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Sustainability Reporting and Assurance: A Focus on Ethics and Independence

IESSA announcement

 

 

 

 

 

A Commitment to Trustworthy Sustainability Reporting and Assurance

At its December 2023 meeting, the IESBA approved the proposed new International Ethics Standards for Sustainability Assurance (including International Independence Standards) (“IESSA”) and proposed Revisions to the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (“the Code”) on Sustainability Reporting. The Exposure Draft contains proposed independence standards for use by all sustainability assurance practitioners regardless of whether they are professional accountants, and specific ethics provisions relevant to sustainability reporting and assurance. This milestone completes more than 18 months of intensive fact-finding, outreach, and drafting efforts by the IESBA Board and staff.

These draft standards will establish the essential third pillar of ethics, including independence, standards to complete the infrastructure of international standards being developed by other standard setters and regulators and support public trust in sustainability-related information.

  • About the Proposed Standards

    The Exposure Draft on International Ethics Standards for Sustainability Assurance (including International Independence Standards) (IESSA) and ethics standards for sustainability reporting proposes a clear framework of expected behaviors and ethics provisions for use by all sustainability assurance practitioners regardless of their professional backgrounds, as well as professional accountants involved in sustainability reporting. The goal of these standards is to mitigate greenwashing and elevate the quality of sustainability information, thereby fostering greater public and institutional trust in sustainability reporting and assurance. 

    The Exposure Draft on Using the Work of an External Expert proposes an ethical framework to guide professional accountants or sustainability assurance practitioners, as applicable, in evaluating whether an external expert has the necessary competence, capabilities and objectivity in order to use that expert’s work for the intended purposes. The proposals also include provisions to aid in applying the Code’s conceptual framework when using the work of an external expert.

    These proposed ethics (including independence) standards are especially relevant in a context where sustainability information is increasingly important for capital markets, consumers, corporations and their employees, governments and society at large, and when new providers outside of the accounting profession play a prominent role in sustainability assurance.

  • Links to the Exposure Drafts and other official IESBA Publications
  • How to Share Feedback

    The IESBA invites all stakeholders to provide their feedback on these critical exposure drafts

    Respondents are asked to submit their comments electronically through the website, using the links below.  Please submit comments in both PDF and Word files. Also, please note that first-time users must register to use this feature.   

    Comments on the Using the Work of an External Expert Exposure draft are requested by April 30, 2024 and can be made here.

    Comments on the Sustainability ED are requested by May 10, 2024 and can be made here.

  • What You Need to Know (Short Video)
    Video file
  • Webinars and Partner Events

    Webinar for the Using the Work of an External Expert Exposure Draft

    Timing: February 22, 7:00 to 8:00 am EST

    Watch the full Webinar here:

    Presenters:

    • Laurie Endsley, IESBA Vice Chair and Using the Work of an External Expert Task Force Chair
    • Kam Leung, IESBA Principal

    Webinars for the Sustainability Exposure Draft

    Timing: February 27, 9:00 to 11:00 am EST

    Watch the full Webinar here:

    Presenters:

    Moderator: Geoff Kwan, IESBA Director

    Timing: March 5, 8:00 to 10:00 pm EST

    Registration link

    Presenters:

    Moderator:  Geoff Kwan, IESBA Director

  • Global Voices of IESBA Discuss Ethics in Sustainability
    Tom Seidenstein IESSA quote Sue Lloyd IESSA Asmaa Resmouki IESSA Alan Johnson IESSA Jean Paul-Servais IESSA

     

  • Additional IESBA Materials

    IESBA's Sustainability Reference Group

    IESBA's Sustainability Reference Group (SRG) has been established to support the work of its Sustainability Task Force. The SRG members have been selected based on a series of criteria, including their background, experience or expertise in sustainability reporting or assurance, stakeholder groups, and geographical location. The members will act as a “sounding board” to the Sustainability Task Force, providing insights, expertise, or advice relating to the development of global ethics and independence standards for sustainability reporting and assurance. 

    The SRG will be chaired by Mr. Channa Wijesinghe, IESBA Member and Sustainability Task Force Member.

     

    The SRG Members are: 

    Objectives of Sustainability Reference Group (SRG)

    • To act as a sounding board to the IESBA’s Sustainability Task Force on proposals relating to the development of global ethics and independence standards for sustainability reporting and assurance (“IESBA sustainability standards”).
    • To provide insights, expertise or advice on identified areas or matters relating to the development of the IESBA sustainability standards.
    • To provide input to, or otherwise assist in, the development of non-authoritative guidance material relating to the application of the IESBA sustainability standards.

    Ethics Considerations in Sustainability Reporting: Including Guidance to Address Concerns About Greenwashing

    The IESBA is committed to being part of the rapidly progressing developments regarding sustainability reporting and assurance and providing timely responses to ethics and independence-related concerns.

    This publication is intended to highlight the relevance and applicability of the Code to several ethics-related challenges arising from professional accountants' involvement in sustainability reporting and assurance, especially circumstances related to misleading or false sustainability information (i.e., "greenwashing").

    IESBA Global Sustainability Roundtables

    The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) held a series of four global roundtables to obtain stakeholder input to help shape the development of new ethics and independence standards for sustainability reporting and assurance.

    The all-day roundtables, held in person in Paris, France (March 24), Sydney, Australia (March 30), Singapore (April 3), and New York (April 6), allowed stakeholders to convey relevant information to be addressed in developing the new standards. They were attended by members of the investor and corporate governance communities, C-suite executives, data aggregators, rating agencies, regulators and oversight bodies; international policy-making organizations; national standard setters; preparers; professional accountancy organizations; and sustainability assurance providers, including accountancy firms and independent providers outside the accountancy profession.

    Read the briefing materials for attendees here.

    The IESBA announced in June 2022 its commitment to take timely action to develop fit-for-purpose, globally applicable ethics and independence standards as a critical part of the infrastructure needed to support transparent, relevant, and trustworthy sustainability reporting and assurance. Importantly, this strategic commitment sets up the IESBA’s ethics and independence standards as the third pillar to trustworthy sustainability reporting and assurance, alongside the standards being developed by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB).  

    In December 2022, the IESBA approved two new standard-setting projects that will develop profession-agnostic ethics and independence standards for sustainability reporting and assurance and on the related topic of “use of experts.”