The Growing Sustainability Accounting Toolkit – 5 Key Resources

sustainability toolkit for accountants and consultants

November 15, 2023

Preparing for a presentation this week, we updated a slide about available sustainability accounting resources and tools for CPAs, FP&A and corporate practitioners. It was exciting to see it there in print: that a number of resources published recently have gone a long way to rounding out the toolkit available to accountants and finance professionals. This post provides a quick summary of five key resources that help you up your game:

External Reporting

– Sustainability Standards

Almost every public company in the U.S. voluntarily discloses some sustainability information (as do many private companies). This is one of the most mature areas of the toolkit with many general and industry-specific standards.

The leading standards organizations are increasingly collaborating. Especially notable is all the recent work the IFRS has done through creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to develop sustainability standards through the same market-led process used for financial standards. The ISSB has already integrated the SASB and TCFD standards and the frameworks for Integrated Thinking and Reporting first developed by the IIRC. They are also collaborating with GRI, the standard set with the greatest global adoption, which focuses on the interest of a broad range of stakeholders.

So a great place to start on a sustainability reporting journey is to check out the ISSB standards that have been developed for 77 industries in 11 industry groups.  It’s helpful to also review IFRS S1 General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information and IFRS S2 Climate-related Disclosures. This is the direction global standards are headed.

– Assurance Standard

The capital markets and all kinds of corporate stakeholders have been paying more and more attention to sustainability reporting. And there is increasing concern about the accuracy of reported information. To this end, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) recently published a proposed International Standard on Sustainability Assurance (ISSA) 5000.  Comments on this consultation are due by December 1, 2023.

 Internal Management

– Integrated Decisioning and Management Framework

One of the most exciting recent papers lays out a framework for Integrated Performance Management. The paper is the product of a collaboration between the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA-CIMA), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and participants from 90+ U.S. and global companies. The framework lays out how to integrate a broad sustainability perspective into the analysis and management of strategic initiatives, resource allocation and internal capital investment decisions.

– Internal Control Standard

Earlier this year, the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) released a paper addressing Internal Control Over Sustainability Reporting (ICSR). This paper provides supplemental guidance to explain how to build an effective system of internal control over sustainability-related business information.

Software

As progress is made on standards and guidance, there are many tech companies stepping up to support companies with their sustainability transformation. Most of the action relative to accounting is around sustainability data gathering and management. These solutions are facilitating external reporting consistent with the major standards. The emerging segment that Insights7 works in integrates sustainability into Performance Management and Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A). We are focused here because we feel that it is through integrated performance management that companies can move from reporting on sustainability to actually improving it.

The Tools You Need

The five resources described here are a great place to start when thinking about how sustainability will influence your (or your client’s) company. The underlying risks and opportunities driving this trend will only grow over time. Now’s a perfect time to jump in and build your external reporting and internal management capabilities.

Watch for our upcoming brief about tools to implement Integrated Performance Management.

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Image credit: Gareth Halfacree from Bradford, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Mary Adams
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