Sustainability assurance : A qualitative study exploring the assurance process, team and report of sustainability assurance
Abstract: Sustainability assurance is on the uprising. Nowadays, more and more companies are thinking about sustainability which resulted in a growing market for sustainability assurance. The global reporting initiative (2013, p.6) defines sustainability assurance as “the use of external, independent reviews of sustainability management processes and final disclosures is intended to increase the robustness, accuracy and trustworthiness of disclosed information.”. Unlike financial auditing, sustainability assurance ismostly unregulated and there are various guidelines and frameworks issued to help the assurance provider. The lack of mandatory regulations has resulted in a fragmented assurance environment where different approaches is used by different assurance providers. This in turn has contributed to the sustainability assurance process being unknown. The uncertainty around sustainability assurance affect the usersof the assurance report, for example stakeholders’, which can find it difficult to identify, interpretand compare the results of the sustainability assurance.The purpose of this study is to contribute to the limited knowledge on sustainability assurance, by investigating the sustainability assurance from both auditors’ and non-auditors’ perspectives.To assist in fulfilling the purpose, four main themes were developed; assurance team, assurance process, assurance report and the future of sustainability assurance. To fulfill the purpose of this study, the research questions are;“What is the audit process of sustainability reports?”“What does the sustainability assurance team look like?”“What does the sustainability assurance report look like?”The result in this study suggests that the process of sustainability assurance looks different depending on the assurance provider. The findings also suggest that the assurance team almost looks the same, regardless who is the assurance provider. When it comes to the results regarding the assurance report, it is evident that there are many ways to improve theusefulness and informativeness of the report. Furthermore, the findings of this study contribute to the limited knowledge of sustainability assurance by thoroughly exploring the assurance process.
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