The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has announced plans to revise the International Education Standards (IES) to bring greater focus to sustainability reporting and assurance competence and recognise the evolving role of professional accountants in this important area.

IFAC anticipates launching a public consultation on proposed revisions to the standards in March 2024, marking a significant milestone for the global accountancy profession’s journey to advance sustainability disclosure standards that respond to the needs of investors and other stakeholders.

Extensive stakeholder outreach and research made it clear that while professional accountants’ skills and training are transferable to sustainability reporting and assurance, there’s a need for a focus on sustainability in the IES. The planned revisions will address this, including revised and new learning outcomes needed for professional development programs to best prepare future and current professional accountants for the increasing demands for sustainability reporting and assurance.

As IFAC commits to revising the IESs, in partnership with the IFAC International Panel on Accountancy Education, it encourages professional accountants to seize the opportunity to enhance their sustainability knowledge and expertise.

Commenting on this, IFAC CEO Kevin Dancey said: “As sustainability reporting and assurance become mainstream, professional accountants have a unique opportunity to lead and bring value. Professional accountants should begin their journey now to develop or enhance sustainability reporting and assurance abilities. It is imperative that we all commit to personal professional development, ensuring that we are ready to meet the moment with the competence and due care that define our profession.”

Professional accountancy organisations have crucial roles to play helping their members as they transition to increasing market demand for sustainability reporting and assurance. Collective action is needed at the global, regional and local levels to accelerate the pace at which existing knowledge is expanded upon.

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IFAC has noted that it further encourages its member organisations to enhance current learning requirements with respect to sustainability and to recognise those courses offered by others—including the IFRS Foundation’s anticipated eLearning course, which may prove useful to PAOs to offer their members as it is designed to respond to market demand to begin implementing the inaugural IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards, IFRS S1 and S2.