Advancing Public Sector Sustainability Reporting

The unmitigated impact of climate change is recognised as an existential threat to us all. Once in a generation weather events such as floods, increasing desertification, heat waves and wildfires are all becoming shockingly common place and the scale of devastation ever greater.

Globally, jurisdictions recognise the impact of carbon emissions and the need to keep the increase in temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius . When looking at climate change it is essential to recognise the inseparable interrelationship with the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs:
At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Advancing Public Sector specific sustainability reporting guidance Consultation Paper
Given the scale of the challenge, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSAS) consultation paper is very timely. Effective monitoring and reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) is essential to ensure there is transparency and accountability to the global citizen on entities actions to mitigate climate change as well as demonstrate progress on SDGs.

International Sustainability Standards Board
The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) was established and launched at the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 in response to growing demand for high quality, transparent, reliable, and comparable reporting by entities on climate change and other ESG matters . The ISSB’s aim is to deliver comprehensive global sustainability reporting disclosures, “an IFRS for sustainability reporting”.

IPSASB plays an important role in the development of standards that address public sector specific issues and fills in the gaps with standards that are focused on the private sector. But do we need a separate Board for the public sector?

Whilst I agree with the preliminary view that IPSASB should have a role, to address any gaps or specific public sector issues, there are a number of ways to achieve this: ranging from being part of the ISSB to establishing a parallel Board for public sector sustainability reporting. Given the additional skills and expertise required to provide insights on ESG issues significant input to IPSASB will be required.

To that end, it is good to see that IPSASB propose to use a similar approach to the development of IPSAS which is pragmatic, ensures the standards are consistent with IFRS, at pace and an efficient use of resources. In this case the reference will be ISSBs and other global best reporting practices such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
Clearly there is a need for one globally recognised set of guidelines for sustainability reporting.
To be successful clearly defined vision, purpose, strategic aims and objectives of public sector sustainability reporting guidance and interaction with ISSBs will need to be developed and communicated to build and maintain credibility to promote adoption.

Full consultation response submitted to IPSASB on 9 September

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