The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) has unanimously resolved 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. This recognizes the need to respond at pace to match the speed of transformation in the corporate reporting landscape. Demand for sustainability information has risen substantially and rapidly in recent years, and such information is increasingly used to support capital allocation or other decisions by investors, customers, current or potential employees, and other stakeholders. It also recognizes the essential role ethics and independence play in the production, reporting and assurance of sustainability information.
The IESBA has tasked its recently established Sustainability Working Group to develop a strategic vision to guide the IESBA’s standard-setting actions in relation to sustainability reporting and assurance. The Working Group will prepare a project plan by December 2022 as a launchpad for commencement of standard-setting work soon after. This work will proceed in tandem with the development of IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), and sustainability-related International Standards on Assurance Engagements (ISAEs) by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). The IESBA recognizes the importance of coordinating this work closely with the ISSB and IAASB so that coherent, mutually reinforcing building blocks of standards can be put in place around the same time to support the necessary regulatory infrastructure for sustainability reporting.
“Sustainability has risen to the top of our strategic agenda as societal expectations have unquestionably changed towards the need for companies and organizations to pursue more sustainable business goals, capital has flowed in substantial waves towards Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-focused investments, and concerns about market integrity have triggered regulatory mobilizations and actions,” said IESBA Chair Gabriela Figueiredo Dias. “Time is of the essence and it is critical that the ethics standards pillar of the infrastructure be strong and ready to support the sustainability information supply chain. Stakeholder expectations are high and we are determined to take the necessary actions to meet the market needs.”
The IESBA has been proactively engaged in outreach to stakeholders to exchange views and insights on the emerging issues in sustainability reporting and assurance, and is actively involved in discussions with the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and the IAASB on coordinated plans and actions to respond to the developments.
Pending finalization of the IESBA’s plan of work for sustainability-related ethics and independence standard-setting, IESBA Staff will issue in the near term guidance to draw the attention of professional accountants and other market participants to the fundamental principles and key provisions of the IESBA’s International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) that already apply broadly to sustainability reporting and assurance.
The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) is an independent global standard-setting board. The IESBA’s mission is to serve the public interest by setting ethics standards, including auditor independence requirements, which seek to raise the bar for ethical conduct and practice for all professional accountants through a robust, globally operable International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) (the Code).