Putting people first: Examining social practices in ESG assurance

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Putting people first: Examining social practices in ESG assurance

While environmental concerns often steal the spotlight in ESG conversations, the ‘S’ in ESG – social practices – requires equal attention. Assuring the credibility of a company's social commitments requires a deep dive into its policies, practices and impact on people. So, how do auditors, as part of an ESG assurance engagement, get to the heart of the matter? Here's a peek into the questions and documents we might scrutinise.

Questions that uncover the human story

  • Diversity and inclusion
    • What are the company's policies and practices for achieving diversity and inclusion at all levels?
    • How does the company measure and track progress towards its diversity and inclusion goals?
    • Does the company address pay equity and equal opportunities for all employees?
    • How did the company choose its diversity and inclusion targets, and which stakeholders were consulted in that process?
  • Labour practices
    • What are the company's policies on fair wages, working hours and employee wellbeing?
    • Does the company have robust mechanisms for preventing forced labour, child labour and discrimination?
    • How does the company ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all employees?
    • How are safe working conditions assured throughout the company’s supply chain and sales channels?
  • Human rights and community engagement
    • Does the company respect and safeguard human rights throughout its operations and supply chain?
    • How does the company engage with local communities and address their needs and concerns?
    • Does the company have specific initiatives to contribute to social development and positive societal impact?

Documents under the scrutinising lens

At a minimum, the company should be ready to produce:

  • diversity and inclusion policies and reports – for examining the company's commitment to diversity and its efforts to achieve it
  • labour contracts and collective bargaining agreements – for reviewing employee rights, working conditions and compensation structure
  • health and safety reports and accident logs – for assessing the company's efforts to maintain a safe and healthy working environment
  • human rights assessments and audits – for evaluating the company's compliance with human rights standards and responsible sourcing practices
  • community engagement reports and partnerships – for investigating the company's commitment to local communities and its social impact initiatives
  • employee surveys and feedback reports – for gauging employee perceptions of the company's social practices and working environment.

Beyond these questions and documents, auditors will also interview employees, community members and other stakeholders to get a well-rounded perspective on the company's social practices. The depth and scope of the review will depend on the company's industry, size and specific social priorities. Auditors may also undertake their own due diligence and conduct an independent analysis of the public and social media views of the company.

Examining social practices within an ESG assurance engagement is not just about ticking boxes; it's about ensuring that a company's commitment to people goes beyond mere words. By asking tough questions and delving into relevant documents, auditors can shine a light on the reality behind the facade. This critical scrutiny helps companies identify areas for improvement, mitigate potential risks and, ultimately, move towards a more just and equitable future for all stakeholders.

So, the next time you hear about an ESG programme, remember: the true test lies not only in fancy reports and lofty goals but also in the company's dedication to treating its people and communities with respect and fairness. And it is through rigorous social practice reviews that we can ensure these commitments are translated into genuine action and meaningful impact.

Speeki has launched its solutions for conducting ESG report assurance. Connect with us to learn more about how we can be engaged to add value to your ESG reporting.

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