The standard provides the requirements for conducting independent assurance on the nature and extent of an organisation’s understanding of and response to its non-financial, sustainability issues and on the quality of its publicly disclosed information on its sustainability performance. As reporting moves away from a purely financial focus to a more holistic view of corporate risk, opportunity and impact on our economies and societies, this standard contributes to the reform of corporate reporting and assurance.

Jennifer Iansen Rogers, Chair of the AccountAbility Technical Committee, KPMG comments, “The revised AA1000 Assurance Standard offers sufficient flexibility to drive innovation combined with structure and content to drive quality and consistency.”

“Over 4500 experts from around the world have been engaged during the development of this standard,” says Alan Knight, Head of Standards at AccountAbility, “the result is a significant revision of the 2003 edition and a standard that clearly signals the closing gap between financial reporting and assurance and non-financial reporting and assurance.”

Three separate documents have been developed to replace the AA1000AS 2003. The
2003 standard listed principles that applied to the reporting organisation and procedures that applied to the assurance provider and as a result caused confusion. The separate documents in the 2008 edition were created to make the separation of roles and responsibilities much clearer and to clarify that the focus of the standard is on assurance.

– The AccountAbility Principles Standard (AA1000APS 2008) defines and establishes the criteria for the AccountAbility Principles. The intention is to clarify the expectation of the reporting organisation and the assurance provider.
– The AA1000AS (2008) is now clearly and solely a standard for assurance providers wanting to provide assurance. It establishes minimum requirements for each element of the assurance process. The Assurance Standard contains more structured and detailed procedural requirements than the 2003 standard.
– The Guidance for AA1000AS (2008) is a new document developed as a direct result of stakeholder input during the consultation exercise. The guidance addresses the need for information beyond the minimum requirements and, unlike the requirements of the AA1000AS (2008) is non-binding.

Ernst Ligteringen, CEO, GRI comments “The revised AA1000AS is a powerful standard for evaluating whether an organisation is accountable to its stakeholders. Through ‘Inclusivity’ it places stakeholders at the heart of assurance and asks whether their voice is being heard and responded to. The AA1000AS is as relevant to powerful civil society groups as it is to companies wanting to demonstrate their accountability.”

As an overarching assurance standard, AA1000AS (2008) provides a means to capture and place in context all of the different certification schemes that deal with specific dimensions of sustainability such as those for sustainable forest management, fair trade labeling or environmental management systems. It provides a credible and objective platform to align the non-financial aspects of sustainability with regular financial reporting and assurance.

Rob Cameron, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation believes, “The inclusive process used to develop this standard, especially the online wiki sets a benchmark for future multi-stakeholder standards development. I am particularly pleased to see that the new AA1000AS provides a means to recognise other sustainability standards and certification processes like our own as evidence for assurance.”

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals and Sustainability from The Co-operative Group comments on the standard, “The revised AA1000AS is an important tool to improve sustainability management and increase the credibility of reporting. The AccountAbility Principles challenge us to continually improve as a business, not just to report better. Openess and honesty should be given in business: the real challenge is to make inclusivity and accountability real.”