Views: ASSURE VIEW – The CSR Assurance Statement Report (2008) By CorporateRegister.com

Do SMEs need to have their sustainability reports independently assured?

According to the CSR Assurance Statement Report the answer at this point in time is no. Generally assurance is more often needed for large companies and those in the public eye; a CSR report with assurance helps build a business’ trust and integrity. As stated by the director of The Reassurance Network, a specialist consultancy:

This is about trust.  CSR reports aim to build trust, whether to attract ethical investment, to motivate and engage employees or to reassure customers.  Trust comes from combination of performance and communication.  So a responsible company needs to accurately communicate its strategy, policies, and impacts in order to be accountable (and gain trust).  Assurance is the main factor that distinguishes a CSR report from all other types of CSR communication – it guarantees accurate and credible information.
~ Malcolm Guy

The CSR Assurance Statement Report by CorporateRegister.com examines assurance statements over the past 15 years and conducts an in-depth study of more current assurance statements of 90 top global reporters.  CSR reporting and stakeholder engagement are becoming increasingly important for the modern business. The results of this report rank North America second behind Europe in CSR reporting but lowest in uptake of assurance (only 7.5% of CSR reporting).  The lower rate of CSR assurance in North America to date makes external assurance unnecessary for many sectors.  Within North America, food & beverage, health & pharmaceuticals, and oil & gas are the sectors with greatest uptake of assurance.  However, when determining whether or not CSR reporting and assurance are right for your business it is important to first consider who is getting value out of assurance, what material issues are of concern for reporting, and what are the risks and opportunities for reporting (low risk cost saving, hitting the benchmark, and pioneering).  For SMEs, there is currently little external assurance activity going on.  According to this report, unless there is pressure for CSR reports and assurance from competing businesses in your sector, external assurance is not needed.

The CSR assurance statement report provides a comprehensive overview of the history and current status of CSR reporting and assurance.  Combining guest commentary from AccountAbility, IAASB, and ACCA, assurance practitioner’s question panel, and colorful graphs and charts of study findings, this report brings together a variety of templates for exploring the value, use and future needs of CSR reporting and assurance. To learn more about the current status of CSR reporting and assurance check out the full report and more information online by CorporateRegister.com.

This book review comes from April Hansgate, one of SSC’s 2008 summer interns.