IASB Chairman speaks about the IASB and wider corporate reporting

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18 Sep 2017

At the Accountancy Europe event 'Shaping the future of corporate reporting' held today in Brussels, IASB Chairman Hans Hoogervorst discussed the relevance of financial reporting in a world where companies provide more and more non-financial information and are seeking a wider audience than investors alone.

Mr Hoogervorst's main message at the beginning of his peech was: "Keep calm and carry on". He explained that he was not at all concerned that the relevance of financial reporting is under threat. He noted that financial statements are primarily backward looking and, therefore, always provide an important reality check. And he also noted that the more information became available, the more need there was for comparability, standardisation and quality control.

Yet Mr Hoogervorst also conceded that times are changing and everybody needs to adapt - including the IASB. In this context he noted two aspects of the IASB's work. Firstly, he stressed the IASB's current effort at better communication in financial reporting. He noted a few projects and initiatives that form part of the effort and he also explained that the IASB may need to give preparers more guidance on how to provide context to their financial statements. And secondly, Mr Hoogervorst mentioned the IASB's non-mandatory Management Commentary Practice Statement and even went so far as to call it "an early foray of the IASB into integrated reporting". As times has moved on, however, he noted that the IASB is currently looking at taking up a project to update practice statement.

As a last aspect, Mr Hoogervorst looked at environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and the question of whether the IASB should become active in that field. He noted that audience for sustainability reporting is broader than that of financial reporting and that much of sustainability reporting is primarily focused on the external effects of the performance of a company. Mr Hoogervorst said that he believed that the IASB does not have the expertise to become the standard-setter in this field and that widening the audience and scope of the Board's work would most likely lead to loss of focus and identity. He stated:

If we want to create more clarity in the somewhat chaotic world of wider corporate reporting, we all need to define clearly what our responsibilities and competences are. If we all try to do everything, the most likely outcome is that nothing gets done properly.

However, Mr Hoogervorst did not just leave it at that. He also followed up on the question who should take responsibility for harmonisation of ESG requirements and try to prevent overload. He argued that since so much of ESG reporting is closely intertwined with public policy goals, public authorities would be best equipped to pursue harmonisation.

Please click to access the full text of the speech on the IASB website.

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