With more companies including information about their corporate, social and environmental performance along with financial data, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has issued a new guide for CPAs who handle such filings.
Attestation Engagements on Sustainability Information (Including Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information) includes guidance in interpreting and applying clarified attestation standards when examining or reviewing corporate sustainability measures.
According to the AICPA, studies indicate that portfolio managers and research analysts consider sustainability when making investment decisions, and they believe that the information should be independently verified.
“The demand for meaningfully-assured sustainability information is on the rise, coming from investors and other key decision makers who value this information,” Susan Coffey, CPA, CGMA, executive vice president of public practice at the AICPA, said in a prepared statement. “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.”
The new guide provides the following:
Guidance for exams and reviews of sustainability information based on the clarified attestation standards.
Updated guidance for attestation engagements on greenhouse gas emissions, which supercedes AICPA SOP 13-1, Attest Engagements on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information. The content of that SOP has been updated for the new clarified attestation standards and included in the new guide.
Examples of examination and review procedures side-by-side to help distinguish between procedures.
Representation letters and accountants’ reports specific to the situations a CPA might encounter.
Guidance on certain matters not addressed in the clarified attestation standards.
Expanded guidance on using 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 stated.
Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.