European accountants call for verified CSR reports

The European Federation of Accountants (FEE) has issued a report saying that corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting should be given the same status and recognition as financial reporting, and be subject to independent assurance and verification.

The group is calling on the European Commission's Multi-Stakeholder Forum to include these measures in the recommendations they are due to publish in the next few months.

Lars Olle-Larsson, Chairman of Sustainability Assurance Group for FEE said that, at present there is no independent assurance for CSR reports for investors. "CSR reporting without assurance, is rightly seen as little more than advertising. FEE believes that credible assurance is the key to increasing confidence in such reporting in the eyes of the world's capital markets," he said.

Mr Olle-Larsson told edie that proper criteria need to be established and agreed upon for CSR reporting so that an international standard can be developed.

"Reports at the moment have no criteria written in so they make no sense," he said. He called for the global reporting initiative (GRI) - the global standard setter for sustainability reporting - to develop proper relevant guidelines which include different indicators for different types of business.

He said that the Commission's Multi Stakeholder Forum should work together with the GRI and the international auditing and assurance standards board (IAASB) to help establish the international standard against which performance could be measured and assurance given.

"There is no need for general and simple reports," Mr Olle-Larsson said. "CSR is often the way a brand is received and can be essential for that brand's business. Everyone has to ask the question - Are CSR issues material for your business? If yes, then we need a credible way of measuring that."

By David Hopkins



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