Verify

Organisations assure information to make sure it is reliable for use in decision-making

Last updated: November 9, 2021

Overview

Before making decisions, organisations – and often their stakeholders – need confidence that:

  • the organisation’s processes and practices are sufficient to produce reliable information on sustainability performance; and
  • the resulting performance information is complete and accurate.

Assurance is the process of evaluating an organisation’s information against suitable criteria and standards in order to increase confidence in the information for use in decision-making. Assured information is also of value to other stakeholders who make decisions with an organisation’s information, such as investors. Assurance engagements are conducted with limited assurance or reasonable assurance.

Assurance can involve a degree of information verification, which is the process of establishing whether information is true and accurate.

Assurance is most important for decisions that may have significant consequences for an organisation or its stakeholders.

Unlike with financial decisions, where organisations themselves bear most of the consequences of making the wrong decision, it is the affected stakeholders who often bear the consequences of the wrong decisions related to sustainability. For this reason, it is increasingly acknowledged that assurance of sustainability information should include the perspectives of the stakeholders experiencing the impact.  

Organisations typically establish their own internal assurance processes for information used in day-to-day management decisions. Some engage third-party assurers for greater independence, or as a way of advancing their internal practices. The third-party assurer and the organisation must agree appropriate underlying subject matter and suitable criteria for the assurance engagement, which can include assurance of practices, performance information or both. Organisations can request various levels of assurance with reference to an existing standard.

Organisations that want confidence that their performance or processes have met a certain required level of attainment can seek certification by a third party. Whilst assurance engagements result in an opinion expressed by the assurer on the quality of information provided, certifications typically result in awarding a grading or pass/fail.


Resources

Assurance standards

Through the assurance process, organisations can gain confidence that they are applying a standard or criteria as intended. These standards will typically be implemented by a third-party assurer.

AA1000 Assurance Standard

Last updated: 2020

A set of criteria that demonstrates adherence to AccountAbility’s four principles: inclusivity, materiality, responsiveness and impact. Assurance using this assurance standard can cover an organisation’s practices as well as sustainability performance information.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Assure a report or the organisation’s practices with reference to the AA1000. The subject matter for an assurance engagement is not pre-defined in the AA1000, meaning this assurance standard is commonly used to assure external reports prepared according to other reporting standards.

Report Assurance Standard

Last updated: 2018

Report Assurance standard that provides criteria to assess the application of SVI’s Social Value Principles as evidenced in a report. Assurance is conducted acting in the interests of the affected stakeholders, an important distinction versus other assurance standards that are currently available.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Assure a report that has been prepared in accordance with the Principles of Social Value. The Principles of Social Value and associated practice standards help organisations measure and manage the social value generated through their business activities. This means the assurance standard is best applied to a report that has been prepared in accordance with the principles from the outset. The assurance standard is used to assess application of the principles, it does not assure accuracy of performance information.

Principles for Responsible Banking Assurance Guidelines

Last updated: 2021

Accompanying assurance guidelines for the Principles for Responsible Banking.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Assure adherence to the Principles of Responsible Banking.

SDG Impact Seal and Assurance Framework

Forthcoming: Assurance criteria for demonstrating adherence to the SDG Impact Standards for Enterprises, Private Equity Funds or Bonds, and associated certification.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Certify that an organisation’s systems and processes adhere to the SDG Impact Standards.

Certifications

In addition to those listed below, many other organisations provide certification on a range of products or specific sustainability topics, which may have more or less relevance depending on an organisation’s industry.

B Corp certification

Last updated: 2019

Certification awarded when an organisation achieves a score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Become B Corp Certified. Organisations undergo verification including interviews, submitting documentation, and as necessary site reviews, to increase confidence that the company’s score is accurate and the required 80-point score has been achieved.

SDG Impact Seal and Assurance Framework

Forthcoming: Assurance criteria for demonstrating adherence to the SDG Impact Standards for Enterprises, Private Equity Funds or Bonds, and associated certification.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Certify that an organisation’s systems and processes adhere to the SDG Impact Standards.

Social Value Management Certificate

Last updated: 2021

Certification process that assesses to what extent the Principles of Social Value are embedded in an organisations systems and processes. The certificate has three levels that set out a progression for organisations looking to continuously improve how they optimise social value for their stakeholders.

Use this resource to:

  • Verify: Certify that an organisation’s systems and processes adhere to the Principles of Social Value.

Definitions

Assurance

The methods and processes employed to evaluate an organisation’s disclosures about its performance, as well as its underlying systems, data and processes, against suitable criteria and standards in order to increase confidence in the information for use in decision-making. The results are shared in a written conclusion called an assurance statement.

Source: Adapted from AccountAbility

Certification

The action or process of providing someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Criteria

The benchmarks used to measure or evaluate the underlying subject matter.

Source: International Standards for Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000

Limited assurance

  • Reasonable assurance: risk of misstatement of the assurance opinion is reduced to a low level through extensive procedures. The assurance provider obtains sufficient evidence to confirm whether the subject matter conforms to the criteria.
  • Limited assurance: risk of misstatement is reduced through the collection of evidence but not to the low level required by reasonable assurance. Assurance providers provide comfort over whether the underlying subject matter plausibly meets the criteria.

Source: Based on International Standards for Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000

Reasonable assurance

  • Reasonable assurance: risk of misstatement of the assurance opinion is reduced to a low level through extensive procedures. The assurance provider obtains sufficient evidence to confirm whether the subject matter conforms to the criteria.
  • Limited assurance: risk of misstatement is reduced through the collection of evidence but not to the low level required by reasonable assurance. Assurance providers provide comfort over whether the underlying subject matter plausibly meets the criteria.

Source: Adapted from International Standards for Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000

Stakeholder

An entity or individual that can reasonably be expected to be significantly affected by the organisation’s activities, products and services, or whose actions can reasonably be expected to affect the ability of the organisation to successfully implement its strategies and achieve its objectives.

Source: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct; OECD Well-being Framework; Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) Integrated Reporting Framework

Underlying subject matter

The phenomenon that is measured or evaluated by applying criteria.

Source: International Standards for Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000

Verification

The act of showing or checking that something is true or accurate.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

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