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February 13, 2024

Sustainability: self-certified or audited by professional accountants?

While self-certification schemes (such as B Corp, Greenly, Net Zero Now) were once hailed as a gold standard for ethical business practices, concerns have arisen about their effectiveness in truly measuring a company’s sustainability efforts. A recent article on BBC Worklife explored whether B Corp certification has lost its credibility and inadvertently contributed to corporate greenwashing. This has prompted discussions about alternative methods for gauging a company’s commitment to sustainability such as provided by Chartered Accountants. 

In contrast to self-certifying schemes, Chartered Accountants focus on financial-grade, auditable ESG data, which is gaining significant attention since IFRS new international sustainability accounting standards were introduced in 2023. These new accounting standards aim to make non-financial data consistent and comparable with financial data. 

Three key differences between self-assessed and accountant-assessed certification

1. Accuracy and Reliability

Unlike self-assessed certification schemes (like B Corp), Chartered Accountants bring the rigour and professionalism of financial accounting and auditing to non-financial, ESG data. Working on Omnevue’s platform (think Quickbooks or Xero for ESG) professional accountants provide financial-grade ESG data that customers, banks and investors can trust, making ESG data as decision-useful as financial data.

2. Compliance-ready

Omnevue’s platform facilitates reporting on 23 sustainability KPIs (across environmental, social and governance), which have a 79% alignment with the EU Taxonomy; the highest alignment of all major ESG reporting providers and frameworks. This means clients are future-proofed against reporting requirements under CSRD and SFDR. Omnevue does not report on exposure to controversial weapons (the main reason the coverage is not 100%). This comprehensive evaluation ensures that data is compliance-ready, rather than focusing solely on selected measures required for self-certification.

3. Transparency and Accountability

Financial-grade, auditable ESG data adheres to rigorous accounting standards, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the information presented. This data is auditable, meaning it can be tested and agreed to supporting documentation – just like a financial audit. By integrating financial-grade ESG data into their reporting and decision-making frameworks, companies demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability in their sustainability endeavours. 

Prove you are not greenwashing

Professional accountants and SMEs working with Omnevue can make use of the Omnevue Audit Mark to communicate to stakeholders that the data has been audited by a Chartered Accountant. This mark proves that the company is not greenwashing and serves as a tangible symbol of a company’s commitment to genuine sustainability practices, further reinforcing trust and transparency in the marketplace.

Self-certification marks (notably B Corp) have played a valuable role in promoting corporate sustainability but their efficacy has come under scrutiny due to the prevalence of greenwashing practices. Professional accountants working with Omnevue can offer a more rigorous and transparent alternative of a company’s sustainability performance that is on a par with financial reporting. 

With new ESG disclosure regulation arriving in 2024, the need for quality financial grade ESG data has never been more pressing. That means a business needs to be working with a data reporting partner, such as Omnevue, that adheres to the ISAE 3000 or ISO 14064 and ISO 14067 standards.

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