AICPA releases sustainability attestation guide

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The American Institute of CPAs has issued a new guide to help accountants provide assurance on their corporate clients’ environmental information.

The new guide, Attestation Engagements on Sustainability Information (Including Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information), will help CPAs interpret and apply the clarified attestation standards in Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No.18 when they conduct examination or review engagements on sustainability matters. Many portfolio managers and research analysts take sustainability issues into account when deciding on investments and believe that kind of information should be subject to independent assurance.

The publication includes guidance for examinations and reviews of sustainability data based on the AICPA’s clarified attestation standards, including preconditions for doing these kinds of engagements. It also offers updated guidance for attestation engagements on greenhouse gas emissions and displays examination and review procedures side-by-side. The guide includes some examples of representation letters and accountants’ reports for the types of situations a CPA might run into with clients. There’s also guidance on some of the matters not addressed in the clarified attestation standards, along with additional guidance on the use of specialists.

“The demand for meaningfully-assured sustainability information is on the rise, coming from investors and other key decision makers who value this information,” said AICPA executive vice president of public practice Susan S. Coffey in a statement Thursday. “Licensed CPAs have provided high-value sustainability assurance services under general attestation standards for decades, but until now there was no subject matter-specific application guidance covering areas other than reporting on Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Separately Thursday, the AICPA staff also issued Question and Answers (Q&A) section 9160.31–.35 (AICPA Technical Questions and Answers) to provide nonauthoritative guidance about reporting on financial statements using an inappropriate set of standards. The technical Q&As discuss whether an entity is a state or local government for purposes of determining whether it is using the appropriate set of accounting standards, along with how to report on the entity’s financial statements when it decides to follow either a different set of standards or a special-purpose framework.

The AICPA also released on Thursday its quarterly AICPA Personal Financial Satisfaction Index, which reached a 10-year high in the second quarter of the year due to factors including low inflation and a record number of job openings.

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