Chairman of the Trustees believes IASB needs to be prepared for sustainability

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Sep 30, 2019

On September 30, 2019, the Chairman of the IFRS Foundation Trustees, Erkki Liikanen, spoke at the WSS meeting about his impressions after one year as Chairman and about three issues he believes the IFRS Foundation must look out for: its gains, consistent application, and sustainability.

Mr. Liikanen began his speech by describing the three tasks the IFRS Foundation has (governance, responsibility for strategy, oversight) and noted that the Foundation is there to “ defend the independence of the IASB”. He called the history of the IASB a short, but successful one with IFRS having become the de facto global language of financial reporting.

With that Mr. Liikanen turned to the three issues that he sees as the future task of the IFRS Foundation. Firstly, he said, the Foundation must protect its gains in times of  geopolitical tensions, increasing protectionism, and globalization. He cautioned that “the IFRS Foundation is not immune against pressure”. He also noted that the Foundation cannot sit back and live on its successes but must work to make sure that IFRSs continue to be the global standard in uncertain times in order to continue to maintain the full confidence of the investors. In this context he described the IFRS Foundation as the “custodian of the IFRS product”.

Mr. Liikanen then turned to the question of consistent application. He especially noted that in this area the IASB and the national standard-setters need to work together. While, as he said, the IASB can operate alone, it needs everybody else for support. And, as he said earlier, the national standard-setters really impressed him by the level of engagement and level of expertise. So, Mr. Liikanen concluded, for consistent application and the success of IFRS the Foundation always needs to keep an open ear and ask: “What can we do more?”

Mr. Liikanen concluded his speech by turning to the subject of sustainability, an issue investors increasingly ask for. They want pure financials “and more”, which would translate into the usual numbers plus environmental impact and long-term impact. So what would be the role of the IFRS Foundation in this? He noted that it is very difficult to follow the different systems. He said he had come across “many great products with great acronyms”. However, this means that information is not always comparable, while investors ask for comparability and tools to work with. And, he noted, some time in the future investors might come to the IFRS Foundation and ask for that there. Therefore, he concluded, the IASB is currently not moving into the foreground of sustainability reporting, but, when asked, “we must be prepared”.

Review the conference agenda papers on the IASB's website.

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