Thesis: Towards a framework

Towards a framework for auditing environmental reports

More consistency needed in the audit of environmental reports

Nancy Kamp-Roelands successfully defended her doctoral thesis “Towards a framework for auditing environmental reports” at Tilburg University. A good audit report is well structured and should mention the data that have been audited, the objectives of the audit, the audit criteria, the audit work performed, the opinion and the expertise of the audit team. If any uncertainties exist they must be well explained.

An audit that provides only assurance on the accuracy of the data included is misleading. Completeness and a fair presentation of all material issues are important as well. It is also confusing to provide assurance only on the accuracy of the data at corporate level without also having assessed the accuracy of the data at site level.

Audits of environmental reports first appeared just over 15 years ago. Both the number of environmental reports and the audit of these reports is still increasing. Audit firms perform a major part of these audits. But other professionals are also active in this field. Even today there are still important differences in the scope of these audits, in the audit procedures performed, in the structure of the audit report and in the way the opinion is formulated. This is confusing for readers of environmental reports. Differences in expectations regarding the audit may eventually lead to a loss of confidence in the auditor. The different kinds of auditors should therefore aim at more consistency in order to enhance credibility.

In this thesis the various aspects common to all audits are identified. This general framework is further tailored using field evidence. Audit reports within European corporate environmental reports have been analysed. Further a survey is performed to detect differences in expectations between auditors and companies regarding the audit engagement and the audit report. Additional empirical evidence has also been obtained in relation to details about the audit process and particularly the planning and risk analysis. In this way a framework for the audit of environmental reports is proposed both to improve consistency and to provide a basis for auditing in this continually changing field.

Press release Tilburg University (Dutch)