Sustainability reporting: Concepts, Frameworks and the Role of Supreme Audit Institutions

Sustainability reporting extends corporate reporting beyond traditional financial reporting into wider aspects of corporate performance and impact, including environmental, social and economic issues as well as long-term perspectives. Reporting on sustainability matters has increased in the private sector since the 1990s. Recently, some public sector organizations have also started disclosing their sustainability performance.

This paper presents public sector auditors with a useful analysis of developments in sustainability reporting. It describes how reporting has evolved from environmental reporting to broader sustainability reporting, and the latest development towards integrated reporting. Many elements of sustainability reporting, such as the stakeholder perspective and employee participation, link directly to good governance and transparency. Sustainability reporting can also encourage organizations to identify and deliver large cost-savings, which in the public sector can contribute to greater efficiency of public sector finances.

The paper also discusses the potential implications of sustainability reporting practices for SAIs and a possible role for the INTOSAI. SAIs may want to demonstrate best practice by reporting their sustainability impacts, including for example, their progress in addressing sustainability in their office policy and their audit contribution to addressing their government’s sustainability. In addition, a SAI, as an external government audit institution, might have a broader role in assessing sustainability reporting practices and thus extending the role that SAIs currently play in providing financial assurance services.

The research project on sustainability reporting was conducted by INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) in 2011-2013. National Audit Office of Finland led the project. The project group included SAIs of Canada, Estonia, New Zealand and UK.

Link to the report:

Further information: Markku Turtiainen ( tel: +358 9 432 5748) and Vivi Niemenmaa (assigned at European Court of Auditors until September 2015)