Social and Environmental Reporting Assurance

Subject: Environment
Pages: 22
Words: 4996
Reading time:
27 min
Study level: College

Introduction

By the end of 1970s, the most significant issue that came to light was caring for the environment. Although there were volunteers within the society but a favourable response from the business community, in this regard, started coming in at the advent of 1990s. Big companies started publishing environmental reports in order to meet society’s expectations. 4000 European companies started an environmental management system that was based on the European Eco-Management and Audit System (EMAS).

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In this assignment, we shall discuss the new reporting format of corporate responsibilities towards earth, water and air sustainability. This format will enable a layman to understand the efforts being made by corporations around the world for the betterment of the society. Social and Environmental Reporting Assurance (SERA) is becoming a globally accepted structure of corporate reporting. It has been observed that in recent years there has been an unprejudiced increase in the number of companies that are reporting in public on a range of features of their environmental and social performance. In terms of power and influence you can forget about the church, forget politics. There is no more powerful institution in society than business… The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed. (Roddick 2000). A wide-ranging understanding of environmental economics where ecological variables and issues are essential but are part of a multidimensional viewpoint. The analysis must incorporate the social cultural, health-related and monetary or financial aspects. (Soederbaum 2008)

On behalf of the world, even the United Nations intends to be challenged in order to accept new actions and practices to make our future secure. (United Nations Environment Programme, 2009)

Content analysis is the modus operandi of codifying the transcript into diverse groups depending on the selected criteria (Weber, 1990)

Systematic accountability processes should involve stakeholders in the strategies, policies and programmes and also in related indicators, aims and the communication systems. This will improve the overall performance of the organization. (AccountAbility, 2003b, p.33).

Independent third parties verify the environmental, social and sustainability reports. There has been an apparent tremendous growth in the proportion. A credibility gap is being felt due to the lack of confidence in the data and sincerity of the reporting organizations (Doane, 2000; Swift and Dando, 2002; Dando and Swift, 2003). KPMG’s figures show that in 2002, 29% of GFT250 report issuers got their reports verified (1999: 19%). Likewise, third party verification was included in 27% of the top 100 companies as compared to 18% in 1999. (CSR Network, 2003; Kolk, 2003). A proper analysis of the sustainability reports reveals that the best sustainability reports include some assurance statement as well. (SustainAbility, 2002). According to KPMG (2002 b), the increased presence of verification is because the demand for trustworthy and correct information from the management in order to maintain the company’s social and environmental risks, and the investors and stakeholders who want assurance that the report is actual and represents a true picture.

Advent of SERA

During the end of 19th century big business owners who were really concerned about the social abuses and demands of labour unions, started the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They constructed abodes and medical facilities in order to improve the living standards of their employees. This gesture paid back. The employees were motivated and there was an increase in the worker turnover.

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Scope of SERA

The main objective of environmental and social performance assurance is to ensure that we don’t practice such actions that might menace the enduring soundness of the earth and its inhabitants. Sustainability is the capacity for continuance in the long term. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Tomlinson 1987). Sustainability in the context of organizations encompasses the social, environmental and economic impacts of a business or other organization. These impacts are judged in terms of the extent to which they contribute to sustainable development. (SIGMA Project 2003). There is always a requirement of reliable and correct information from the management in order to manage the company’s environmental and social risk factors. The same applies to the stakeholders who demand assurance that the company documents or report is trustworthy. (KPMG 2002). Company boards, executives, and management are investing more and more time and resources on issues of sustainability – such as carbon (greenhouse gas emissions), energy efficient technology, water use, cleantech, and biodiversity, to name just a few. An important part of the global push towards sustainability practices involves a need to account for, and report on, sustainability. (Deloitte 2011). Corporate social reporting was initiated to start a model of reporting that would concentrate on the financial, social and environmental issues. (Elkington, 1999)

The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a United Nations initiative, has ten principles that businesses around the world should follow. These are:

Human Rights

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
  • Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labour Standards

  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
  • Principle 4: The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.
  • Principle 5: The effective abolition of child labour.
  • Principle 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Environment

  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
  • Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
  • Principle 9: Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti-Corruption

  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery. (Lungu et al)

AccountAbility (1999), the Federation des Experts Comptables Europeens (FEE, 2002) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2002) are all after their main aim or objective of securing increased participation in the reporting assurance practice.

The issues covered under SERA are:

  1. Social issues like human rights, child labour, standard of living of the workers, multiplicity, etc.
  2. Environmental issues like pollutions, emissions, wastage of natural resources, wastage of energy, environmental management systems, etc.
  3. Economic issues like financial performance, etc.

There are two levels of any organization that are covered under SERA.

  1. Specific level
  2. Company level

Whereas the approach of some assurance is limited to the preset performance indicators (financial p & l, carbon emissions, child labor, etc.), sustainability assurance is designed to evaluate the complete effect of a company (AccountAbility, 2004). AccountAbility issued a draft of Foundation Standard, AA1000, in November 1999. This draft specified the procedure to be followed by organizations and assurance providers in their reporting, in order to establish systematic accountability processes that involve Stakeholders in the creation of strategies, policies and programmes as well as associated indicators, targets and communication systems. These effectively guide the decisions, activities and the overall performance of a company. (AccountAbility, 2003a, p33). In Europe, the Environment Reporting Schemes are mandatory. The table at ‘Appendix 1’ is IIIEE report: CER: review of policy action in Europe.

Arguments in favour of CSR

By the advent of CSR, expectations of the society have increased. People form good opinion about the companies or business houses that care for the benefit of the society. This enhances their public image. This helps them to increase their customers and greater admittance in the money markets. Such companies or business houses are supposed to have a longer profit run. This is because of their better social relations and productive actions towards the benefit of the society. Actually this has to be a conscience decision from them.

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A company is considered to be sharp if it ensures that right information is passed on to the groups. It should not matter whether the group is the one that has direct contact with the company or the one that is in the society. Such groups have the capability of influencing the company’s present and future success. (ICAEW 1992).

Environmental concerns are addressed properly when business houses get involved. They have better finance, technical experts and managerial qualities to support charitable trusts. This creates better standards of life and employees feel safe and obliged in continuing working.

Government imposes restrictions and regulations on companies to ensure better and safe environmental conditions. This increases the cost factor of companies. But if a company is socially responsible and works for the benefit of the society, it can expect less government restrictions and regulations.

Socially responsible companies are at less risk and are not prone to public attack or ire. The stock price of such companies improves in the long run. The stock market evaluates the public standing of that company and awards higher price factor.

Arguments against CSR

There can never be cent percent agreement on any topic or issue. Similarly, in this case also, there are people who feel otherwise. They have different opinion and are against CSR. Any business is considered to be socially responsible if it looks after the economic interests of the society.

It is understand that any social work involves a lot of money. No one wants to pay from his or her pocket. As a result, the company will add the costs to the products and ultimately the consumer has to bear it.

Some people are of the opinion that social service is a gimmick by a company to gain popularity and subsequently capture market for its products. Corporations don’t really care – they’re just out to screw the poor and the environment to make obscene profits. (Baker 2008a)

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According to some people, social reforms are the duty of politicians and not the business community. It’s the responsibility of the politicians to deal with all this stuff. It’s not our role to get involved. (Baker 2008b)

Companies hire professionals according to their expertise in accounts, sales, management, production, etc. But no company hires professionals who are expert in social service. It means the people who will be responsible for any particular social service, will not be qualified for that. They will not have that skill. Then how will the job be carried out successfully?

Due to the materialistic interests, not much information is provided on the environmental; issues that are governed by accounting standards. Moreover, the standards of accounting don’t matter much because they are very narrowly focused and don’t make much of a difference. (Buhr 2003)

There are so many noteworthy companies that are very aware about the environment. Such companies provide ample information along with their financial reporting. (Hannele, 2008)

Another drawback of SERA is due to indifference in the government policies. Due to the ‘free rider’ pattern, the reporting companies are at a disadvantage when compared to those that are not reporting. As a result, the government agencies are prone to pressure to review its policies. The governments are feeling a need to have regulated reporting requirements, at least for the key industry sector. (SustainAbility et al, 1997)

Importance of SERA

CSR is an important mechanism of accountability. During the 1990s, there were not many companies that published their CSR. Now that the company doors are open for stakeholders, people have started taking interest in the CSRs of companies. The following figure shows a growing percentage of people who are aware of SER. (Globescan 2004)

In ‘Appendix 2’ you can see a chart depicting the percentage of people who have read or heard of a company’s social or environmental report-selected countries, 2004.

During the last few years, CSR has come to be a very frequently heard term in offices, communities and the media. CSR reporting is a gateway from where companies get in touch with the public and make them aware about what they are doing for their welfare and for protection of the environment. Investors and stakeholders view these reports to have a stake in the company. Companies in turn get to know any negative remarks from the public or the investors and stakeholders. This helps them in improving their profile for betterment.

Results of KPMG International Survey of Environmental Reporting 1999 are shown below:

  1. A substantial increase in the number of top companies world-wide producing an annual environmental report, from 13% of companies in 1993 to 24% in 1999, as well as improved quality of reports.
  2. In contrast to the European trend, the proportion of top American firms issuing environmental reports fell from 44% in 1996 to 30% in 1999.
  3. The scope of verification is still varied, and is a long way from a standard which readers rely on to guarantee the reliability of the reported data and information.
  4. There is a convergence of administrative and environmental registration systems in major companies, combining the framework and methodology of the financial controllers with the knowledge and expertise of environmental staff.
  5. Companies are now working towards a balance between financial, environmental and social/ethical performance and are starting to report in all three areas.

Main findings of KPMG Environmental Reporting Surveys, 1993-1999 are at ‘Appendix 3’.

CSR Network Limited 2001 released an up to date survey that explained the voluntary reporting trend, more clearly. One of the trends is the combining of the environmental and social reporting issues with the corporate agenda and also accepting internet as a medium of performance reporting. But the interest remains as low as 13% for external verification reports. (Emtairah a, 2002)

Not since long ago, there have been attempts to create universal registry and electronic information exchanges for corporate reports. A good example of such exchange is the mutual project between the German Federal Environment Agency (Unweltbundesamt-UBA) and the London based Next Step Consulting to create a joint and exclusive archive. This will be available for public reference at UBA’s library in Berlin. Now the number of reports is around 2,400 (B&E, 2001)

Importance of reporting

Many surveys have been published during these years on the scope and role of social and environmental reporting. These have majorly been on vast international levels. By referring the publications of KPMG since 1993, the popularity growth of the environmental reporting of big business houses can be understood. If we scrutinize the reporting culture in top 100 companies in some countries, we observe as follows: The German and Scandinavian companies have published the maximum number of sustainability reports. But according to a recent survey done by KPMG, UK is ahead having 49% of the companies producing environmental reports (K.P.M.G 2002). Netherlands, Finland and Germany together account for 30-40% of the share. The percentage of French companies has also gone up from 4% in 1999 to 21% in 2002. Some utility industries have reported to be more into environmental reports.

A range of sources have influenced the Western Europe and it is not surprising that it is a major player among the market. (Power 1994)

The major sources have been:

International bodies: United Nations has played a key role. Then there has been United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which is stakeholders’ initiative and highlights those companies that don’t report. Then there is the European Union’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) that has its conditions of clarity and verification.

National Governments: Voluntary reporting guidelines are normally encouraged like UK Government’s DEFRA/DTI Environment reporting Guidelines that were published in 2001 (Henrique and Reynard 2001). On the contrary, France is in favour of mandatory environment reporting. It follows Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. In all these countries there is an official thrust. Moreover, the attention is on the medium of exposure being the financial report rather than the special purpose report.

Business Organizations: The initiative taken by the International Chamber of Commerce (1991) to develop a business charter for sustainable development has been followed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. In addition to this business groups have been made at different national levels. The Confederation of Business Industry in the UK has played a key role in bringing out the guidelines for reporting.

Industry Associations: Like European Chemical Industry Council’s (CEFIC).

The accounting profession: Fédération des Experts Compatibles Européens (FEE) is the organization under which most of the business organizations work. The FEE is mainly active in providing assurance on the environmental reports and a theoretical framework to strengthen the reporting. Apart from this, international accounting firms are also involved in the verification and consultancy work. The national professional bodies promote the research of social and environmental accounting issues.

The most important is the UK Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). This organization started an Environmental Reporting Awards Scheme in 1991. During these years, this scheme has grown to a great extent. Sustainability and social reporting also comes under its jurisdiction, along with the environmental reporting. It also prompted the start of European Awards Scheme (EERA) in 1996, which in turn governs the reporting of business houses in almost fifteen European countries. It is very significant to note that the acceptance of environment reporting by the business community has improved the quality of reporting as well. Initiatives made for the early disclosure were not good because in such cases, the reports were not upto the mark. They were sort of window dressing. Even the production of a separate ‘green glossy’ was not up to the mark. This has been clearly mentioned in the study of disclosure practices in about 150 of the biggest business houses in Europe. A typical company shall make available purely discursive figures and also information. The company describes only certain limited information and that too of domestic operations. There is no information regarding the external benchmarks and thus is unsuccessful in providing information. (Adams et al 1995).

The yearly annual reports of the judging panels ACCA UK and European Reporting Awards Schemes, clearly show that there has been tremendous improvement in the reporting system. Despite the absence of definite regulatory guidance, a logical and broad reporting structure has surfaced. We can now expect a standalone report to feature an organizational profile that will present a summary of the organization in terms of its size, working, and environmental concerns. This will also include a statement from the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) that will explain the management’s stands on the company’s environmental strategy. An environmental policy statement is also issued which includes the long term goals in terms of measuring, managing and reporting the environmental issues and their performance. One of the main issues is to address the usage of natural resources, energy and the harmful emissions.

Role of Professionals (accountancy firms)

An ever-growing number of accounting professionals have started offering verification services for environmental and social reporting. It should be noted that the qualification of the professional is of great concern and it’s a must for him to be with the required qualification. The accounting firms undertaking such assignments should be accredited from an authorised and approved body. This is because they have to verify the credibility of the reports and for that, they also must be qualified. Similar qualifications are required for professionals who do the auditing of environmental reports. If the motive behind starting such reports is to be achieved, a certain standard has to be maintained.

Advocating the independence of the verifier, Ball et al (2000) suggest that the independence of the verifier depicts the verifier’s control over the reporting which is a very good sign. Emphasis can be given to the management aspects rather than the performance based issues. (see alo Gray, 2000, 2001)

According to O’Dwyer, if the assurors are dependent on the business establishment, it could lead to misappropriation of the figures. (O’Dwyer, 2001)

Professional bodies like Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Canadian Institute of Certified Accountants, the European Federation of Accountants and the Institute of Certified Accountants are involved in certifying the auditing firms and developing guidelines for the verification of environmental and social reports. (BSR, 2001)

Fédération des Experts Compatibles Européens (FEE) is the representative of accounting profession in Europe. It issued a discussion paper on Providing Assurance on Environmental Reports. Before finalising this report, verifiers’ survey was done in 1996. It was understood that an effective statement in the report could build up the image of any corporate. The report recommends the contents of the expert or effective statement on an environmental report, not undermining the possibility of “expectation gap” (FEE, 1999)

Independent research

This research is based on information from published matter and secondary sources. Quite a few European and international surveys, at regular intervals, review the developments in Corporate Environmental Reporting (CER). I have relied on such sources and surveys in amalgamating my views.

A survey done by IIIEE for KPMG in 1996 (KPMG, 1997) reveals that environmental reporting is becoming popular at a fast pace. The results of different countries and businesses were different but the motive was clear. The number of companies that are publishing CERs is growing day by day. The results of KPMG International Survey of Environmental Reporting 1999 revealed that there was a noteworthy increase in the trend of environment reporting. For example in Denmark, in 1996, the companies that opted for environment reporting were 8% and the percentage grew to 29% in 1999. On the contrary, the percentage of American companies showed a downfall. It dropped from 44% in 1996 to 30% in 1999. (KPMG, 1999)

The results of the survey that I did personally are shown in ‘Appendix 4’.

Evaluation

From the aforementioned survey table, it is clear that out of the forty three business establishments that I visited to know their views about SERA, only five are fully committed. The distribution in the industries that believed in the assurance reporting or otherwise revealed some trends that are important to our discussion (Gray 2000). Further, we note that five companies have internal assurance whereas only two have external assurance. A whopping fourteen companies don’t even favour SERA. Nine companies don’t have it but could go for it if explained properly and if the board of directors approves of the move. The management of four companies don’t even know about SERA. Four companies don’t have the data with them so they are not sure. But we may breathe a sigh of relief due to the fact that in the year 2001, according to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), there were only 84 companies all over the world that followed the guidelines of sustainability reporting (GRI, 2001).

If we talk about percentage, the following figures are arrived:

Status of company’s assurance Percentage
Yes 11.63
No 20.93
Data unavailable 9.30
Not interested 32.56
Only internal 11.63
Only external 4.65
Don’t have idea 9.30
Total 100.00

From this data, we can draw certain trends while dealing with the companies’ views of obligatory social and environmental reporting assurance (Edgley et al 2008).

Some of the big business houses that are effectively following the SERA regulations are: Deutsche Bank UK, Home Depot US, American Express International, General Electric, Glaxo Smith Kline, Heinz, Microsoft and IBM.

Sample report on the food processing industry

The three main necessities in the world are food, shelter and clothes. So I decided to choose one of these to do a sample reporting. I think the food processing industry would be a nice choice. Instead of going for some particular company, I thought it better to do reporting on the food processing industry as a whole.

Following is a chart that shows food processing companies that follow the guidelines and do proper reporting. A region wise chart is shown at ‘Appendix 5’.

By examining this chart, we understand that Europe is the forerunner with 63% of its companies reporting on the environmental issues. Then there is North America with 16% of its companies doing the reporting. South America and Australia share the same percentage (5%). The third world nations that come under Asia and Africa are toddlers in this process. Asia has 3% and Africa has only 1% of their respective companies that do the reporting. It is evident that still there is a lot of awareness to be brought in such areas.

During the reporting process, I came across some more figures that I wish to mention here. We just saw the area wise reporting. Now we shall see the sector wise details. (‘Appendix 6’)

Following is the percentage:

Agricultural crops                              50%

Dairy                                                     23%

Beverages                                            10%

Semi-processed products                 7%

Fish                                                        5%

Meat                                                       5%

The following trend was observed during the research on 20 companies:

Sector                                                                     Number of reporters

Food safety                                                                  18 out of 20

Health & nutrition                                                     16 out of 20

Transportation                                                           15 out of 20

Environmental aspects of agriculture                   15 out of 20

Animal welfare                                                            9 out of 12

Advertising and marketing                                     12 out of 20

Packaging                                                                   16 out of 20

Malnutrition and poverty                                       10 out of 20

Chronic disease prevention                                     6 out of 20

Smell and noise complaints                                    6 out of 20

Fair and affordable price of products                   8 out of 20

It is clearly evident that the reporting culture is spreading day by day in the food processing industry.

Conclusion

My main aim in doing this assignment was to carry out a critical analysis of the assurance statements, various reports and statements of different people. Keeping my search within the framework and guidelines of the AccountAbility, Fedération des Experts Comptables Européens (FEE) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), I completed this research. The findings can be accessed from the appendices. Although a lot has been done under SERA, a lot more has to be done. This is such a platform that everyone would like to follow the guidelines. The only thing required is awareness. We all should contribute in whatever manner we can. At least I will do whatever best I can. After all each one of us want a better life and clean environment for our children.

Any business cannot flourish without the participation of its workers or the masses. It is good for business houses to be concerned about the profit makings but they should not neglect the fact that they are what they are due to their employees and the layman who is a consumer. It should be the moral duty of all business houses or corporations to ensure that the interests of the people are not compromised. Another major factor is the environment. We all are so concerned about pollution nowadays. We have pollution free vehicles, fuel, etc. Our scientists invented such things because the pollution was evident. But there are certain things that mankind cannot visualize, like for example, earlier we never used to hear about the global warming syndrome. Moreover we actually didn’t know that things like this could happen. But it is happening and we are doing our best to save the Earth and its environment. The reason why I mentioned this here is that unless we understand the basis of any action, it will be difficult for us to understand.

When we talk about Social and Environmental Reporting Assurance (SERA) or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the motive or intention that lies behind is social welfare and environment protection. There are some more scopes of SERA and CSR, but these two are the major ones. We should be responsible for our actions. Similarly, the business houses also should be responsible for theirs. Manufacturing units are the major source of different kinds of pollutions. It should be their moral responsibility to try and minimize such pollutions, by employing latest technology. Along with this, they should try and contain whatever pollution is being spread.

Social welfare is a very delicate subject. The reason is the monetary involvement. I have discussed this earlier in this assignment. No one wants to spend money on others. But if we think logically, I am not asking the business houses to distribute money to whoever comes their way. By social welfare, I mean the society in the surroundings of the business establishment. They can be their workers, their consumers, etc. It is these workers and these consumers who actually run the business. So their interests should be taken care of. There are so many things that come under this topic. But we have already discussed them.

Further, our world is a huge area with a huge population. One man or one corporate can do nothing in this respect. So some likeminded people, who were concerned about the factors mentioned above, joined hands and started addressing such points. Gradually the governments of different nations got involved and today we see that the awareness of SERA and CSR is spreading unhindered. Education has helped a lot in this mission.

Every year there are certain modifications or omissions or additions to the guidelines of SERA and CSR. These are basically reporting systems that have to be followed by the business houses around the world. In some places it is mandatory to report. By reporting, the business houses come out in public with what steps they have taken or are going to take for the social reforms or environmental protection. We can say that SERA and CSR are all about reporting. This much that in writing this assignment about SERA, the word ‘reporting’ has been used 101 times. This is just a coincident but at least we can judge the importance of reporting.

Recommendations

It is always better and smart to avoid a mistake than to rectify it. So in this context also, we all should try to follow the guidelines set by the governing bodies of SERA and CSR. It’s not that only the business houses or corporations are responsible. We, as human beings, are equally responsible. The difference is the magnitude of the responsibility.

My recommendation is that we should spread the awareness about SERA and CSR and also about the benefits of keeping our environment clean. For the major works, we have very competent people sitting on responsible posts.

But since I have to make some good recommendation, I would suggest that the governments of different nations should come forward with some sort of mandatory awareness and training sessions for the general public. This will surely make some impact.

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Appendix 1

IIIEE report: CER: review of policy action in Europe

Scheme Introduced by Country Description
Freedom of access to environmental information
1990
EU council directive 90/313/EEC European Union 1) Requires all public authorities
with responsibilities for the
Environment to make
environmental information
available upon request.
2) Information available to public.
IPPC Directive Article
19 1996.
The EU
Council
Directive
96/61/EC.
Pilot
scheme
Proposed
on EU
level for 2002.
1) A European PRTR system.
2) Information to Commission
during pilot phase and then to
public.
Disclosure of
environmental issues
in the annual
accounts 2001
Commission
Recommendat
Ions of 30 May
2001
2001/453/EC
European Union 1) The Commission’s
recommendations of 30 May 2001
on the recognition, measurement
and disclosure of environmental
issues in the annual accounts and
annual reports of companies to
member states to take appropriate
measures to promote the
application of this recommendation
and notify the commission of
measures taken.
2) Direct impact on reporting: the
commission encourages member
states to take direct measures at
national level.
Pollutant Release
And Transfer
Register
(PRTR) of 1996.
OECD for
example
in the
UK.
1) Companies have to report
periodically on toxic release
transfers.
2) Information available to public.
Miljoreport 1993 Under
Swedish
Environmental
Code
(SNFS1993:1)
Sweden 1) Companies operating on permits
have to report to authorities
regarding emissions.
2) Information for authorities only
Miljöinformation I
förvaltningsberättelse
1999
Environmental
information in the law
of accounts
Under Law of
Accounts
Sweden 1) Companies must report on
Emissions and state significant
impact.
2) Information available to public.
Annual
Environmental Report
1999
Under VMM
Flemish
Environmental
Authority
Belgium (Flemish) 1) Companies with permits must
report discharges to air, water and
waste.
2) Selected info is available to the
Public.
Green Accounts
1996
Under the
Environmental
Protection Act.
Denmark 1)Certain companies have to report
on environmental impact.
2) Information is available to the
public.
Environmental
Reporting Decree
1999
Under an
extension
of the
Environmental
Management
Act.
Netherlan
ds
1) Certain categories of industry
Have to produce two
Environmental reports one to the
public and one to the authorities.
2) Information is available to the
public.
Decree 2002 – 221
February 2002
Established
Under the
Commercial
Enterprises
Law
France 1) All publicly quoted companies
Will be required to include data on
environmental and social impacts
in their annual financial reports
2) Information is available to the
public
Companies Act and
The Law of Accounts.
1999
Under Act of
Parliament to
Extend the
law of
accounts
Norway 1) Companies must report on
Emissions and impacts and any
Preventative plans.
2) Information is available to the
public.

Appendix 2

Percentage of people who have read or heard of a company’s social or environmental report-selected countries, 2004:

Appendix 3

Main findings of KPMG Environmental Reporting Surveys, 1993-1999:

1993 1996 1999
No of companies surveyed 810 1300 1100
Response rate 85% 69% 98%
No. With CER 105 220 269
% of those surveyed 13% 15% 24%
% externally verified out of those that publish CER 15% 18%
Sustainable development covered 12% 36%
Top 250 companies with CER 35%
Top 250 ‘polluting’ companies with CER 44%
% of 1100 surveyed companies with environmental information in other corporate reports 47%
Progress with targets 26% 53%

Appendix 4

Results of the survey that I did personally.

Sector Nos. SERA results
Yes No Data unavailable Not inter-ested Only inter-nal Only exte-rnal Don’t have idea
Housing societies 4 2 1 1
Hospitals 2 2
Car showrooms 5 5
Cable connections 1 1
Educational institutions 6 3 1 2
Industries 4 2 2
Builders 3 1 2
Medical stores 7 7
Waterproofing companies 2 2
Newspapers 1 1
Utilities 8 4 1 3
Total 43 5 9 4 14 5 2 4

Appendix 5

Percentage of Food

Appendix 6

Sector wise

Reflective Report

The topic of my assignment is ‘Social and Environmental Reporting Assurance’. At the time I got this assignment, I was unaware about so many things that are happening in the world. I am happy that I was able to complete this assignment in a beautiful manner. It has reinforced my knowledge that I gained till now.

As is evident from the topic, I had to write on the environmental reporting culture of business houses and corporations. First I searched for an official website of the governing bodies of environmental and social reporting. Once I came across the official website of AccountAbility, I tried to read as much as possible. Once I was got the idea what it was all about, I started my search for my assignment material. It wasn’t much of a problem getting the details. But to arrange them systematically was of course a big challenge for me. Internet is such a vast source to get information that a person gets confused. One can’t get all the information at a single website. Moreover, the authenticity is very important. Anyone can upload his or her work on the internet. Such works are their views not the facts. But I was careful to select only those details that I found to be authentic.

Another problem that I faced was extracting the sources. Again, one can find so many quotes said by so many people. I had to see the relevancy to my subject. And then placing the sources in between the text was another hectic job. The flow of the text is a must. So I was careful to place the sources according to the sub-topics and the text. Actually this was done in the last. But it did strike me that I should have done this while typing the text itself. It would have been much easier. But all is well that ends well.

Writing the quotes in my own words was also a big challenge because all quotes had such technical terms that couldn’t be replaced. But I tried my best and hopefully succeeded in my quest.

I even consulted with my classmates and friends and we had long discussions on the topic. We together surfed some sites. At home, I surfed through the environmental reports of about 7-8 big corporations like McDonalds, Bank of China, Reliance Industries Limited, Tata Steels, etc., and tried to understand the manner in which the management of these big companies do the reporting work. It was not hard to understand.

I faced some problem due to companies that don’t reveal too much of information. Time is wasted by reading their company website. Out of the 7-8 companies that I visited (online), I liked the way McDonalds and Tata Steels have portrayed the information.

The best part of my research was to visit different establishments in my locality. After introducing myself, I used to give them a questionnaire (same as the one that I have included in my assignment). By the time someone filled the questionnaire I engaged myself in talks with anyone who seemed to be free. It took me two days to accomplish this task. The compilation part was also very interesting. My knowledge of MS Word Excel came in handy here.

I have learnt a lot from this assignment. In my vacations, I plan to spread general awareness among people about the environmental reporting system. This will help them to know what companies are doing. The knowledge will also help them to study the environmental reports of corporations and form opinion.

The problems that I faced during the course of this assignment were not major ones. I feel that if I would have been a little cautious, the problems and difficulties could have been avoided. But since this was my first assignment, such minor mistakes ought to happen. A man learns from his mistakes. I have also learned from my mistakes and will not repeat them in my future assignments.

The major mistake that I made was searching for information all over the internet. This wasted a lot of my time. I was not specific. There is so much of useless information on the internet that can take a whole day to arrive to any conclusion. The same was the case with me. I didn’t know where to search for the information that I required. Initially I got demoralized, but I didn’t lose hope and confidence. This paid off and I was able to gather the required information.

Another factor that I will take care of in my future assignments is that while citing any sources, I will not wait for my paper to be completed. I shall include the sources as I progress in writing the text. This shall be easy. I think the best thing would be to first take out all the sources related to the topic and store them in a separate file. Then as and when required, I can pick a relevant citation and add in the text.

During my questionnaire research work, I faced some problem due to the indifferent nature (behavior) of people. Not all were ready to co-operate. This wasted too much time. So the next time I take any assignment, I think the best thing to do will be an online survey. Nowadays there are so many ways to do online surveys. I think the best way would be to send bulk e-mails. This will save my time and I will receive my information sitting at home.

I am of the opinion that before starting any assignment, a person should have a clear perspective of the topic and the actions to be taken. Then one by one the actions can be performed in a systematic manner. This will save time and the assignment will progress in a well organized manner. Subsequently, the final result will be astounding.

In the end, I would say that I am proud I did my assignment on time and that too up to my satisfaction. Once completed, I was a big happy man.