Sustainability reports should be independent

Sallie Cooke Pilot, Black Sun

Critical: Sallie Cooke Pilot

Communications agency
Black Sun says the
majority of assurances are conducted by specialist environmental consultancies
with only 13% done by an accountancy firm.

In the Closing the gap report it points to the fact that only 8% of
annual reports are independently assured for the sustainability aspect.

‘If they have gained independent assurances for their corporate social
responsibility report then they should do so as a whole. There is a lot of PR
spin in annual reports and it gives this section more credibility if it is
assured externally,’ said Sallie Cooke Pilot, head of corporate reporting at
Black Sun.

She said that while nearly two thirds of companies gained independent
assurances for corporate social responsibility reports, they were often written
by different people than those producing the annual report.

‘CSR reports are often done by different parts of the business. It’s often
not integral to the rest of the business. When you see these things being more
integral then it leads to believing the company takes it more seriously,’ she

The study was also critical of the disparity in opening statements in the
annual report and the CSR report. ‘Rarely is there consistency in terms of
sustainability themes or issues, making it difficult to discern a clear
standpoint if both reports are read in conjunction with one another,’ said the

CSR reports were criticised for failing to identify the contribution of
sustainability in relation to the overall business strategy. Less than a quarter
of them included this with just 13% of annual reports doing so.

‘For a holistic picture of the business to be conveyed it is imperative that
sustainability is aligned to strategy at every relevant juncture. This helps to
reassure stakeholder groups that non-financial concerns hold a prevalent
position in relation to strategic objectives,’ the study said.

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