Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)


Current Trends and Future Expectations in External Assurance for Integrated Corporate Sustainability Reporting

Author(s): Karen C. Miller, Lacie Fink, Thomas Y. Proctor

Amidst national interest in the global movement toward integrated corporate sustainability reporting (CSR), this study undertakes exploratory research of the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Disclosure Database Reports List, the world’s largest database of integrated reports. Given the shortage of current literature from a United States (U.S.) perspective on the topic, the purpose of this research is to mine the GRI data and identify trends among “integrated” report filers, with and without external assurance, for the periods 2013 and 2014. These trends could identify indicators or determinants of assurance of CSR in the future and how this could impact the accounting industry. The findings reveal an increase in the percentage of integrated reports with external assurance from 2013 to 2014. The findings also identify assurance providers, assurance scope, standards, certifications, countries and sectors related to the companies and the reports that comprise the largest portion of the datasets, including companies filing integrated reports both with and without external assurance. This study finds that the U.S. only submitted 11% of the CSR reports in the GRI database in 2014 and the U.S. submitted less than 2% of the database’s integrated reports with external assurance for this same period. Accordingly, the Corporate Register Live Charts also reveal that less than 6% of U.S. reporting companies provide assurance on their corporate responsibility reports. This study reveals lagging trends in the U.S. compared to other countries when considering the reliability and credibility of integrated CSR reports and the lack of external assurance and provides recommendations for improving this market.