During April and May, ACCA held a series of six focus groups that sought to gather the views and opinions of experts in corporate sustainability reporting around the world. The focus groups took place in the UK, UAE, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia.
The discussions centred on the corporate sustainability reporting outcomes of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, known as paragraph 47, that 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, which is a coalition of financial institutions, professional bodies, NGOs and investors. In May 2012, ACCA published the policy paper Making a Difference at Rio.
The focus groups brought together 49 high level delegates representing the business, accounting, sustainability, investment and NGO communities. Organisations represented included all of the Big 4 accounting firms, NGOs such as WWF, Stakeholder Forum and Save the Children; investment banks such as Credit Suisse and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi; and research organisations such as EIRIS and Corporate Knights.
Delegates were asked their opinions on the content of paragraph 47, and whether or not the agreement made at the Rio conference was strong enough to change corporate behaviour; what the key challenges and opportunities were to implement paragraph 47 in each respective country; how the needs of developing countries can be considered; and which current models and sustainability reporting frameworks represent best practice.
Feedback from the focus groups has been written up into a paper that has been published one year on from Rio+20. Specific recommendations to governments looking to implement paragraph 47 include a focus on materiality when developing sustainability reporting frameworks, the importance of collaborations and consultation with key stakeholders and that reporting frameworks should be adaptable to national and sectoral needs, among others. This paper will help ensure that the momentum generated in Rio is maintained; ensure that ACCA's stakeholders remain informed about international initiatives that are actively promoting and advancing corporate sustainability reporting; and feed into the various working groups that ACCA are involved with.