Accounting for a Brighter Future: Career Opportunities in ESG Assurance for Accountants

Businesses today are responsible for keeping an eye on more than just their profits. Regulators, investors, employees and consumers alike are demanding transparency when it comes to social and environmental impact. More and more companies are incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices in their operations and reporting on their non-financial performance, such as carbon footprints and employee treatment. 

While professionals from many backgrounds find that ESG careers offer tremendous potential for meaningful impact, CPAs are uniquely qualified to take on a leading role. Being able to verify and ensure that reports are credible, reliable and comparable is essential as companies release their ESG data – CPAs can help at this stage, and other steps along the way, to build credibility and trust. 

The Value of ESG Assurance 

ESG assurance is the process of providing assurance or confidence that a company’s ESG-related information is reliable and accurate. This typically involves an independent assessment of a company’s ESG practices and performance and is designed to provide investors and other stakeholders with confidence in the integrity and reliability of the reported information. 

Company-reported ESG metrics and disclosures are being relied on by an increasingly diversified stakeholder base, both within and outside companies, to evaluate risk, drive internal operations and make investments, purchasing and employment decisions.

Key Competitive Benefits of Obtaining ESG Assurance Include: 

(AICA & CIMA, ESG Assurance Opportunities for CPAs brochure)

  1. Stronger Performance and Efficiencies 
  2. Cost Savings 
  3. Improved Risk Management
  4. Higher Rankings Among ESG Raters and Rankers, Such as CDP and DJSI 
  5. Enhanced Brand Reputation 
  6. Improved Ability to Attract and Retain Employees 
  7. Improved Regulatory Compliance 
  8. Improved Corporate Governance Practices 

Who Wants Assurance on ESG Information? 

Board of Directors: Because investors increasingly see ESG issues as a window into business viability and the future of company performance, boards may want to assess whether public-facing disclosures about ESG are of high quality. 

Investors: Investors are increasingly focused on ESG information because they find such information helpful in understanding the resilience of a company’s long-term value-creation strategy, and the information enables them to manage their investment based on ESG risks and opportunities. 

Management: Third-party assurance can be an important tool to enhance management’s confidence in its ESG data management and reporting processes to better inform strategic decision-making and understanding of performance against goals 

Other Stakeholders: Customers, suppliers and prospective employees may rely on a company’s ESG information to make decisions, and assurance by a third party could enhance the reliability of such information. 

Future Opportunities in ESG for CPAs 

The potential of an ESG career is immense and provides a great opportunity for accounting professionals to make a real difference. With the increasing focus on environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical practices, there is no better time than now for CPAs to explore this area. Similarly, new regulatory standards and changing requirements for ESG reporting add a new layer to the demand. 

On March 21, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed “The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors,” amendments that would require companies to provide climate-related information, such as disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and other climate-related risks that may impact business, results of operations, or financial condition in their registration statements and annual reports and the inclusion of certain climate-related financial metrics in audited financial statements. 

Your Inspired Future in Accounting

John Carroll’s BS in Accountancy is an undergraduate major designed to prepare students to become not only excellent accountants but also proactive agents in the world of global business. The on-campus, 65-credit program is part of the Boler School of Business and continues to launch students into accounting careers where they drive the values and ethics of JCU’s Jesuit character into cutting-edge applications.

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.