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The role of sustainability performance and accounting assurors in sustainability assurance engagements


Hummel, Katrin; Schlick, Christian; Fifka, Matthias (2019). The role of sustainability performance and accounting assurors in sustainability assurance engagements. Journal of Business Ethics, 154(3):733-757.

Abstract

Research on sustainability assurance is still in its beginnings. One of the key questions in this field that also is of highest practical relevance is concerned with the quality of the assurance process. However, a common understanding of assurance quality and how it should be measured is still missing. We try to close this gap by building on the financial audit literature. We introduce a definition of assurance quality that comprises two key aspects: the depth of the assurance process and the breadth of the assurance statement. Based on prior research, we hypothesize that a firm’s sustainability performance is related to the depth of the assurance process, while the type of the assurance provider, more precisely the affiliation to the accounting profession, is related to the breadth of the assurance statement. Results for a sample of 122 European firms reveal a negative relationship between sustainability performance and assurance process depth as well as between the affiliation to the accounting profession and assurance statement breadth. Thus, we find evidence that poor sustainability performers ask for in-depth assurance services, most likely as a means to enhance their internal sustainability-related processes and systems. Assurance providers that do not belong to the accounting profession in turn are associated with broader assurance statements.

Abstract

Research on sustainability assurance is still in its beginnings. One of the key questions in this field that also is of highest practical relevance is concerned with the quality of the assurance process. However, a common understanding of assurance quality and how it should be measured is still missing. We try to close this gap by building on the financial audit literature. We introduce a definition of assurance quality that comprises two key aspects: the depth of the assurance process and the breadth of the assurance statement. Based on prior research, we hypothesize that a firm’s sustainability performance is related to the depth of the assurance process, while the type of the assurance provider, more precisely the affiliation to the accounting profession, is related to the breadth of the assurance statement. Results for a sample of 122 European firms reveal a negative relationship between sustainability performance and assurance process depth as well as between the affiliation to the accounting profession and assurance statement breadth. Thus, we find evidence that poor sustainability performers ask for in-depth assurance services, most likely as a means to enhance their internal sustainability-related processes and systems. Assurance providers that do not belong to the accounting profession in turn are associated with broader assurance statements.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Business and International Management
Social Sciences & Humanities > General Business, Management and Accounting
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Economics and Econometrics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Law
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:23 Aug 2019 08:58
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 11:11
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0167-4544
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3410-5
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:14157

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