Aligning programmes with operations:  Privileging  practitioner perspectives Brendan O’Dwyer Professor of Accounting Unive...
Overview of presentation <ul><li>Consensus set of programmatic ideals for  </li></ul><ul><li>assurance </li></ul><ul><li>P...
The export of ‘audit’ to new contexts: Programmes and technologies <ul><li>New aims/expectations and a reassembly of  </li...
Emerging consensus on ‘official’  programmes   and ambitions  for sustainability assurance <ul><li>Professional accounting...
Operationalising programmatic aims: The practitioners’ perspectives <ul><li>Confronting ambitions with data struggles </li...
1.  Confronting ambitions with data struggles <ul><li>Practitioner ambitions for assurance </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>i...
2. Harnessing ‘accountant’ and ‘non-accountant’  habits and routines <ul><li>‘ Accountants’ characterised as: </li></ul><u...
3. Shifts to structure ‘judgement’ <ul><ul><ul><li>More focus on ‘due process’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emergen...
4. Stakeholders as assurors - outsourcing the delivery of key programmatic aims  <ul><li>Recognising problems for ‘financi...
All occurring in the midst of … A persistent practitioner quest to establish the legitimacy of assurance with key audience...
5. The practitioner quest for legitimacy Assurance  practice Securing legitimacy with the ‘internal world’ Securing legiti...
Reflecting on practitioners’ perspectives (1) <ul><ul><li>Who and where are the ‘external’ users? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><...
Reflecting on practitioners’ perspectives (2) <ul><li>Are ‘accountants’ ever  able  or  willing  to deliver  reasonable  a...
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GRI Conference - 27 May - O'Dwyer - Assurance Of Sustainability Reporting

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GRI Conference - 27 May - O'Dwyer - Assurance Of Sustainability Reporting

  1. 1. Aligning programmes with operations: Privileging practitioner perspectives Brendan O’Dwyer Professor of Accounting University of Amsterdam Business School The GRI Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency Academic conference: Assurance of sustainability reporting Thursday 27 May 2010
  2. 2. Overview of presentation <ul><li>Consensus set of programmatic ideals for </li></ul><ul><li>assurance </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioner perspectives on the operational </li></ul><ul><li>capabilities of and prospects for assurance </li></ul><ul><li>Reflections for future practice </li></ul>
  3. 3. The export of ‘audit’ to new contexts: Programmes and technologies <ul><li>New aims/expectations and a reassembly of </li></ul><ul><li>practices </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Audit practices continually reassemble themselves to suit programmatic expectations’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Export/extension of ‘audit’ not unproblematic </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>technologies emerge through a trial and error process </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>enrolment and coordination of ‘non-accountants’ necessary – necessity of practitioner consensus </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Emerging consensus on ‘official’ programmes and ambitions for sustainability assurance <ul><li>Professional accounting and other associations </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shift from focus on reporting accuracy to reporting relevance , completeness and responsiveness </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Many assurors now explicitly recognise: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Duty’ to assess completeness, materiality and responsiveness </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Operationalising programmatic aims: The practitioners’ perspectives <ul><li>Confronting ambitions with data struggles </li></ul><ul><li>Harnessing ‘accountant’ and ‘non-accountant’ habits and routines </li></ul><ul><li>Shifts to structure ‘judgement’ </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholders as assurors - outsourcing the delivery of key programmatic aims </li></ul><ul><li>The eternal quest for legitimacy </li></ul>
  6. 6. 1. Confronting ambitions with data struggles <ul><li>Practitioner ambitions for assurance </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>idealistic and committed to ambitious aims </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>committed change agents </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ natural’ conflation of advice and assurance </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>2. Struggling with and struggling for assurance technologies </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>coping with diverse, vague, disconnected data </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>complexities surrounding assessments of reporting completeness </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. 2. Harnessing ‘accountant’ and ‘non-accountant’ habits and routines <ul><li>‘ Accountants’ characterised as: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>lacking flexibility and expert knowledge </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes ignorant of and resistant to context considerations </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>misapplying and misinterpreting materiality </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Non-accountants’ considered: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>somewhat naive, but intensely committed </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>assertive and confrontational </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>less concerned with, and often engaged by data ambiguity </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. 3. Shifts to structure ‘judgement’ <ul><ul><ul><li>More focus on ‘due process’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emergence of distinct methodologies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limits to innovation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The overriding role of risk management and internal control </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. 4. Stakeholders as assurors - outsourcing the delivery of key programmatic aims <ul><li>Recognising problems for ‘financial audit’ practice </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Public reframing of expectations attached to professional </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li> accounting firm assurance </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enrolling the ‘stakeholder’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The ultimate coupling of programmes with technologies? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Regressing to ‘second generation’ audit? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. All occurring in the midst of … A persistent practitioner quest to establish the legitimacy of assurance with key audiences …
  11. 11. 5. The practitioner quest for legitimacy Assurance practice Securing legitimacy with the ‘internal world’ Securing legitimacy with the non-client ‘external world’ Securing legitimacy with clients (auditees)
  12. 12. Reflecting on practitioners’ perspectives (1) <ul><ul><li>Who and where are the ‘external’ users? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> “ A mythical reference point within expert [assurance] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>discourse”? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who takes responsibility for ‘stakeholder’ assessments? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is reigning in of expectations placed on and ambitions of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>traditional auditors advisable? </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Reflecting on practitioners’ perspectives (2) <ul><li>Are ‘accountants’ ever able or willing to deliver reasonable assurance on non-quantitative data? </li></ul><ul><li>Is a global, institutionalized assurance approach desirable? </li></ul><ul><li>Do ‘users’ require standardization? </li></ul>

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