Practical Tips: Preparing for Assurance over ESG Data

Enhancing audit readiness over ESG disclosures demonstrates a commitment to transparency, accountability, and responsible business practices.  By implementing processes and controls early in the reporting journey, you will be well-positioned for assurance and will have more confidence over the quality of disclosures.

Here are some practical tips we recommend to better prepare for assurance over ESG data:

  1. Establish Clear Documentation Processes 
    As you begin to report on ESG metrics, we recommend documenting all aspects of ESG data collection, validation, and reporting procedures to provide a transparent audit trail for external reviewers.  Even if you have been collecting data for years, but do not yet have your processes documented, it is never too late to start.
  2. Engage External Auditors Early 
    Involve your external auditors in the ESG reporting process from the beginning to align your internal reporting practices with audit expectations and minimize surprises during the audit.
  3. Implement Robust Internal Controls 
    First identify and document, then determine if internal controls over your non-financial data need to be strengthened to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of ESG data, which will reduce the risk of material misstatements and compliance errors.  Don’t reinvent the wheel!  >> Leverage the work your finance team already does and templates they may use to document internal controls over the financial reporting process and adapt them to your ESG reporting process.

     

  4. Regularly Monitor Data Integrity 
    Continuously monitor the integrity of ESG data through automated checks, periodic reviews, and reconciliation processes to promptly identify and rectify inconsistencies or anomalies. Don’t wait until the end of the year to start looking at your ESG data – it should be monitored throughout the year just like financial data.
  5. Adopt Standardized Reporting Frameworks 
    Consider aligning your ESG reporting practices with recognized frameworks to provide a structured approach that facilitates audit readiness and enhances the credibility of disclosures.
  6. Invest in Training and Awareness 
    Provide training and awareness programs for employees involved in ESG data collection and reporting to ensure a thorough understanding of compliance requirements and best practices.  We also suggest fostering cross-collaboration of your sustainability-reporting team with your finance team.  Finance teams are used to ensuring data is audit ready and are familiar with the processes needed to enhance the verifiability of information.  Their extensive knowledge can be a beneficial resource for your sustainability team.