The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has published a guide to help businesses better understand how non-financial assurance works.

The ICAEW and WBCSD have found that companies believe that the market place for assurance services on non-financial information was often hard to understand and often contained misconceptions, such as how types of assurance differed and which elements of reporting needed to be audited or assured.

Based on insights collected through work with ICAEW and WBCSD members and stakeholders, A Buyer’s Guide to assurance on non-financial information aims to provide more clarity on the topic.

ICAEW’s head of financial reporting, audit and assurance Nigel Sleigh-Johnson said: “Given the recent inquiries into the audit profession following a spate of high-profile corporate collapses, assurance is likely to play a bigger role in future in the corporate reporting process.

“It is important that boards and management understand exactly what assurance is, the value it can bring, and how best to procure services that meet the needs of the business, its shareholders and other key stakeholders. This WBCSD/ICAEW guide will help inform the decisions of those responsible for procuring assurance services.”

WBCSD director, redefining value, Mario Abela said: “The capital markets are calling for better non-financial information to assess corporate performance. Assurance is an important means of enhancing the credibility of non-financial information in corporate reports. Just as investors don’t accept unaudited financial statements, other claims made in corporate reports also need to be subject to scrutiny by a third-party assurance provider.”

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The guide is divided into two parts; the first explains assurance to readers unfamiliar with the topic, and the second sets out practical guidance, considerations and tips for those involved in procuring assurance services.