ACCA Sustainability Advisor, Gordon Hewitt, participated in the paragraph 47 focus group held in Johannesburg earlier this year. Focus groups were held in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
Discussions centred around corporate sustainability reporting outcomes of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, known as paragraph 47, which took place in Brazil last year. ACCA has been involved in the debate around paragraph 47 since 2011, mainly through the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, a coalition of financial institutions, professional bodies, NGOs and investors that is being convened by Aviva. In May 2012, ACCA published the policy paper Making a Difference at Rio.
The Johannesburg focus group brought together 10 high-level delegates, including representatives from KPMG, Eskom, WWF, Grant Thornton and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Although the level of sustainability reporting is high in South Africa by international standards, the group felt more could be done to promote sustainability reporting in South Africa, particularly among SMEs.
Beyond sustainability reporting, South Africa is the first country worldwide to introduce mandatory integrated reporting for listed companies. The JSE has included within its listing requirements the need to adopt the principles detailed in the King III report and disclose their progress on a ‘comply or explain,’ basis in the company’ annual report. This approach has worked well in South Africa, and could serve as model for other countries looking to increase levels of non-financial disclosure.
Feedback from the focus groups has been written up into a paper that was published one year on from Rio+20. Specific recommendations to governments looking to implement paragraph 47 include the need to a focus on materiality when developing sustainability reporting frameworks; the importance of collaboration and consultation with key stakeholders; and the need for reporting frameworks to be adaptable to national and sectoral needs, among others.
This paper will help ensure that the momentum generated in Rio is maintained. It will also ensure that ACCA stakeholders remain informed about international initiatives which are actively promoting and advancing corporate sustainability reporting. In addition, the paper will feed into the various working groups in which ACCA is involved.
The report, “Paragraph 47 – International perspectives one year on,” was published at the end of June and is available to download from the ACCA website: http://www.accaglobal.com. For further information, follow the ACCA sustainability twitter feed (@ACCASustain).