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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Following yesterday’s blog on company readiness for reporting under the new CSRD, it isn’t just the reporting companies that aren’t prepared – there are concerns about the expertise and availability of auditors to do the work. Responsible Investor’s article discusses that there will likely be a shortage of qualified auditors:

“What concerns [Wim Bartels, a senior partner at Deloitte] is whether there is the capability and capacity in the wider market to provide assurance for the 40,000-plus additional firms that will be required to disclose their sustainability data over the next three years… Acquiring … expertise – especially practical expertise – may prove difficult, says Bartels, given the limited supply of experts. There are also unique challenges with CSRD even for experienced assurers. The European Commission’s (EC) recent requirement that virtually all the standards underpinning the CSRD be subject to materiality assessment makes for ‘substantial assurance work’ [according to Blomme]…

Carmen Lu, counsel at New York City law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, … has heard talk of possible near-term shortages of assurers to do the work that will be required by CSRD and the SEC’s current proposed draft climate disclosure rules… Lu says that it would not surprise her ‘if third-party specialist consultants take on assurance assignments to fill demand’ [and] that it would not surprise her ‘if third-party specialist consultants take on assurance assignments to fill demand’. But here too there is uncertainty, given that neither CSRD nor the SEC’s proposal set out what qualifications an assurer should have to undertake this work.”

To complicate matters further, the audit standards to be applied are unclear as well:

“This month, the International Auditing and Assurance Standard Board (IAASB) put out its draft global sustainability assurance standard for consultation. The International Standard on Sustainability Assurance 5000 (ISSA 5000), which is designed to be agnostic when it comes to disclosure standards, is expected to be finalised by late 2024. According to Blomme, that will be ‘a bit late but just in time’ for the first CSRD reporting. Whether the EC will endorse this standard, however, remains to be seen.”

Other possible audit standards include ISO 14016 (environmental management report assurance), ISO 26000 (social responsibility) and AA1000 Assurance Standard, but they face scoping and credibility challenges, especially with financial auditors and regulatory compliance reports.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile