IFAC seeks consistency, accountants’ engagement in corporate reporting

By Ken Tysiac

As currently constructed, the corporate reporting system does not help organizations to communicate effectively or enable stakeholders to easily understand companies’ ability to create sustainable value over time, according to the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

In a position paper published Thursday, IFAC stated that investors and other stakeholders are demanding better information than conventional financial reporting is providing on company performance, risks, opportunities, and long-term prospects.

“To be accountable, companies need to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of their organization’s ability to create sustainable value over time,” the report says.

The wide variety of frameworks and standard-setting initiatives — particularly those focused on value creation; sustainability; and environmental, social, and governance factors — has resulted in complexity, inefficiency, and lack of transparency that can lead to increased costs, according to IFAC.

The emergence of best practices or a single set of standards in this area would be beneficial, IFAC states. And while IFAC supports the work being done to enhance corporate reporting by the Corporate Reporting Dialogue, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and other organizations, IFAC states that a uniform, global approach is needed.

IFAC states that integrated reporting under the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) framework gives organizations the ability to effectively communicate narrative information and metrics that describe their ability to create value over time.

Accounting professionals, meanwhile, have a key role to play in enhancing corporate reporting, according to IFAC. Accountants possess the skills, expertise, and professionalism to advance the cause of corporate reporting, IFAC states.

Former Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Chief Executive Charles Tilley co-authored a report describing the need for CFOs to become “chief value officers” as finance teams increasingly account for the business and value creation rather than just the balance sheet. Tilley now serves as interim CEO of the IIRC and as chair of the IFAC Professional Accountants in Business Committee.

As described by Tilley and co-author Kevin Dancey, a chief value officer would ensure that all relevant aspects of value creation and destruction are accounted for and communicated to boards, management, and external stakeholders.

Meanwhile, IFAC states that assurance, as often provided by professional accountants, is important for developing public confidence in corporate reporting and the delivery of information that is relevant, reliable, and comparable.

“We believe engagement with the accountancy profession, given the trend towards enhancing the scope of corporate reporting, will maximize the benefit to reporting entities and their stakeholders,” IFAC states. “The profession must meet the challenge of developing new areas of expertise to support enhancing corporate reporting.”

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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