The AccountAbility AA1000 Assurance Standard 2008 Edition (AA1000AS 2008) was launched in London last Friday at an event attended by several clients and practitioners.
The newly released standard replaces the original AA1000AS, launched in 2003. Since then the importance of corporate sustainability has grown with other organisations launching competing products for different markets.
Expert Comment On Sustainability Reporting
Many of the speakers commented on how the number of sustainability reports being published continues to grow year-on-year and drew parallels between this and the growth of financial standards several decades ago.
In addition, everyone was acutely aware of the continuing financial crisis. The irony of talking about corporate transparency while a meltdown precipitated by opaque financial instruments was unfolding was lost on no-one.
Ernst Ligteringen, CEO of GRI, likened the current situation to a pan full of frogs on the stove, all wondering when the water would get so hot that they would need to jump out. He said: “We need a reliable thermometer!”
Other speakers emphasised how the adoption of sustainability standards could lead to a change in a company’s culture, as well as improving its impact upon the wider world.
Chris Burgess, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Vodafone Group, said “For me .. it is the change it delivers within a company which is a real benefit.” He continued: “We have seen parts of the business taking more and more ownership.”
The event closed with a call to arms by Simon Zadek, CEO of AccountAbility. He said that “the financial meltdown is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the rules of the game” and called for sustainability standard providers to speed up their integration in response.
Changes to AA1000AS
Among various changes the standard now comprises of three parts: the Assurance Standards themselves, their underlying Principles and Guidance for practitioners.
These changes will be the focus of upcoming posts.
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