bitesized comments are hit with reportersJuly 2004
An innovative approach taken by Ernst & Young to verifying one of the UK’s flagship social reports could be offered to other companies.
The professional service firm’s assurance of BP’s latest sustainability report includes short comments within the document text, as well as a three-page statement at the end. Ernst & Young says the comments, which appear in boxes as ‘specific observations’ on matters covered in nearby text, have caught the eye of other reporting companies.
‘A lot of our other clients are interested, and it’s possible we may extend it,’ said Ernst & Young’s client services manager Claire Rainsford. ‘However, we haven’t done it for anyone else yet, as it’s dependent on where a company is with its reporting and how much knowledge we’ve gained of the company through site visits.’
In the case of BP, Ernst & Young says it has been able to include the observations because it has visited the company’s sites on more than 80 different occasions over the past eight years. Rainsford said the idea of ‘specific observations’ developed after discussions with BP about making the formal assurance statement more accessible. ‘We’ve realized for some time that not a lot of people want to read the whole verification statement at the back, even though we’d like them to,’ she said. ‘These observations provide information in bitesized portions for the reader that are more accessible.’
Most of Ernst & Young’s observations in the BP report draw attention to areas in which the verifier feels the oil company could improve its performance. In a section on combating corruption, for instance, it comments that most BP sites have not completed a formal ethics risk assessment and that the approach to assessment is patchy across the group.
In another section it points out that although BP has been encouraging business units to move away from philanthropic giving towards more focused social investment, it found community programmes in Europe that ‘had not yet been reviewed in this light’.
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