Shining a light on the inner compass: Examining corporate governance in ESG report assurance

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Shining a light on the inner compass: Examining corporate governance in ESG report assurance

ESG report assurance is no longer a fringe activity; it is becoming mainstream, demanding a deeper analysis of a company's environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments as stated in their public non-financial reports. At the heart of this scrutiny lies corporate governance, the bedrock of responsible and sustainable practices. But how exactly do auditors as part of an assurance project delve into this crucial aspect? Let's take a peek behind the curtain.

Questions that probe the core

  • Board composition and diversity
    • Does the board include independent members with diverse backgrounds and expertise relevant to ESG issues?
    • Are board committees responsible for ESG oversight adequately staffed and empowered?
    • How does the board ensure effective engagement with management on ESG matters?
  • Stakeholder engagement and communication
    • How does the company identify and prioritise stakeholder concerns related to ESG?
    • What transparent communication channels exist for engaging with stakeholders on ESG issues?
    • How does the company address stakeholder feedback and concerns about its ESG performance?
  • Risk management and internal controls
    • How does the company integrate ESG risks into its overall risk management framework?
    • Are there specific internal controls in place to mitigate ESG risks?
    • Does the company have a whistleblowing mechanism for reporting potential ESG violations?
  • Ethics and compliance
    • Is there a robust code of conduct addressing ESG expectations for employees and leadership?
    • How does the company ensure compliance with ESG-related laws and regulations?
    • How does the company manage key risks like anti-corruption, money laundering and human rights abuses?
    • What standards does the company apply for compliance?
    • Are there mechanisms to identify and address potential greenwashing or misleading ESG claims?
  • Transparency and disclosure
    • Does the company publish a comprehensive ESG report that is aligned with recognised frameworks?
    • Are ESG metrics incorporated into financial reporting and company communications?
    • Is there clear and consistent disclosure of ESG goals, progress and challenges?
    • How open is the company about its ownership, tax and offshore activities?

Documents under the microscope

  • Board minutes and committee reports to assess the level of discussion and decision-making related to ESG within the boardroom
  • ESG policies and procedures to evaluate the company's framework for implementing and monitoring ESG commitments
  • Risk management reports to analyse how ESG risks are identified, assessed and mitigated
  • Internal audit reports to review findings and recommendations regarding ESG controls and compliance
  • Stakeholder engagement records to assess the company's efforts to listen to and respond to stakeholder concerns on ESG
  • ESG data and metrics to verify the accuracy and reliability of information used to measure ESG performance

These questions and documents are just a starting point. The specific focus of the review will depend on the company's industry, size and unique ESG priorities. But one thing is clear: a thorough examination of corporate governance practices is essential for a meaningful ESG audit as part of an ESG report assurance engagement.

By shining a light on the inner compass of a company's governance, ESG audits can ensure genuine commitment to sustainability, ethical practices and responsible stakeholder engagement. In a world where greenwashing and empty promises abound, such scrutiny is more crucial than ever. Through rigorous assessments of corporate governance, ESG audits can pave the way for a more trustworthy and sustainable future for businesses and society as a whole.

Speeki has launched its products around ESG report preparation and assurance. Reach out to Speeki to learn more.

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