Published on: Nov 30, 2011
Companies can get more value from seeking independent assurance of their corporate responsibility or sustainability report if stakeholders are involved in the process. That was one of the conclusions of a recent roundtable in Madrid hosted by Two Tomorrows and our Spanish partner MAS Business.
Participants at the roundtable, entitled ‘Innovation in assurance: effective and efficient reporting’, also debated the recent rise of ‘real time’ assurance and the use of assurance to stimulate change inside the company.
“Being responsive to stakeholders is an indispensible tool for creating trust and providing meaningful assurance,” comments Jon Woodhead, managing director of Two Tomorrows (Europe) Ltd.
“By treating assurance as a two-way street, companies should not be afraid to demand changes to assurance processes by their assurance providers. Greater focus on material issues, inclusion of stakeholders in the process and more transparent feedback are all areas where companies and their stakeholders benefit from a more responsive approach to assurance. By making clear recommendations on strategy, assurance can help drive internal change.”
Jon continues: “Report assurance bridges the gap between what a company says and what a reader believes. Assurance should involve checks not only that the things in the report are right, but also that the right things are being reported from the point of view of internal and external stakeholders.”
Telefónica and Meliá Hotels International were invited to share their experiences of assurance with delegates. Alberto Andreu, chief reputation and sustainability officer of Telefónica, described the use of the AA1000 Assurance Standard as a “business card” to engage other departments and help break down internal silos.
Esther Trujillo, senior vice-president institutional office and corporate diplomacy of Meliá Hotels outlined how the inclusion of an innovative online facility allows stakeholders to give instant feedback on each page of the company’s most recent report.
Jon concludes: “Assurance is continually evolving as companies develop their own individual approach to reporting. In the role of critical friend, assurors can guide reporters in ensuring balanced reporting and checking stakeholder expectations on sustainability strategy.”