THE FUTURE OF NON-FINANCIAL CORPORATE REPORTING: How to influence the next generation of ASSURANCE STANDARD
On Thursday 24th January, the first draft of the new edition of the world’s most popular sustainability assurance standard – the AA1000 Assurance Standard (AS) – was uploaded onto its wiki-platform (accountability.opendemocracy.net). This starts the much anticipated collaborative drafting process of the second edition which follows an extensive period of research and a series of consultations in more than a dozen countries.
AA1000AS is used by over 200 companies annually to assure their sustainability and corporate responsibility reports; it provides the basis for leading sustainability report awards programs and rating systems; and is compatible with the most used sustainability reporting frameworks.
Sustainability Reporting and Assurance Standards, like AA1000AS, are responding to increased demand for credible, fair and balanced information on organisations’ management and understanding of non-financial issues, information that is needed to make informed decisions about who to invest in, who to do business with, who to work for, and whose products to buy.
Independent assurance brings much needed credibility to this new area of public disclosure.
Reports are now published in more than 65 countries around the world. Over 95% of UK FTSE 100 companies are publishing annual sustainability or corporate responsibility reports, of which close to 60% have independent assurance. As best practice matures in countries like Japan and Australia and experience grows in countries such as Brazil, South Africa and India, it is clear that the field will continue to grow rapidly across the globe and the practice of sustainability assurance will become more and more important. And the standards that help to define the basis for consistent, comparable and credible reporting and assurance need to continue to push best practice.
Why use a wiki?
Access and transparency are key challenges for any standards development processes. Who has had the chance to participate and influence the standard and how do we know who has participated and influenced the standard?
The collaborative wiki drafting process addresses these two challenges head on. The wiki makes it possible for thousands of individuals and organisations to provide their input without facing access barriers such as the cost of travel to meetings and the difficulty of cutting through dominant voices. It also keeps a transparent record of everyone who has participated as well as the nature of their input.
This is the first standard to be developed in such a unique way. It offers a more accountable process to develop future standards in all areas. The collaborative wiki approach has already revolutionized knowledge creation and sharing on the internet through Wikipedia and has the potential to impact other collaborative forums, such as government consultations or stakeholder engagement in Corporate Social Responsibility.
There will be three periods of 60 – 90 days each for public participation where all users are able to add their comments and suggestions. The first one will run from January 24 – April 4, 2008. The new standard will be published in late 2008.
To participate go to: accountability.opendemocracy.net
The wiki was developed for AccountAbility by openDemocracy and sponsored by Sd3 and BISD.