More than half (56%) of public sector organisations do not currently report on their climate impact as revealed by a recent international survey of public sector professionals by CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. This research sets out a baseline from which the evolution of sustainability reporting in the public sector may be directed and analyzed. Of the 44% of respondents who commented that their organisation does, in fact, produce a sustainability report, only 1 in 2 said they used a standard definition of sustainability, while only a quarter of reports prepared were then later audited or processed in terms of verification.

CIPFA has identified 12 major sustainability reporting frameworks that could potentially be used by organisations within the public sector to report on climate matters, however, none focused on the public sector context.

Climate data and findings are overwhelmingly reported on on a voluntary basis, with few international jurisdictions making the practice compulsory for public sector organisations. The absence of an accepted reporting framework, a legislative mandate, political support and credible data were cited as paramount challenges by respondents that limit the practice from becoming mainstream.

Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive at CIPFA said: “The climate crisis is now firmly at the top of global political and economic agendas. We’ve seen private sector companies incorporating non-financial measures to better assess their overall performance, which includes their impact on the climate. The issue is that this type of reporting hasn’t materialized in the same way for the public sector in most countries.”

Karen Sanderson, Director of Public Financial Management at CIPFA said: “The planet doesn’t differentiate when it comes to who is responsible for emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases. CIPFA conducted this research to see what, if at all, different public sector organisations around the world are doing to report and assess their impact on the climate. We now know that public sector organisations are lagging their private sector counterparts, and that there is a global appetite for this type of the reporting among public sector professionals.”

CIPFA identified seven key areas for the development of public sector sustainability reporting:

  • increased scrutiny of sustainability reports
  • acceleration in endeavoring the harmonization of existing frameworks and standards
  • integration of sustainability data alongside other forms of reporting
  • clarity on the definition and scope of sustainability reports
  • greater institutional/organizational attention and commitment to public sector sustainability reporting
  • development of skills and capabilities required to deliver sustainability reporting
  • determination of the role of audit and assurance

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Source: Sustainability Reporting