11 October 2022

Plugging the sustainability information gap

Advanced data collecting software is needed to help companies disclose reliable sustainability information and assurance requirements should be limited at first to help accountants build their capacity on sustainability information, according to finance professionals.

Speaking at a conference hosted by IFAC and CIMA last Thursday (6 September), panellists highlighted that sustainability reporting is not yet as rigorous as financial statements due to the challenges they face in collecting data.

Shamsul Bahar, financial controller at PETRONAS, said that the biggest challenge for collecting sustainability data was the need to source information from entities throughout the company's value chain, upstream, downstream, locally and internationally.

He said the company is currently collecting this information manually, which meant it "wasn't ready" to comply with international sustainability disclosure standards and would need a "unified platform system" in the future to undertake the task.

Patti Humble, chief accounting officer at UPS, agreed that advanced software was needed to help collect and report on sustainability metrics and that companies needed to move beyond Excel.

Once the systems are in place and reliable, she added, the process need to go through "rigorous reviews, the same as we do for our financial statements".

Swami Venkataraman, associate managing director of ESG at Moody's, argued that disclosure requirements should only require limited assurance in the initial phase of implementation as companies will struggle to collect enough reliable data to comply with a stricter assurance requirements.