Increased scrutiny of environmental, social and governance disclosures in financial and sustainability reports will require Fortune 500 firms to seek much more comprehensive assurance of their sustainability data and controls in 2014, the analyst firm says. It recommends corporations with a global footprint turn to one of these six companies for assurance engagements across GHG data, CDP disclosures, sustainability reports, supply chain compliance, product sustainability and sustainability management systems.
The report, Green Quadrant: Sustainability Assurance (Global), is the third Verdantix benchmark of sustainability assurance providers. The study identifies 29 notable providers of sustainability assurance but found only nine had the capabilities to deliver globally. The comparison of the global providers — which includes Environ, ERM CVS and SGS — is based on 63 assessment criteria and in-depth interviews with 15 customers with collective revenues of $351 billion.
The six market leaders have established market positions ahead of other firms due to their:
- Long client lists across all sectors and geographies. Leading firms provide an assurance statement for at least 100 sustainability reports annually. For example, Bureau Veritas has assured the reporting of AstraZeneca, Lukoil, Nestlé and Network Rail.
- Broad service offerings that integrate many expertise areas. Financial audit firms staff assurance teams with experts from their audit practices, sustainability consulting teams and industry practice groups — meeting the buying criteria of complex, global corporations.
- Commitment to shaping market standards. The leaders shape the market through the technical committees and working groups of organizations such as the CDP, the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Accounting Standards Board, and the International Integrated Reporting Council.
- Long-running marketing programs to drive awareness. The Big Four financial audit firms in particular have published numerous thought leadership reports on sustainability reporting and assurance to help corporations understand the value of assurance.
- Innovation for product and supply chain sustainability. DNV earned the top score for product sustainability assurance. It has invested in product water footprints as well as creating its own standard, ProSustain, against which clients can have their management system or products certified.
The value of undertaking assurance of sustainability data, reports and management systems is gaining traction worldwide, according to data from a related Verdantix survey of 250 heads of sustainability in 13 countries. The survey found that 46 percent of the 250 firms interviewed currently pay for assurance of their greenhouse gas data and 39 percent invest in assurance of their sustainability reports.