AICPA Issues New Sustainability Attestation Guide
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AICPA Issues New Sustainability Attestation Guide

Jul 27, 2017 · 2 min read

NEW YORK (July 27, 2017) – In response to increasing stakeholder expectations, more companies are reporting on their corporate, social and environmental performance in addition to their financial reporting measures. With organizations looking to add credibility to their sustainability reports, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has issued a new guide, Attestation Engagements on Sustainability Information (Including Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information ), that will provide significant guidance to CPAs who provide assurance on this information.

Sometimes used interchangeably with the term corporate social responsibility, sustainability is often defined as the “triple bottom-line” consideration of 1) economic viability, 2) social responsibility, and 3) environmental responsibility.

This new guide considers relevant guidance issued through June 1, 2017 and will assist CPAs with interpreting and applying the clarified attestation standards (SSAE No.18) when performing examination or review engagements on sustainability matters. Studies have shown that many portfolio managers and research analysts take sustainability matters into account when making investment decisions and believe that such information should be subject to independent assurance.

“The demand for meaningfully-assured sustainability information is on the rise, coming from investors and other key decision makers who value this information. Licensed CPAs have provided high-value sustainability assurance services under general attestation standards for decades, but until now there was no subject matter-specific application guidance covering areas other than reporting on Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president, public practice.

The publication:

  • contains guidance for examinations and reviews of sustainability information based on the clarified attestation standards, including preconditions for performing such engagements

  • provides updated guidance for attestation engagements on greenhouse gas emissions (superseding AICPA SOP 13-1, Attest Engagements on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information)

  • presents illustrative examination and review procedures in a side-by-side format to help distinguish between procedures

  • provides illustrative representation letters and accountants’ reports specific to the situations a CPA might encounter

  • contains guidance on certain matters not addressed in the clarified attestation standards

  • provides expanded guidance on the use of specialists

“The guidance we have developed, which is applicable to all aspects of sustainability reporting, including environmental, social and governance, will serve as a critical mechanism for enabling consistency across sustainability assurance engagements,” Coffey explained. “This will further distinguish CPA assurance services and increase stakeholders’ confidence in the credibility and reliability of organizations’ reported sustainability information.”

The guide, which was developed by the AICPA Auditing Standards Board’s Sustainability Task Force, supersedes AICPA Statement of Position (SOP) 13-1, Attest Engagements on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information. The content of that SOP has been updated for the clarified attestation standards and included in the guide.

Experts will share information about applicability and key features of the new guide during a webcast today, July 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Media Contact:
Jackie Hyland

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