Assurance on Sustainability Reports: Characteristics of Assurance Frameworks

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Rao, Sunita
Washburn University. School of Business
Kaw Valley Bank
Issue Date
August 2015
Alternative Title
An important way of adding credibility to sustainability reports published by companies is obtaining assurance on them (Simnett, Vanstraelen and Chua, 2009). This study investigates and develops a taxonomy for the characteristics of assurance frameworks associated with sustainability reporting. Assurance frameworks are a set of systematic guidelines used by the assurance provider when conducting audits on companies; sustainability reports. Previous research suggests that assurance frameworks bear resemblance to generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) (O'Dwyer 2011, p. 1254). Differences in origin of assurance framework provides a compelling reason behind the classification.This study also documents various relationships among the parameters and discusses reasons behind them. For example, nearly 75% of the sustainability assurance reports issued by Big4 audit firms use international assurance guidelines, such as ISAE3000 and AA1000AS. I identify relationships and parameters that provide a taxonomy, structure, and a critical foundation related to the sphere of sustainability assurance.