Are businesses ready for pending ESG data assurance requirements?
A survey released by KPMG has shed light on the preparedness of companies to obtain independent assurance for their reported ESG information.
The study, which encompassed senior executives and board members from 750 diverse companies, averaged a revenue of $15.6bn and inaugurated the ESG Assurance Maturity Index, identifies significant lags in corporations’ ESG policies, skills, systems, and value chain data in preparation for the ESG assurance.
Amidst burgeoning regulatory and stakeholder pressures to report an extensive range of ESG-related information, and with emerging disclosure systems like the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s climate-related reporting rules requiring independent assurance on sustainability reporting, companies find themselves grappling to align with the new norms.
A parallel is observed with the rigour seen in financial disclosure requirements, yet only one in four companies find themselves in advanced stages of readiness for the impending assurance requisites.
ESG Audit Leader at KPMG U.S., Maura Hodge, illuminated the urgency and imperative nature of assurance requirements stating, “Assurance requirements are here. Soon, third-party assurance will no longer be a nice to have; it will be table stakes. While there are some larger companies that have been working to get ESG assurance ready, most companies haven’t built out much of the infrastructure that they need to have their ESG data assured. Now is the time for companies to establish their processes and become assurance ready.”
The KPMG study revealed that 75% of companies linger in the initial stages of ESG assurance preparedness. This persists despite looming regulatory mandates, touching various pivotal aspects such as governance, skills, data management, digital technology, and value chain, with even the identified top 25% “Leaders” confronted with a considerable journey ahead to become ESG assurance ready.
A closer look at the disparities in readiness by company size, region, and sector reveals larger firms and those in North America and Europe to be outpacing their counterparts.
Companies face a multifaceted challenge in their journey towards ESG assurance, where high initial costs and a dearth of internal skills and experience top the list of hurdles, each being highlighted by 44% of respondents.
Additionally, complexities arise from a lack of clarity and evolving regulations (42%), insufficient supplier ESG performance (42%), inadequate IT or digital solutions (39%), and an absence of clear metrics or measurement tools (36%).
Larry Bradley, Global Head of Audit, and Mike Shannon, Global Head of ESG Assurance at KPMG International, emphasised the criticality of transparent and scrutinised ESG reporting.
They articulated, “To gain investor and stakeholder confidence and mitigate the risk of greenwashing, ESG reporting should be subject to a level of scrutiny comparable to the financial information that users depend on. This means that companies need to invest in and improve data quality by applying disclosure control and risk frameworks akin to those used in financial reporting.”
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