment of the draft(s) of the Report, to determine where gaps exist between what is currently being reported, and what is required in order to meet your stated GRI “In accordance” objective.
  • Draft a Third Party Assurance Statement for review by your internal teams.
  • Before going to print, conduct a final GRI “In accordance” option assessment of the final Editor’s Proof, determine if any gaps exist between what is currently being reported, and what is required in order to meet your stated GRI “In accordance” objective. In most cases, this results in recommendations for additional content to be included as a supplemental document to support your Sustainability/Integrated Annual Report via email or download and notated in the Comprehensive GRI Content Index Table.

Materiality is determined through a comprehensive, confidential, on-site review of information and Board and Committee packets circulated through the reporting period. This internal materiality scan is supplemented by review of the company’s stakeholder external communications such as media/blog analysis and a verification of message alignment between the “inside” and “outside” story.

The output from this process is a Materiality Scan Report that includes findings that could potentially influence the content of your forthcoming report – and will act as a template for our analysis of its “completeness”.

After analyzing the most recently published Sustainability/Integrated Annual Report against the GRI indicators, we issue a confidential, interim management report. This internal report rates each performance indicator according to “not covered”, “partially covered” and/or “reasonably covered”. Strengths and weaknesses of the report are also identified, such as whether or not the Report provides adequate quantitative data sets to support key assertions (e.g., Do you provide Lost Time Injury Frequency stats to confirm statements regarding how well the company manages workplace safety?). We conclude with key recommendations of which performance must be included to attain the “In accordance” level your company seeks.

Assurance is typically provided by public accounting firms, such as the Big 4 or specialist bodies, such as iCompli. The two main standards for assurance providers take significantly different approaches. ISAE 3000 (International Standard on Assurance Engagements) is used by public accounting firms and stresses data quality and evidence gathering procedures. AA1000AS (AccountAbility Assurance Standard) is used by specialist bodies and emphasizes the need for organizations to demonstrate effective stakeholder engagement, identify material sustainability issues and have in place a business strategy to respond to those issues.

Typically, GRI reporting companies begin with Type I Assurance in year one, stay at that level in year two, and then move on to Type II – which expands the engagement to include substantiation of data accuracy, consistency, completeness and reliability.

There are two types of assurance provided under AA1000AS. An AA1000AS Type I assurance involves a Content-based assessment of the Report’s completeness and alignment with GRI requirements. Type I also includes Assertion-based assessment as to whether or not all material/significant assertions included within the Report can be supported by an adequate trail of evidence.

In line with the AA1000AS (2008) guidelines, the assurance engagement seeks to review the reporting process, and final product (i.e., the Report), relative to AccountAbility’s guiding principles of:

- Inclusivity – all relevant stakeholders have been engaged to inform both process and content;

- Materiality – all relevant/material sustainability issues have been considered, analyzed and reported on;

- Responsiveness – the final Report adequately reflects the content requested and/or required by all key stakeholders.

AA1000AS Type II assurance engagement examines additional data sets for accuracy, consistency, completeness and reliability. The process is expanded to an Indicator-based assessment to determine whether or not indicators are adequately discussed within the Report; and whether or not statistical data pertaining to these indicators meets evidentiary tests to confirm compliance to standards of “completeness”, “accuracy”, “consistency” and “reliability.”

Although accountancy firms are expected to adhere to the ISAE 3000 guidelines for non-financial audits, those guidelines are risk-based and developed primarily to ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided. In contrast, sustainability assurance involves a comprehensive approach to issues related specifically to sustainability performance, and follows a number of internationally accepted guidelines from internationally recognized bodies such as GRI and AccountAbility (UK).

In the context of sustainability reporting, assurance is the process of engaging an independent third party to evaluate an organization’s sustainability disclosure processes and reporting.