Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Business criticized for low uptake of assurance

June 2011

Research outlining the ‘pitifully low’ level of sustainability assurance in UK business has revealed that less than a quarter of big companies include an assurance comment in their CSR reports.

The Carbon Smart consultancy says that, even among those FTSE 350 companies tackling the issue of carbon and sustainability assurance, many do not meet minimum standards. This means only a fraction of the UK’s CSR reports are meaningful and useful to readers.

Half the companies without sustainability assurance did not even know what it was, says Carbon Smart. Many assurance organizations, meanwhile, do not achieve minimum standards such ISO 14064-3. Consequently, the independence of reports has been called into question in recent times.

Karen Mecz, Carbon Smart’s senior consultant, said: ‘People don’t yet know how best to report on sustainability, let alone assure it.’

She also noted that even large companies that are striving to assure their reports properly, such as WH Smith and Ladbrokes, are guilty of falling far short of meeting any recognized standard on the issue.

Associated British Foods, BHP Billiton, RBS and Vodafone were listed as producing the best-assured CSR reports, which Carbon Smart says
should encourage other companies.

It says the findings are surprising especially as mandatory carbon reporting legislation is being introduced next year by the government’s Department  for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which sponsored the report along with British  American Tobacco, Co-operative  Asset Management and the FTSE group.

Carbon Smart said: ‘If we are to have any hope of meeting the carbon reduction targets the UK has committed to, then sustainability must be taken seriously by big business, as the largest corporations have great potential to achieve carbon savings with the measures they implement.  

‘Good intentions alone will not make this happen – carbon reduction measures must be implemented systematically and monitored to ensure improvements are made.  Merely stating you are doing something does not necessarily mean you are.

‘This is where carbon and sustainability assurance reports come in – they provide independent validation that a company is doing what it claims.’

Carbon Smart | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability

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