Organizations of all types and sizes are giving increasing attention to establishing systems and procedures that will ensure that their operations are environmentally efficient. They are also considering ways by which the efforts being made in this regard and the results of those efforts can best be communicate d to their various audiences. Environmental reporting is still in its infancy, and there are few benchmarks, guidelines or standards that have to be followed by organizations. A number of companies, both in Canada and elsewhere, are, however, giving serious attention to the design and content of both stand-alone environmental reports and the environmental sections of annual reports, as well as brochures and other documents that are geared to specific audiences, such as employees and community groups.
Formulating guidance on the communication of information has been a long-standing activity of The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. In the past, the primary focus has been on financial information, particularly that included in financial statements, communicated to investors and creditors, although the information requirements of other major user groups have also been taken into consideration. The growing demand by various audiences for environmental reporting has led the CICA to become involved in providing guidance on various aspects of accounting for and reporting environmental information. In 1993, the Research Report, Environmental Costs and Liabilities: Accounting and Financial Reporting Issues, was published. It presents proposals on how to account for and report on environmental issues within the existing financial reporting framework.
The present publication, Reporting on Environmental Performance, goes beyond just focusing on financial statement accounting and disclosures, and provides guidance on all aspects of environmental reporting and on the various reporting methods that could be considered.
The primary objective of the publication is to develop a basis for a framework for the reporting of information relating to the performance of an organization in accordance with standards and expectations relating to environmental conduct and responsibility. In achieving this primary objective, it attempts to:
(a) provide guidance on the responsibilities of the board of directors and senior management in establishing the goals and objectives of an environmental report and on matters that should be taken into consideration in preparing such a report;
(b) identify the expectations of various user groups (including shareholders, other stakeholders, financial analysts, regulators, environmental interest groups, and the general public);
(c) comment on the practicality or otherwise of those user expectations (cost/benefit, etc.);
(d) indicate the types of information that should be reported in order to satisfy those expectations;
(e) propose the type of reporting model(s) and system(s) that would be appropriate in providing this information; and
(f) identify and discuss measurement, presentation and disclosure problems and issues.
The purpose of the publication is to provide guidance, not to advocate compulsory standards.
The terms of reference for the study group that was set up to prepare this publication were as follows.
1. To review and comment on
(a) environmental disclosures, financial and other, qualitative and quantitative, in published sources such as annual reports, supplementary environmental reports, annual information forms (AIFs), Mangement Discussion & Analysis (MD&A), and 10Ks, and in other publicly available material;
(b) surveys undertaken in selected other countries (for example, USA, UK, continental Europe);
(c) practices, concepts and developments in defining, measuring and accounting for environmental costs, impacts and performance as articulated or under consideration by other accounting, business, social-economic, and scientific bodies in Canada, USA, UK and international bodies; and
(d) any existing academic, government or other research into the impacts of the disclosures and practices outlined above, on the behavior of companies, industry sectors, policy-developers, regulators, investors or others.
2. To obtain the views of
(a) various user groups, including environmental interest groups, on the usefulness and impact of information currently reported, and on the type of information that should be, but is not currently being, provided;
(b) directors and senior management of companies representative of Canadian business and industry sectors on the needs and expectations of external users for environmental performance information and the usefulness and impacts of the disclosures outlined under 1. above (this would cover both reporting and non-reporting entities); and
(c) a cross-section of public accounting practitioners as well as those parties mentioned above, as to definitions, measurements, accounting methods and reporting and disclosure practices which should be considered for experimentation and possible development into accepted conventions in order to meet the needs identified above.
3. To review various models, concepts, formats and media/vehicles for environmental accounting and reporting in financial and non-financial terms, both qualitative and quantitative.
4. To identify possible approaches and courses of action.
5. To consider any other matters identified by the Study Group.
This Publication was produced in association with the Canadian Standards Association, The Financial Executives Institute Canada and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and thanks are expressed by CICA Studies & Standards to these organizations for their participation. This publication is recognized by the Canadian Standards Association as an information product in its environmental management systems series.