IFRS Foundation Trustees' stakeholder event with focus on non-financial reporting

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19 Feb, 2020

At the joint stakeholder event hosted by the IFRS Foundation and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) during the meeting of the Trustees in Brussels on 18 February, participants discussed 'Financial reporting: remaining relevant in a changing environment'.

The keynote address was delivered by Executive Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis. He noted that the European Commission (EC), at the beginning of a new five-year mandate, hat two major tasks to focus on - the fight against climate change and digital transformation. In his speech on non-financial reporting, Mr Dombrovskis connected both topics. He explained that today a much broader range of information is needed from companies and that in order for corporate reporting to remain relevant in this changing world, it needs to evolve. Mr Dombrovskis referred to the recently launched initiative to review the Non-Financial Reporting Directive and mentioned that the EC will ask EFRAG to begin work on non-financial reporting standards soon. However, he stressed, that while the EU is taking the lead on this, it "cannot go alone". Rather, Mr Dombrovskis explained, the EU initiative will be a platform that will allow and need others to contribute to developing these standards - he referred expressly to the IASB and other standard-setters and organisations "from around the world". Turning to digitalisation, Mr Dombrovskis commented that common standards are not only needed to achieve comparability in non-financial reporting, they would also provide a good basis for harnessing digital developments to help make fragmented and scattered information accessible and machine readable. His thoughts included broadening the new European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) to non-financial reporting and he noted that the digital financial strategy the EC is currently developing would extend to both financial and non-financial reporting.

Following the keynote address, the Chairman of the IFRS Foundation Trustees Erkki Liikanen moderated a panel discussion with MEPs Sven Giegold and Sirpa Pietikäinen, both members of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) of the European Parliament. Again, non-financial reporting was at the heart of the discussion. Ms Pietikäinen pointed to the 200 plus frameworks and sets of standards for sustainability reporting that currently exist. She asked the audience to imagine such a situation for financial reporting and stressed that non-financial reporting must be harmonised and must be made mandatory to achieve comparability. Ms Pietikäinen expressed the belief that this must be done globally. She suggested that there is no better place to have such a global standard-setter than under the auspices of the IFRS Foundation. Asked what the IFRS Foundation and the IASB should think or worry about regarding climate change and financial reporting, Mr Giegold explained that the climate crisis is a similar crisis to the financial crisis. Before the financial crisis, financial statements did not give a true and fair view of the risks companies were exposed to. Similarly, financial statements now would not faithfully portray the risks companies are exposed to as regards the climate change. He pointed out that ESG risks have a huge economic impact. He acknowledged the IASB's efforts around the management commentary, however, he called it the "blah blah" and asked the IASB to become active and develop rules that would allow to reflect ESG risks and their economic impact in the financial statements themselves.

A transcript of Mr Dombrovskis speech is available on the EC website.

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