4 External Assurance Trends in Sustainability Reports

By: Alexandra Kueller

After noticing a growing trend with sustainability reports, GRI North America recently published a report discussing that trend: the increase of external assurance of sustainability reports. Analyzing reports published in the GRI Database from 2011-2013 and conducting interviews with 11 US companies, GRI was able pinpoint the noticeable trends in external assurance engagement.

Below are the main trends found by GRI:

1. External assurance is growing across the board

  • In the United States, the amount of externally assured reports has increased from 10% in 2011 to 16% in 2013. While this number might seem small (especially when looking at the numbers for worldwide companies), the numbers of reports that are externally assured in the US has tripled from 2008 (from 11 to 41 in 2013).
  • For worldwide companies, the number of externally assured reports has seen a 7 percent increase from 2011 to 2013, jumping from 38% to 45%.

2. Publicly traded companies hold the majority of externally assured reports

  • Out of all the US companies that externally assured, 89% are publicly listed companies, whereas only 57% of the externally assured worldwide companies are publicly listed.

3. Some companies are obtaining multiple assurance statements

  • One of the biggest trends GRI has noticed in the US is the increase of obtaining multiple assurance statements. In 2011, 26 companies published reports that were externally assured, but there were actually 30 external assurance statements. The same trend happened in 2013 with 41 companies publishing externally assured reports, but with 44 external assurance statements.

4. More companies are having their entire report externally assured

  • Since 2011, there has been an increase in US companies to have their entire sustainability report externally assured. That number has increased from 17% in 2011 (5 of 30 externally assured reports) to 30% in 2013 (13 of 44).

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