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ACCA calls for meaningful sustainability commitment at the Rio+20 conference

01 Jun 2012

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has published a paper which looks at possible changes to a key aspect of the outcome document from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 ('Rio+20'). According to ACCA, the paragraph on sustainability reporting included in the "zero draft" of this document needs to be "toughened and expanded".

The "zero draft" of the outcome document (available on the Rio+20 website) contains the following paragraph (paragraph 24) as part of its 'framework for action':

We call for a global policy framework requiring all listed and large private companies to consider sustainability issues and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle.

ACCA believes that these words express a clear goal, however, "the paragraph needs to have greater reference to the role of the private sector and accountability, and it could certainly be more action-orientated". As the implementation of resolutions has often proved to be the crux with international agreements, ACCA suggests that the paragraph should be rephrased so that it will lead to a commitment by UN member states to develop mechanisms for sustainability reporting at a national level that meet global standards at the same time.

ACCA also believes that paragraph 24 should obligate companies to report on a ‘comply-or-explain’ basis. This would force companies to consider and discuss risks and opportunities arising from sustainable development and to embed sustainability into their business strategy and key processes.

While ACCA presses for these changes there are also worries that the zero draft’s paragraph 24 will not make it intact to the final Rio+20 agreement. ACCA warns of any watering down of the paragraph (for example by replacing the Word "require" with the word "encourage") and stresses: "An effective paragraph 24 would increase the relevance of sustainability to investors and businesses and spread good practice worldwide."

Please click for the following documents on the ACCA website:

  • Press release Integrating material sustainability information into corporate reports should be a key and critical outcome of Rio +20, urges ACCA
  • Report Making a difference at Rio+20

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