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July 8, 2021

Public sector sustainability reporting needs improvement

By Joe Pickard

More than half (56%) of public sector organisations do not currently report on their climate impact, according to an international survey of public sector professionals conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Of the 44% of respondents who said that their organisation does produce a sustainability report, only around half said they used a standard definition of sustainability, while only 25% of reports prepared were subject to an audit or verification process.

CIPFA identified 12 sustainability reporting frameworks that could potentially be used by public sector organisations to report on climate matters, however, none focused on the public sector context.

The absence of an accepted reporting framework, a legislative mandate, political support and credible data were cited as key challenges by respondents that limit the practice from becoming mainstream.

CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman said: “The climate crisis is now firmly at the top of global political and economic agendas. We’ve seen private sector companies incorporating non-financial measures to better assess their overall performance, which includes their impact on the climate. The issue is that this type of reporting hasn’t materialised in the same way for the public sector in most countries.”

CIPFA highlighted seven key areas for the development of public sector sustainability reporting:

  • Clarity on the definition and scope of sustainability reports
  • Greater institutional/organisational focus and commitment to public sector sustainability reporting
  • Development of skills and capabilities needed to deliver sustainability reporting
  • Determination of the role of audit and assurance
  • Increased scrutiny of sustainability reports
  • Acceleration of efforts to harmonise existing frameworks and standards
  • Integration of sustainability information with other forms of reporting

 

CIPFA director of public financial management Karen Sanderson said: “The planet doesn’t differentiate when it comes to who is responsible for emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases. CIPFA conducted this research to see what, if at all, different public sector organisations around the world are doing to report and assess their impact on the climate. We now know that public sector organisations are lagging their private sector counterparts, and that there is a global appetite for this type of the reporting among public sector professionals.”

The full report can be found here

 

 

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